Foil Stew (aka Hobo Dinner, Campfire Stew, Tin Foil Dinner) is easy, fun, and so good that you’ll want to make it even when you aren’t camping.
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Foil Stew is my ultimate comfort food, each bite bringing to mind countless nights under the stars. Like some ethereal scrapbook, just the scent of its exquisite, savory, caramelized deliciousness makes my mind dance through cherished memories of past camping trips – with my dad and mom, and Campfire Girls, and my Girl Scouts, and my CITs, and and Mr B and Em….
It is extraordinary that such a simple meal can hold so much.
There really isn’t much to making a great foil stew: just mix, wrap, and cook. Let me break it down for you.
This post may contain affiliate links, but don’t worry – they won’t bite.
FOIL STEW BASIC INGREDIENTS
(Scroll down for printable recipe with basic directions)
For each serving/packet of foil stew, you will need:
- 1 medium potato, sliced 1/8-inch thick (peeling is optional) – I use a mixture of regular and white-fleshed sweet potatoes. (The sweet potatoes are a relatively recent addition for me, and I love what they bring to the party.)
- 1 large carrot, sliced 1/8-inch thick (once again, peeling is optional)
- 1 handful sliced onion – We tend to use a very large handful.
- 3-4 ounces of protein – Ground beef, ground chicken, boneless chicken pieces, sausage, vegetarian alternatives all work well. DO NOT PRECOOK ANYTHING!! Put animal-based proteins into the stew RAW, breaking up any ground meats and distributing it evenly throughout your stew. (Some people do like to make a pattie with their ground meat and put it on top, but I am not a fan.)
- 1/3-1/2 cup Cream of Mushroom Soup – Straight out of the can. Any Cream of… soup will work fine. We also really like Cream of Celery.
- Seasoning as desired – Salt, pepper, etc.
PLEASE keep in mind that these amounts are estimates. Adjust them to your own tastes and appetite.
VARIATIONS: There are more variations and combinations to this list than I can possibly list here. You can add your favorite veggies (lots of people like corn), mix up your proteins, use any kind of “Cream of” soup. Once you get the process down, you can change it up as much as you want to make it your own.
VERY IMPORTANT: You may look at your uncooked foil stew and think, “Oh my gosh, I will never be able to eat all of that!” Which might be true – but remember, everything will cook down by about a third, and when you are camping, you tend to be hungrier than when you are at home. Plus, Foil Stew makes great leftovers!
LEFTOVER TIP: If you do end up having leftovers, I strongly encourage you to fry them up for breakfast and top them with a fried egg. (You’re gonna thank me for this.)
If everyone is eating the same thing, you can mix your foil stew up in a big bowl for everyone, and then just wrap them individually. However, in our family, because some of us are vegetarians, we usually mix the basic veggies together and then mix in the protein and soup right on the foil.
Be generous with the soup – that’s what provides the moist base for your stew to, well… stew in. Once you have your stew ingredients all together, toss it well with your hands to mix everything together. If it isn’t very goopy, you don’t have enough soup in it.
ABOUT THE FOIL: From years and years of experience, I can tell you that you will get much better results if you use Heavy Duty aluminum foil. Regular aluminum foil simply does not stand up to the coals of an open fire like the heavy duty stuff does.
How to Wrap a Foil Stew
Foil Stew Wrapping
A. Put your mixed foil stew ingredients in the middle of the foil, and then bring the foil up so that the ingredients are resting inside in a slightly elongated pile.
B. Fold the top edges down together about 1 inch and crease. Fold over and do it again, and then once again. It helps to hold the foil stew up as you do this, because this allows you to keep some extra space in the packet, which helps in the cooking process. In other words, the folds themselves need to be very tight, but the foil stew inside should have a little wiggle room.
C. Push the two ends down so that your foil stew is safely in the middle of the packet.
D. Fold or roll the ends tightly.
E. Get a second piece of foil and repeat steps A-D.
F. Ready for the fire.
How to Bake Your Foil Stew Over a Open Fire
To bake over an open fire, first allow the fire to burn long enough to create some substantial coals.
Once you have a nice bed of coals burning, place your prepared foil stew on a bed of coals for 25-50 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes.
How Long Does Foil Stew Need to Cook?
The time required to cook a foil stew depends upon many factors: the size of your foil stew, how hot your coals are, how cold it is outside, etc. It will start to sizzle after awhile.
I usually check my stew after 20-30 minutes.
The trick is to take it off after the vegetables have started to caramelize, but before they start to burn.
This is where the double-wrapping helps immensely: When you think your foil stew has cooked enough, carefully use the tongs to lift it out and away from the fire. Set the packet, seam side up, on a solid, heat resistant surface. Carefully open the foil packet at check. Vegetables should be tender and proteins completely cooked.
If it needs more time, simply recrimp and seal the foil on the top and pop it back onto the coals, seam-side up.
If you don’t have a camping trip planned any time soon (or you are simply not a camper), you can also bake your foil stew over prepared briquettes, on top of a BBQ, inside a Dutch oven, or in your oven at home [375°F | 190°C].
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
Suggested Amounts for One Serving
- 1 medium potato sliced 1/8-inch thick (peeling is optional)
- 1 large carrot sliced 1/8-inch thick (peeling is optional)
- 1 handful onion sliced or chopped
- 4 ounces protein Ground beef, ground chicken, boneless chicken pieces, sausage, vegetarian alternatives (DO NOT PRECOOK ANYTHING)
- 1/2 cup Cream of Mushroom Soup Any Cream of… soup will work fine. (We really like Cream of Celery)
- salt & pepper Season as desired
- Put all foil stew ingredients in the middle of a large rectangle of heavy duty aluminum foil.Bring the foil up so that the ingredients are resting inside in a slightly elongated pile.
- Fold the top edges down together about 1 inch and crease. Fold over and do it again, and then once again. It helps to hold the foil stew up as you do this, because this allows you to keep some extra space in the packet, which helps in the cooking process. In other words, the folds themselves need to be very tight, but the foil stew inside should have a little wiggle room.
- Push the two ends down so that your foil stew is safely in the middle of the packet.
- Fold or roll the ends tightly.
- Get a second piece of foil and repeat steps A-D. Ready for the fire.
- To bake over an open fire, simply place your prepared foil stew on a bed of coals for 25-50 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes. Time depends upon the size of your foil stew, how hot your coals are, how cold it is outside, etc. It will start to sizzle after awhile. I usually check my stew after about 30 minutes. The trick is to take it off when the vegetables have started to caramelize, but before they start to burn. This is where the double wrapping helps immensely – when you think it is done, carefully open the packet at check. If it needs more time, simply wrap it back up and pop it back on the coals.
Do you love rich, savory stews? (So do we!) Here are a few of our favorite hearty stew recipes:
A perfect dinner for us when we go camping consists of Foil Stew, followed by my always-amazing, ridiculously easy Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
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