Cooktop Cove: 6 tips you need to know to make mouth-watering meatballs
Meatballs are one of those perfect dishes. You can glaze them, you can eat them on their own, you can even bread them and deep-fry them, which happens to be one of my favorite ways to enjoy them! Plus you can make them out of just about any kind of ground meat you happen to have on hand. But whatever you choose, you have to get them right in order to fully enjoy them.
Meatballs should be tender, and juicy, and of course, chock-full of flavor. And I've had too many dried and tough meatballs in my life to settle for them anymore. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks below you can use the next time you're making them to ensure that they are the best part of any meal with which you serve with them.
1. Use fatty meat
Unlike what we've been told for decades now, fatty meat is not going to kill you; especially if you're not chowing down on it for every meal. And when you decide to take your dinner in the direction of meatballs, it is not the time to skimp. You have to use fatty meat or you'll be well on your way to those tough and dry meatballs.
Lamb, pork, and regular or medium ground beef are all perfect choices for meatballs. And while you can use ground chicken or turkey, you'll have to be extra careful with them. You can either watch them very closely to make sure you don't overcook them, or you can add about a tablespoon of olive oil to give yourself some insurance.
2. Use breadcrumbs and milk
Breadcrumbs and milk can go a long way in making sure your meatballs are moist and delicious. But aren't breadcrumbs dry? And won't they dry your meatballs out even more?
The trick is to combine the breadcrumbs with milk before adding them to the meat mixture. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons to about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs; the trick is to place the breadcrumbs in a bowl first, and then add just enough milk so that the breadcrumbs will soak them up but there won't be milk left floating around in the bowl. Stir the breadcrumbs together, and then let the mixture sit for a few minutes. This will let the breadcrumbs soak all the milk up. And as the meatballs cook, the breadcrumbs will slowly release all of that moisture into the meat.
As an added bonus? The breadcrumbs will also help bind the meatballs together so they hold their shape while cooking.
3. Add a binder
Meatballs need a binder; it's what helps them keep their shape. This is important, as many people have the problem of their meatballs falling apart once they place them in sauce.
Most recipes call for one whole egg to be used as a binder, and that works very well. One egg for every one to two pounds of meat should be plenty. If you don't want to use eggs, you can add more breadcrumbs or you can pulse some rolled oats in a food processor and use those instead.
4. Taste the mixture
Of course, once you make your meatball mixture you won't be able to taste it right away. You are, after all, dealing with raw meat. But you also don't want to bite into that first meatball after they've been cooked to find out that they didn't turn out and now you're left with 24 of them.
To avoid this, pinch off a bit of your mixture, and fry it up in a pan until it's cooked through. Then taste it and, if needed, adjust the seasonings.
5. Be gentle when mixing
It's true that you don't want to overwork the meat mixture, and most recipes will emphasize that this is something to avoid. But many people make the mistake of just stirring the meat a few times and then forming the meatballs in an attempt not to over-mix them. This will not only prevent the other ingredients from being evenly distributed into the meat, but it can also make them fall apart. Instead, fully mix the meat just until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Then stop, and start rolling your meatballs into the size you want them.
6. Bake, don't fry
Frying can really kill a good meatball. The temperature is difficult to control, the outside will likely become too crispy or even burnt on some sides and not on others, and there's a much better chance that they'll fall apart from all that poking and turning. And that's not even mentioning the fact that your stovetop will be covered in little splatters of oil. Instead, place the meatballs on a baking sheet with a metal rack on top, and place your meatballs on the rack. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, and they'll come out perfect every time.
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