The other weekend, I was at a friend's house helping to prep dinner on the grill when someone asked a question: How could we steam our sliced-up zucchini on the grill without using aluminum foil?
There is scientific evidence that cooking foods in aluminum foil leaches the metal into the food in higher amounts than is safe for our bodies to absorb based on the World Health Organization's acceptable limits. Foods that are high in acid or have added spices seem to absorb aluminum at even greater amounts. Meats or vegetables that have been marinated with vinegar and spices often end up on the grill in foil packets.
Out of caution, we decided it was time to ditch the aluminum foil. I was tasked with coming up with alternative solutions for steaming or cooking foods that might fall through the grates, like cut-up veggies, or that might stick badly, like fish.
Here are the solutions I found.
Cook on top of another food. For example, if you're going to end up squeezing lemon on the fish that you're grilling, cut lemon slices and put them directly on the grill. Then put the fish on top of the lemon slices to keep them from sticking to the grill. The fish will get infused with the lemon flavor, and as an added benefit, the fish won't stick to the grill. There's a recipe for Grilled Fish with Citrus on Martha Stewart's website that gives basic instructions on this method and allows you to pick and choose your fish and citrus.
Use a stainless steel grill basket. You can buy grill baskets anywhere, even the local grocery store. Many of them are made from coated aluminum. If you want to stay away from aluminum in all forms, look for one that's made from stainless steel. You can find baskets in various shapes that are made for grilling vegetables, fish, burgers and even ones specifically made to hold corn on the cob.
Steam with a stainless steel grill dome. A grill basket is great for grilling vegetables, but it won't steam them. If you want to steam your vegetables — or any other food on the grill — you need something to put on top of them to create steam. Cuisnart has a stainless steel grill dome that's advertised as a way to quickly melt cheese on your burgers, but it can also work as a steamer if it fits all the way over your grill basket. The dome has an 8.8-inch diameter.
Use oven-safe stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Use the same cookware you use in your oven on the grill, making sure the grill doesn't exceed the safe temperature for the cookware. If you have an oven-safe pan with a lid, you can use it for cooking or steaming any foods you'd steam in foil.
There are other products such as grilling paper or grilling mats made from materials like copper. I'm not familiar with the safety of those products so I haven't included them here.