TFD’s or “Tin Foil Dinners” were a weekly event for Rachel and I when we were camp counselors at the best camp ever. Technically, the name is inaccurate, since they’re cooked in aluminum foil rather than tin, but you can forgive the misnomer because they’re delicious. They’re especially delicious when you’ve walked 10 kids through how to make one and spent half an hour sweating over the coals of a bonfire to cook them, but that’s up to you if you want to add the extra step.
Basically, this is a burger, wrapped in vegetables, wrapped in foil and cooked over coals. Sort of a backwoods tamale, if you will. The burger doesn’t get the color or smoke it would on a grill, but if you throw in some good flavors and vegetables, it ends up with a surprising amount of personality. (Plus the whole “you just cooked it over a fire” appeal that makes anything taste 30% more delicious).
One important step is to make sure you have plenty of coals, especially if you’re cooking for a family. The male counselors at the camp would address this need with a typical amount of zeal, by making “the world’s largest bonfire” on a weekly basis, but we were also cooking 40 of these at once. Another key element is to make sure you shape your foil in a recognizable way, or keep a close eye on your packet so it doesn’t get mixed up with somebody else’s. Unfortunately, our little campers’ response to our plea to make original shapes out of their TFD’s was always to immediately sit down and diligently create identical, indistinguishable rectangles. Don’t do that. It makes people crazy.
Here’s a picture of Rachel, the mastermind behind this meal:
And just for fun: me the next morning, doing my favorite camping activity (cooking breakfast):
Here we go:
Tin Foil Dinner Recipe
1-2 pounds ground beef (depending how much you want to make)
1 head cabbage
3-4 potatoes, thinly sliced
3-4 carrots, grated or cut into matchsticks
other flavorings (salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, onions, etc)
heavy duty aluminum foil
Spread out your foil as a work surface. Off the top of my head I’d say 12-14 inches for a single burger, or 18 inches for 2 burgers side by side.
Lay out a bottom layer of cabbage, and lay your burgers on it.
Sprinkle with flavors, seasoning, ketchup, you name it. Add your carrots and potatoes and whatever else, until the top of the burger is completely covered. Use a little more cabbage if you need more coverage.
Fold your foil over and seal securely. Arrange all the foil packs on hot coals (but not flame) and remember which is yours.
After 7-8 minutes, flip them over (feel free to rearrange if there are hot/cool spots in your fire) and cook for another 7-8 minutes. Pull one out and open it up to check for doneness (if you had ketchup on it already it’ll look pink, so check the middle of the meat to see if it’s done).
When it’s done, open all of them up and assemble into burgers! Enjoy!