Build a Better Meatball

In “It’s a Small World…When It Comes to Meatballs,” published in the June/July 2016 issue of School Nutrition, Contributing Editor Kelsey Casselbury explored many global variations on the ubiquitous meatball. But is signature meatball one that turns out dry? Flavorless? Mushy?

These are not words you want associated with the meatballs you plan to menu at school or at home. Here are five tips for making a better meatball, no matter what type of protein you are using as the base.

  1. Health nuts, take note—lean meat varieties simply don’t lend themselves to a particularly delicious meatball. The fattier meat you use, the more tender the resulting meatball will be. If you’re stuck on using ground turkey, chicken or a lean beef, watch the meatballs keenly while they cook; they can easily become tough by overcooking.
  2. Before you mix the meat and additional ingredients together, chill the bowl. A cold bowl halts the fat in the meat from melting and breaking down before the meatballs begin the cooking process.
  3. Other ways you can make meatballs tender are by using a binder with some liquid, such as breadcrumbs soaked in milk, and by adding eggs.
  4. Moisten up the meatballs and add a little flavor by grating a raw onion into the meat mixture.
  5. Ideally, you should mix the meatballs by hand—but get out those gloves! You want to combine the ingredients until they’re just mixed together, as overworking the meat can toughen up the meatballs. In mixing by hand, you’re more likely know when to stop. 

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