I need help making better meatballs.

Joined Feb 8, 2003
I would like to ask for help making better meatballs; and hopefully be more consistent, in how they turn out. I add an egg; and bread crumbs, and ground beef, and spices, and a little ketchup.
Is it a matter of the bread crumbs; and not adding enough to hold it together, when I fry them?
Maybe it's just that I don't cook much with ground beef, that I'm not very good at; but if I was making meatballs for myself I would rather use ground turkey anyway, it's leaner, and beef just doesn't agree with me anymore.:confused:
Joined Jul 24, 2001
I always use soaked -in water- bread crumbs, the rest of the recipe is the same without ketchup of course but with garlic and onions as well. An egg and some fresh mint and there you go.

You have to work your mixture well with your hands though and then fry your meat balls them in very hot oil!

How big you make them?
Joined Feb 22, 2002
For a pound of ground meat i use just one slice of white bread, crusts removed, cooked in like half a cup of milk in a saucepan until boiling, remove from heat and let cool. Mash it up and mix in with meat, an egg, and whatever herbs, spices, onion and garlic you like to use. I make them about an inch in diameter and don't handle them too much.
Edit: what i mean by don't handle it much is don't compact them to death when you form them.
Joined May 26, 2001
Uh oh. I never measure, and I never make them the same way twice. :blush: But they always come out well -- light and moist. As both Athenaeus and Kate have indicated, I make sure to add lots of moisture along with the filler/binder (bread or crumbs or rice), and about 1 egg per pound of meat. I prefer to cook my onions/garlic first and let them cool before adding them to the meat. I usually mix in the crumbs dry along with everything else (very thoroughly, per Athenaeus). And I let the mixture "rest" in the refrigerator before I (gently; per Kate) form the balls. That time gives the flavors a chance to develop, and the moisture to redistribute itself evenly and be absorbed.

(I will be the first to admit that when I cook at home, I DON'T aim for consistency; I just want to play with the food and try new combinations. :rolleyes: :D )
Joined Jul 1, 2001
This recipe is based on the Cook's Illustrated recipe. I've made them several times and have been enormously happy with the taste and texture.

Makes 28 to 36

4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
2 pounds ground meat (can be all beef or can be a combination beef and pork - 3:1 recommended ratio)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely minced
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced (or can use 3/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco or Crystal)

~1 cup Vegetable Oil, for frying

1. Combine bread and buttermilk in a small bowl, mash until a smooth paste is formed, about a 5 to 10 minute process.
2. Place ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolks, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and hot sauce in a medium-large bowl. Add the bread paste and mix until evenly combined.
3. Shape into 1-1/2 inch round meatballs. (When forming, use a light touch. Do not over compact meatballs or they become hard and dense little rocks!)
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add meatballs in a single layer that is not crowded. May need to do 2 to 3 batches depending on skillet size. Fry meatballs, turning several times to brown all sides. Cooking time is about 12 minutes.
5. Remove from skillet and drain well on wire rack or using paper towels.
6. If you are concerned about centers not being done, you can continue cooking in a warm oven (375 degrees) for an additional ~10 minutes.

Your herbs and seasoning (especially hot sauce) can change depending on what is fresh and what you like. These really are wonderful meatballs.

Joined Dec 15, 1999
For extra flavor soak the bread(crust removed) in tomato juice. Squeeze and add to the rest.
Personlly I take garlic, onions, cumin, cinnamon and all spice, fry them in olive oil and add that to the meat together with the bread and eggs.
Joined Mar 12, 2001
I make my grandmothers Swedish meatballs. I too admit to more of an "that looks good" amount. My grandmothers recipe was by ratio: 3 parts good ground beef ( i use chuck or better)
1 part ground pork
1 or 2 eggs depending on how much meat you use
1 "glug" (I kid you not) of milk - about ½C
1 onion chopped fine
6/7 fresh bread made into fine crumbs
dash celery salt
fresh grated nutmeg.

Form into balls-about size of golf ball. Bake in moderate (350) oven til done.

I find baking easier and less mess and they are all finished at once. I usually make about 150 at a time and freeze for future use or snacking...
Joined Dec 10, 2002
Hi bakergurl6,

I'm not sure what the problem is that you want to resolve.

Are they not holding together when you cook them? (Make sure they're moist with egg and milk. They should be a bit on the gooey side.)

Are they not flavorful? (Add more (kosher or sea) salt and pepper.)

You say they're inconsistant. (Weigh your ingredients, don't measure. And take notes of what you do so you can reproduce your efforts.)

Are you using enough fat? (I believe this goes against your personal taste; however, meatballs need about a 70:30 ratio of meat to fat to be successful. )

Are the bread crumbs fresh or dried? I would try fresh. The bread crumbs aren't the ingredient that holds meatballs together. Moisture, i.e. milk and eggs are.

Good luck and let us know your results!
Joined Apr 7, 2003
You could substitute tomato paste instead of catsup. I have to do this when I make (gasp) meatloaf, because the catsup makes the texture a bit too loose for my liking.
Joined Apr 3, 2003
Well meatballs, I guess to start fried meatballs is not my style. Enough fat in them for me as is. Also I don't like the tough skin it gives them. I would go with baking, it tends to improve your mosture problem too. The consistancy of your mix should be that of a bowl of oatmeal thats on the dry side. Ground beef will stick together on its own ie. look at a cooked hamburger pattie. The egg and the breadcrumbs are there to add support, in other words you can be alittle mean to your meatballs. Hit them with a laddle or spoon, let them simmer in a sauce for hours, stuff like that. I know you didn't really ask for recipie stuff but something I feel I need to say is things like meatball and meatloaf can be fun. The thing is you have the opportunity to lean them in a direction. Southern as in BBQ Meatballs, Itailian, Greek and so on. Add your spices and stuff along the line your cooking, an please dump the ketup thing, don't make your Meatballs feel their a hamburger or a hotdog give them a life of their own. Good-Luck and keep on rolling.

Joined Apr 17, 2003
I would also recommend baking rather than frying. A personal preference perhaps but I seem to get better results when baking. I also like experimenting...as with a marinate add a bit of everything to your mixture..soy sauce, red pepper, chilli, garlic all kinds of products. Sometimes they dont turn out right but sometimes you will discover a culinary delight :) The chaos theory in practice! Be bold enough to try something different. But I always say never serve a dish that you would not eat yourself.



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Joined Oct 5, 2001
I have also made the cook's illustrated method for meatballs and had great results. The buttermilk adds a nice richness. I believe the real secret is in not packing the meat too tightly.
Joined Jan 24, 2003
the trick is to chill your balls!!!! as suzanne indicated.
grated lemon rind chilli & nutmeg give em a zip
swedes & greeks are meatball masters

roll lightly in seasoned flour before chilling

Joined Nov 29, 2001
Chuck is the best beef for meatballs because (unfortunately) you do need fat in them or they are golf balls.

Try not using bread crumbs, but instead, wet a piece of bread and mix it thoroughly with your hands into the meat mixture.

Here's a rough recipe I've used - when I don't do the mixed meat, I do plain ground beef (chop meat if you're from NY). ;)

Ground Veal
Ground Beef
Ground Pork
Parmesan, Romano or Locatelli grated cheese
2 Eggs
about a 3-4" piece of bread, wet with either tap water (if yours is good) or spring water
Chopped Onion

Some Italian grandmothers include pignoli as well.

Mix thoroughly, fry a small piece and taste it. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Fry off (or bake off) the meatballs until about halfway done, then finish in the gravy with the rest of your meat (tomato sauce if you're not from an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn).
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