Let pocket meals work for you

By JENNIFER DUTTON / Guest Columnist

Pocket meals are the busy cook’s best secret. It represents healthy cooking in its simplest form. Basically, you are wrapping food in a piece of foil and allowing steam to cook the food over hot coals, a grill or your oven.

There are several types of pocket meals depending on what you’re cooking. The flat pack is better for foods like meat where you want more browning than steaming.

Tear off a sheet of heavy-duty foil that is about twice as long as the food you’ll be wrapping. Simply place the food in the middle of the foil.

Bring the long sides together in the center and crease them together, making tight folds until the foil is flat next to the food. Finally, tightly roll up the shorter sides until they meet the food.

The next type of pocket meal is called the tent pack. The tent pack provides a pocket of air that allows for greater steaming. This type is better for foods you want to steam such as fruits, vegetables and meat/vegetable combos.

First, tear off a sheet just as you would for the flat pack and place the food in the middle of the foil. Next, bring the long sides together in the center and tightly fold them together toward the food. This time stop folding a few inches before you get to the food, leaving a pocket of space and creating a “tent.” Tightly roll up the shorter sides, again leaving an inch or so of space between the end of the fold and the food.

Cooking times depend on how hot your fire is and the type of food you are cooking. Cooking times range from 10 minutes per side to 20 minutes, for a total time of 20-40 minutes. Green, yellow and red vegetables cook faster than meat, potatoes or carrots. You may want to cook these vegetables separately, as they only take about 8-10 minutes per side. Sliced fruits and berries cook quickly (approximately seven minutes per side).

If you are placing your meal packets on a baking sheet, bake at 450 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes, turning once half-way through the cooking time.

Jennifer Dutton is a regional agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached by e-mail at JLD0021@auburn.edu.