Meatballs, done perfectly, have that melt-in-your-mouth goodness that will make it impossible to stop with just a few pieces. While the idea of meatballs is simple enough and many people prefer to make it themselves because it is not that complex, there are tips and tricks that will help you make the best meatballs you have ever eaten.
The Basics Of Perfect Meatballs
This dish is quite flexible, especially since you can easily do your own tweaks to add flavor or to make it healthier, for example. However, the best ones are the simplest. They stick to the basic ingredients, ones that play a huge role in its end flavor and texture. Moreover, making changes will also lead to a different outcome, so it is best to stay faithful to the classic.
Which Meat Should You Use?
Ground versions of most kinds of meat are now easily available, which makes it easier for those who have specific preferences, allergies or diet limitations. The traditional meatballs use a mix of ground pork and beef, but nowadays, you can use ground turkey, chicken, buffalo, lamb, or veal if you prefer to.
The most important thing is to consider how fat the meat is. When you choose meat with more fat, then you end up with meatballs that are tender. Thus, if you make them with lean ground meat, chicken, or turkey, you will need to watch out while cooking. The lack of fat means they can easily overcook and turn tough quicker than mixed ground meat.
The Importance Of Breadcrumbs And Milk
Every ingredient of meatballs serves a purpose, whether to add to the taste or to contribute to the texture. Breadcrumbs and milk are the so-called binders that ensure you come out with perfectly tender meatballs. An important step to the perfect meatball is to soak the breadcrumbs in the milk until they become soggy, before mixing it into the meat.
While cooking, the binder adds some moisture and stops the meat’s proteins from shrinking and turning tough. Add eggs to the mix and you will end up with tender meatballs that crumble without too much effort. If you have no breadcrumbs, then you can opt for some old bread, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), or even saltine crackers (make sure to crumble them first). You may also substitute the milk for buttermilk or yogurt mixed with some water.
Do Not Overwork the Meat
Combining the meat with the binder ends up with a nice, squishy mix, which can be fun or even therapeutic to massage. However, you might end up with overworked meat, which is also the problem when you use a mixer or a machine. All you need to do is to mix a bit until all the ingredients are evenly combined and then stop. Using your hands is best, as you can feel the mixture better, though you can use a spoon or spatula as well, making sure to not overdo it.
Roasting Or Simmering the Meatballs?
There are two basic ways to cook your meatballs. Deciding which to use depends simply on how you want to serve them after. If you do not plan to add some sauce to your meatballs or if you want to freeze them for consumption another time, then roasting is the right way to do it. Doing so adds a bit more flavor thanks to the outer crust searing in the oven or broiler.
On the other hand, simmering is the better approach if you are planning to serve your meatballs with sauce. This way, you cook them both at the same time, but you also end up with tender meatballs, as well as a more savory sauce.
Basic Meatballs Ingredients
For one pound of ground meat (any type or even mixed ones are good), you need half a cup of chopped or grated onion, 1 clove minced garlic, ¼ cup of minced parsley, and ½ cup of grated Parmesan. For the binder, you need one large egg, and half a cup each of milk and fine breadcrumbs. To season, you need salt and freshly ground pepper.
Preparing Your Meatballs
The first step is to prepare your binder, which is simply combining the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl. Set the bowl aside as you move on to the rest of the recipe so that the crumbs are able to absorb the milk and turn soggy.
Second, take a large bowl and whisk the egg until it is fully mixed. Add the parsley, Parmesan, salt, and pepper and whisk again.
The next step is to add the ground meat to the egg, using your hands to make sure it is thoroughly mixed. The last step is to add the onions and the soaked breadcrumbs. Again, do not knead the mixture, instead, stop when all the ingredients have been fully mixed together.
Shape the meatballs one by one, placing the finished ones in a plate or baking sheet. Do not make them too big, 1 1/2-inch meatballs are just perfect.
If you are roasting the meatballs, put them inside the preheated oven in a baking sheet. Roast them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 to 30 minutes. They are ready if the outside crust is brown and they are cooked all the way through. If you have a thermometer, they should also be 165ºF in the middle. If you are, however, using lean meat, then you might need to reduce the time and watch carefully to avoid overcooking them.
If you prefer to cook them with the sauce, bring the sauce to a simmer in a pan and then add the raw meatballs. Make sure they all fit in the pan. Cover and let it simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. If they reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then they are ready.
Making the perfect meatballs is not that difficult and you can easily make a huge batch and put them in the freezer. They may also be prepared a day earlier or any leftovers can stay in a closed container in the fridge for about 5 days.