Recipe: Spicy Pineapple Chicken Packets
Even on busy weeknights, I don't mind taking time to put a homemade dinner on the table. What I don't want to spend all evening doing? Cleaning the kitchen. Enter: the foil packet, where individual servings are cooked and served straight from a cocoon of crumpled foil.
In this recipe, chicken breasts are nestled into a bed of sweet and juicy pineapple, and the whole thing soaks up a spicy, citrus-spiked marinade for an easy, mess-free meal.
Foil Packets Are the Answer to Easy Weeknight Grilling
Cooking in packets is one of our favorite ways to use the grill for quick, mess-free weeknight meals. By packing the chicken and fresh pineapple slices in foil, the sweet fruit is contained and infuses the chicken with flavor rather than sticking to the grill.
You'll want to use a single, long sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil for the packets. Heavy-duty foil is sturdy enough to hold the ingredients, while still thin enough for heat to penetrate. If standard aluminum foil is all you have, double up to avoid tears.
To assemble, arrange two pineapple rings on the bottom, place a marinated chicken breast on top, and fold the foil tightly around the chicken and pineapple. The heat of the grill grates will give the pineapple some color, but don't expect grill marks or deep caramelization. The grill's heat softens the pineapple while gently poaching the chicken until tender.
You'll start with the packets seam-side down on the grill and flip to finish. This prevents the juices from escaping, and allows the pineapple to act as a buffer between the chicken and the grill grates during the last few minutes of cooking. If you don't have a grill, you can make these in the oven on a preheated sheet tray (no need to flip). You'll finish them with a few pats of butter, and broil until excess moisture evaporates and the chicken and pineapple begin to caramelize.
A Smart Technique for the Juiciest Chicken Breasts
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are lean and cook quickly, but too often end up dry and bland. Marinating them in a spicy mixture made from lime juice and sambal oelek packs them full of flavor, and cooking them in packets protects the tender white meat from the intense heat of the grill (or oven). It also traps the moisture from the pineapple and onion, keeping the chicken tender and juicy.
Spicy Pineapple Chicken Packets
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lime
Juice of 1 medium lime
low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
packed light brown sugar
boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)
(1/4-inch-thick) rounds fresh pineapple
medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
(1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Place the lime zest, lime juice, pineapple juice, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, and sambal oelek in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Seal the bag and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
Prepare an outdoor grill for high, direct heat. Meanwhile, assemble the packets.
Prepare 4 (16-inch-long) sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place 2 pineapple slices in the center of each piece of foil. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and place 1 breast on top of each pair of pineapple slices. Arrange a wedge of onion on either side of each chicken breast (two per packet). Place 2 pieces of butter on each chicken breast. Fold the foil into a flat envelope — fold the short sides over the butter and crimp the foil neatly together, then fold up the long sides and crimp to tightly close the packet.
Place the packets seam-side down on the grill grates over direct heat. Cover and grill for 7 minutes. Flip the packet over, cover the grill, and continue grilling until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F, 6 to 7 minutes more. Transfer the packets to plates and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.
Storage: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Oven variation: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to preheat, and heat to 400°F. Build the packets as instructed above without the butter. Place the packets seam-side up on the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the packets from the oven. Turn the oven to broil and arrange the oven rack 4 inches from heating element. Open the packets to expose the chicken and pineapple. Top each chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Broil until the pineapple and chicken darken in color slightly and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F, 5 to 8 minutes more.