Mastering Meatballs

With a few tips, you can make meatballs that are great in pasta or on their own.
With a few tips, you can make meatballs that are great in pasta or on their own.

Meatballs come in a wide array of sizes, employing various meats and spices. However, if properly prepared, they are always delicious and fun to eat, making them an excellent dish to try out as you’re learning to cook. Read on to learn more about meatballs and discover simple tips to make every batch fantastic.

Select the meat
When it comes to preparing meatballs, picking the right main ingredient can make all the difference. If you have always stuck to beef, it may be time to expand your horizons. Ground pork, turkey or lamb can also make delicious choices, adding intriguing new flavors to your old pasta dishes..

You can also combine multiple meats, as in Swedish meatballs. Serious Eats suggested using a ratio of 2 parts beef to 1 part pork to achieve a pleasant balance between the springy beef and the pork’s tender juiciness. Many traditional Swedish meatball recipes call for veal as well, but that makes an overly expensive dish for most cooks.

Whether you decide on beef, pork, lamb, veal or a combination, avoid selecting a cut that is too lean. As Bon Appetit warned, leaner meat is usually both expensive and more likely to leave you with dried out, unappealing food. Instead, pick a cut with a moderate fat content, such as ground chuck. If you nonetheless prefer a lean meat like turkey, watch it carefully during cooking to avoid overdoing it.

Holding it all together
In addition to the meat itself, meatballs contain a wet bread mixture called a panade. The panade holds the ball together, filling it out and adding flavor and tenderness. You have many options when it comes to preparing this element, depending on how you are using your meatballs and personal preferences.

For instance, New York City’s The Meatball Shop provided Epicurious with directions that require mixing 80 percent lean ground beef with ricotta, two eggs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, fennel and half a cup of breadcrumbs. Alton Brown’s recipe includes many similar ingredients, but combines ground pork, lamb and beef, and substitutes in Parmesan cheese, spinach, basil, parsley and garlic powder.

Try experimenting with a few different combinations to find your preferred taste and texture. You may even want to skip the breadcrumbs and mix in a piece of white bread soaked in milk. According to Serious Eats, the fresh bread will result in a less dense meatball with greater moisture.

IMG_7400Choose your cooking method
There are few common ways of cooking meatballs. You can brown or fry them in a pan or roast them in the oven. Oven roasting the meatballs will achieve the greatest flavor if you intend to serve them without a sauce or freeze them for later use. Real Simple’s instructions say to set the meatballs on a baking sheet and broil for eight to 10 minutes.

However, as the Kitchn explained, simmering the meat in a sauce will have tender, delicious results. First, bring your pasta sauce to a simmer and then add the meatballs. Cover the pan and continue cooking for 30 to 35 minutes. When the meat is cooked through, it’s ready to serve.

Munchies recommended using a searing method for lamb meatballs. Coat a skillet with vegetable oil at medium high temperature. Then cook the meatballs until they reach a deep brown all around.

If you are not going to use the meatballs immediately, you should allow them to cool before placing them in a freezer bag. According to the Kitchn, you can keep them frozen for up to two months. Then, either thaw the meat overnight or heat in the oven or by simmering in sauce. Either way, you will have delicious meatballs at the ready to use in your favorite pasta dish or as an appetizer.

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