6 Tips for Making the Best Meatballs

published Aug 28, 2014
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Sauce and meatballs cooking in a pot
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Meatballs are an inexpensive blank canvas — take ground meat, add some seasonings, form into cute little balls, and cook! Whether you like them crispy, glazed, or simmered in sauce, they’re super versatile and delicious. Here are a few tips on putting them together and cooking them to guarantee tasty meatballs every time you make them!

(Image credit: Olga Miltsova)

If you’ve never made meatballs before, don’t be scared — they are just basically seasoned ground meat or meatloaf mixture formed in bite-sized pieces. Take a look at our step-by-step recipe for basic meatballs to get started:

→ Learn how: How To Make Meatballs

Even with a good recipe, there are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind so that you end up with well-seasoned, juicy and tender meatballs:

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

1. Pick the right meats.

While you can make meatballs out of any ground meat, fattier meats like beef, lamb, and pork will yield more tender meatballs. If you use leaner meats like chicken or turkey, be careful not to overcook them or they can become tough. For great flavor, use a blend of different kinds of ground meats.

2. Keep things cold.

You want to keep the fat from melting and breaking down before you cook the meatballs, so keep your meat and ingredients as cold as possible. Make the mixture in a chilled bowl, and if you are adding precooked ingredients like onions, let them cool down completely before adding them in.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

3. Add moisture.

Since the protein in meat makes it shrink when cooked and can result in tough meatballs, you want some insurance against that. Eggs and binders like breadcrumbs mixed with milk all help with keeping meatballs tender and moist, so don’t skip any of these.

4. Taste test the mixture.

After your meatball mixture is ready, you should always taste it for seasoning before you form the meatballs. No, this doesn’t mean eating raw meat! All you have to do is form a little test patty and cook it in with some oil in a frying pan.

After you taste the patty, adjust the seasoning if you need to — does it need more salt, spices, herbs? Fixing that now means that your cooked meatballs will taste exactly how you want them to taste. Say goodbye to bland meatballs!

5. Be gentle when forming the meatballs!

If meatballs are packed too tightly and compactly, they’ll turn out tough, rubbery, and chewy. Oil your hands so that the mixture won’t stick to them and gently and quickly form the meatballs. Better yet, use a small ice cream scoop to make uniformly-sized meatballs.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

6. Bake, not fry.

Frying meatballs in spattering oil on the stove not your thing? It’s not ours either. To get that delicious browning on the outside of meatballs, just bake or broil them instead! This method is quick, easy, and spatter free.

6 Tasty Meatballs Recipes