No-pan dinners mean no dishes to wash; easy, delicious meals

Published 10:43 am Friday, May 3, 2024

By Kara Kimbrough

Ordinarily, I will entertain an alternate train of thought…but on this topic, I stand first. One of – if not THE – worst parts of cooking is dealing with the pile of dirty pots and pans that multiply during and after the cooking process. Inevitably, the sink is piled high with large objects to wash, no matter how simple the meal. Here’s a simple solution: tear off some aluminum foil, pile ingredients on top and place in the oven or on the grill. Voila! No dishes to wash!

You’ve heard of “one pan” meals? How about “no pan” dinners, courtesy of foil that can be wrapped up and thrown in the trash once cooking is done. Another benefit of no pan dinners- they can be prepared the night before, refrigerated and baked or grilled 30-40 minutes before dinner is served.

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Here are recipes for three of my favorite no pan dinners. All you have to do is roll out the foil, pile on your favorite ingredients, bake and enjoy a “dish-free” evening.

Beef and Potatoes Dinner

1-pound lean ground beef

1 package dry onion soup mix

4 small potatoes peeled and sliced

2 cups carrots chopped

1 large or 2 small onions, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine ground beef and dry soup mix in a bowl. Form into four patties and set aside. In a large bowl combine all remaining ingredients except mushroom soup. Toss until well mixed.

Spray 4 large pieces of foil with non-stick spray. Place ¼ of the vegetable mixture in the center of the foil. Top with one beef patty. Add two tablespoons of condensed mushroom soup on top of each patty. Repeat the same layers on 3 additional foil sheets.

Wrap foil around ingredients, leaving space at the top for heat to circulate. Double fold the edges and crimp to seal. Also double fold and crimp ends. Place beef side up on a large baking sheet and bake 35-45 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Note: These foil packs can also be grilled at medium heat for about 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and ground beef reaches 160 degrees.


5-6 fish filets (tilapia or redfish or your favorite fish)

1 large onion, sliced into thin rings

1 large baking potato, sliced thin

1 cup canola oil

1/2 cup lemon

Tony Chacherie’s seasoning

Mix oil and lemon juice together in a shaker. Take a large sheet of foil, spray lightly with cooking spray and place 2-3 place filets on foil, directly in center. Sprinkle with seasoning, then top with a layer of potatoes and then onions; pour a portion of oil/lemon mixture over layers. Repeat same thing with additional foil sheets. Wrap foil around ingredients, leaving space at the top of food for heat to circulate. Double fold the edges and crimp to seal. Double fold and crimp ends as well. Place packets on large baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until done.

Makes 2-3 servings; double recipe as needed.

Winner Chicken Dinner

1 pound chicken tenderloins or sliced chicken breasts

1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 pound gold potatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried

4 tablespoons butter, cubed

Salt and pepper, as needed

Measure 4 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil to about 18 inches. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Layer chicken and veggies in a mound into the center of each sheet of foil, dividing ingredients evenly between all 4 sheets. Top with cubes of butter (1 tablespoon for each sheet of foil) and fresh herbs. Season heavily with salt and pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each packet.

Fold edges of foil over and crimp top edges and sides tightly to seal. If cooking on grill or fire, consider double wrapping to prevent tears in foil.

To cook in oven:

Preheat oven to 400°F and cook for 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and veggies are soft.

Carefully open up foil packets as the steam inside is very hot. You can eat straight out of the foil or dump contents onto a plate.

To cook on grill:

Preheat grill to medium heat, about 400° and cook for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until meat is cooked through and veggies are soft.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at