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How to make perfect Meatballs plus lots of Meatball Recipes

Jump to:-     Type of meat used for Meatballs  |  Basic Ingredients for Meatballs  |  Adding Breadcrumbs   |  Adding Eggs   |   Preparation of ingredients  |  Making Up Meatballs  |  Cooking Meatballs  |  Freezing Meatballs  | Meatball Recipes


Many associate meatballs with Italian and Swedish cuisines however meatballs in some form or other are eaten the world over.


Whilst the basics remain the same, i.e. minced (ground) meat which are formed into various sized balls,  additional seasonings and flavourings vary widely from country to country can transform run of the mill meatballs into exotic wonders.


Before you explore cooking meatballs from various cuisines, it's worth just going over some of the basics which, once mastered, will stand you in good stead for cooking all manner of meatballs.


Type of meat used for Meatballs


Meatballs can be made with beef, lamb, veal, pork, turkey, chicken and even offal. In fact,  any kind of meat can be used and many traditional meatball recipes also call for a mix of meats such as beef and pork to be used together. Whichever you choose, it should be minced (ground) fairly finely much like that used to make burgers or koftas.  Whilst an excessive amount of fat isn't good, some fat in the meat will add extra flavour and keep the meatballs moist during cooking, especially if they are to be baked in the oven.


Basic Ingredients for Meatballs


Apart from the meat, additional extra ingredients often include onion, salt, pepper, seasonings, herbs, egg, breadcrumbs (see note about using breadcrumbs below ) and flour for coating.


In general allow:- 

100g/4oz  of minced (ground) meat per person. This can be reduced if you will be adding breadcrumbs to the mixture

1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs per 100g/4oz of meat (if using)

1 egg per 450g/1lb of meat (if using)

  teaspoon of dried herbs per 100g/4oz of meat

1 teasp freshly chopped herbs per 100g/4oz of meat

of a small onion per 100g/4oz of meat

-  teaspoon of ground spices per 100g/4oz of meat

  teaspoon of tomato paste per 100g/4oz of meat

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Is it necessary to use Breadcrumbs in Meatballs?


Unless the meat being used is very lean, the use of breadcrumbs in a meatball mixture serves no other purpose than to bulk the mixture out making the recipe more economical. However, it will slightly change the texture of the finished meatball.


Is it necessary to use eggs in Meatballs?


It is not usually necessary to use eggs in a meatball mixture unless the meat is very lean and the added ingredients make for a dryer than usual mixture.


Preparation of ingredients


One of the main problems associated with failed meatballs is that they fall apart. Although this can happen because the mixture is too dry, it is more likely to occur because the ingredients haven't been chopped finely enough.  To avoid meatballs falling apart:-

Grate onions or process in a food processor until almost smooth. Remember, it's the flavour you want, not the texture

Very finely chop other vegetables being used or process in a food processor until almost smooth including chillies

Making up the Meatballs


Once all the ingredients have been prepared, it is simply a matter of mixing them all together until well blended. This is best done in a large mixing bowl using your hands to mix and squash the mixture together. Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, avoid using a food processor to blend the ingredients together as over-processing can cause the mixture to become too soft and more pt like.


Once the mixture is well blended, form into balls about the size of a large walnut.  Don't flour your hands as this will just result in the meatball becoming stodgy.  When forming the meatballs, try to compact them as much as possible by squeezing the mixture firmly before rolling them between the palms of your hands.


Have a large platter of flour ready and place the meatballs on the flour, but don't roll to coat them until you have finished rolling all the meatballs. The reason for this is that the meatball mixture will immediately start to moisten the flour and you could end up having to roll them all in flour again. 


Once all the balls have been formed, then roll each one in flour to coat on all sides.


Cooking Meatballs


Meatballs can be placed straight in a hot oven (about 180C, 350F, Gas Mark 4) and baked for about 20  minutes. However, the usual method is to heat about 12mm/-inch of oil in a large frying pan until very hot. Remove any excess flour from the meatballs then add the meatballs to the hot oil and fry on all sides until browned and sealed. This should take about 5 minutes. Allow the side which is frying to brown for at least 1 minute before attempting to turn them otherwise they will stick to the pan and break up.


It is important not to overcrowd the pan when frying meatballs. Each meatball should have  at least 12mm/-inch space all around it, so if necessary, fry the meatballs in batches or use more than one frying pan.


Once all the meatballs have been sealed you can  

continue frying them in one layer over a reduced heat for a further 10-15 minutes, turning from time to time

transfer to a shallow ovenproof dish in one layer and bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or

transfer to a shallow pan containing the sauce of your choice and "poach" them for a further 10-15 minutes. When using this method, the sauce should only come about three-quarters of the way up the meatballs, and you should baste the meatballs with the sauce several times during the cooking period but avoid actually turning them.

Freezing Meatballs


Meatballs can be frozen raw or cooked, with or without the sauce.  However care should be taken to keep the individual meatballs separate to avoid them breaking up once they have defrosted.  When freezing raw meatballs freeze separately from any sauce and keep them well spaced out.

Meatballs will keep for about 3 months in the freezer.


Meatball Recipes


Although the above information should be enough to set you on the road to creating your own meatball recipes, below is a link to the many meatball recipes on this site.


When making up your own recipes, don't forget to add different seasonings and flavourings to make them even more tasty. Here are some suggestions:-


Freshly chopped or dried herbs


Worcestershire Sauce

Tomato Paste

Curry Powder




Soy Sauce



Also, don't forget you can jazz up even the most basic meatball recipe with a well flavoured sauce.


Click here for lots of Meatball Recipes



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