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Are Bread Crumb Necessary for Meatballs?

lattelover Apr 21, 2009 02:01 PM

Or it is merely an extender, and thus omittable?

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  1. Bob Brooks RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 02:22 PM

    The moistened bread crumbs, commonly referred to as a panade, are important to the extent that they keep the meatball tender.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Bob Brooks
      cookie monster RE: Bob Brooks Apr 21, 2009 02:31 PM

      Yup. Without the bread crumbs (or oatmeal, which I sometimes use instead) you can end up with hard lumps of overcooked ground meat.

      1. re: Bob Brooks
        alwayscooking RE: Bob Brooks Apr 21, 2009 04:44 PM

        And use fresh bread crumbs made from good bread soaked in milk.

        1. re: alwayscooking
          Fritter RE: alwayscooking Apr 21, 2009 07:19 PM

          Quality bread crumbs make all the difference.

          1. re: alwayscooking
            kchurchill5 RE: alwayscooking Apr 21, 2009 07:23 PM

            That is what I do, always tender and moist and soft, fresh herbs and I love grated onion, a few other things, but the onion and bread crumbs or soaked bread to me make the meatballs

          2. re: Bob Brooks
            Bookwormgal RE: Bob Brooks Mar 29, 2010 06:16 PM

            Different countries use different starches to extend the meat. Others also put in bits of fruit (South East Asian and Southern African countries in particular) and I am personally fond of using dried apples - which are amazing when reconsituted in milk and meat fat! Dried apricots and/or cherries chopped down into really small pieces can also be yummy.

            I find that too much gluten makes me get UTI's so I like to use potato flakes and eggs as my extenders rather than bread/crackers. I've also used rice flour, sweet potato flakes, and rice bread crumbs which work well with my 'Asian' and 'Hawaiin' inspired meatloafs.

            1. re: Bob Brooks
              Paulustrious RE: Bob Brooks Mar 31, 2010 09:45 AM

              I've never understood why the breadcrumbs should be moistened. Logically, dry matter would suck up more meat juice than wet. Maybe it's because wet crumbs make a better glue or perhaps they provide for loss by evaporation.

              What's your take?

              1. re: Paulustrious
                scubadoo97 RE: Paulustrious Mar 31, 2010 05:25 PM

                I don't want them soaking up the meat juice. They are there to add moisture and for texture.

            2. a
              adamshoe RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 02:37 PM

              Agree with BB about panade. Soak a slice or two of plain sandwich bread (or and old hotdog or burger bun....) in alittle milk or buttermilk. Mush it into a paste and add it to your meat/ eggs/ onions. Works great for turkey or leaner cuts of beef because it adds proteins from the dairy. adam

              1. Paulustrious RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 02:49 PM

                Also, the filler holds onto the fat, and the fat has the flavour.

                Bit of a bummer really.

                1. k
                  KiltedCook RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 04:42 PM

                  The "filler" does indeed help with the texture. If you're GF, you can use substitute rolled oats, which by definition contain no gluten.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KiltedCook
                    shanagain RE: KiltedCook Mar 31, 2010 10:06 AM

                    Or pork rinds, crushed in a food processor. (Yes, really.)

                  2. j
                    Jule RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 09:40 PM

                    When I'm making korean meatballs, I add drained firm tofu. Same for mandu filling.

                    1. paulj RE: lattelover Apr 21, 2009 10:58 PM

                      But I believe some cultures do like firm meatballs. I'm thinking for example of Middle Eastern or Indian kebabs.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: paulj
                        Ruth Lafler RE: paulj Apr 22, 2009 12:41 PM

                        Or the rubbery beef balls in pho.

                        But yes, for Euro-American style meatballs, you need bread(crumbs).

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Paulustrious RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 22, 2009 03:04 PM

                          I've wondered about them. They seem to be like ordinary meatballs, but use wood glue rather than breadcrumbs.

                          1. re: Paulustrious
                            Botch RE: Paulustrious Apr 23, 2009 01:01 PM

                            Potato starch/corn starch/tapioca starch. Work em really well, not gently like you would other meatballs.

                        2. re: paulj
                          melpy RE: paulj Apr 2, 2010 06:58 AM

                          They are much firmer. I think it depend on what you want. Sometimes I experiment by dividing up the meat and try something slightly different for each partial batch to see what I like better. I've also tried different cooking techniques (pan fry, baking, muffin tin etc.) Personal preference is everything. I don't like the fall apart type of meatball and always use seasoned breadcrumbs for my Italian meatballs.

                        3. CocoDan RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 05:20 AM


                          1. c
                            cstr RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 06:30 AM

                            Use either bread crumbs or bread soaked in milk. Got to have them makes the end product taste better and it makes them lighter and tender.

                            1. kchurchill5 RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 06:45 AM

                              One year I was out a bread and bread crumbs, but last minutes friend for dinner I decided on meatballs. Well I had 2 or 3 onion dinner rolls in the freezer, thawed and soaked in bread a few minutes and used that. Best meatballs by far.

                              Then I decided to try a twist. Chicken meat balls, green chilis, cumin, those same onion rolls, paprika, garlic but served with a spicy mexican tomato sauce. I fell in love with a twist on a classic.

                              1. jfood RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 12:58 PM

                                you need something to absorb and hold the juices and the bread(crumbs) do the trick perfectly. Add jfood to the list of people who absolutely use them.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: jfood
                                  Paulustrious RE: jfood Apr 22, 2009 03:05 PM

                                  ...and may I recommend some parmesan as well...

                                  1. re: Paulustrious
                                    lattelover RE: Paulustrious Apr 22, 2009 03:09 PM

                                    OK. I always use bread crumbs too, but was just wondering. So, if bread crumbs are necessary in meatballs, what is the ideal ratio - bread to meat?

                                    1. re: lattelover
                                      jfood RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 06:08 PM

                                      here's jfood's latest twist

                                      Jfood adaption of Frankie’s Meatballs (Rao’s)

                                      This recipe is Jfood's adaption of Rao’s meatball recipe. After many attempts to improve an already great recipe, this is his favorite variation. The meat is sometimes found in the grocers as “Meatloaf Mix.” It is so good and easy, Jfood normally makes a double batch and freezes in 2-meatball packages in a sandwich bag and then in a freezer bag. To defrost Jfood places in the Microwave (on a plate without the plastic) for 5 minutes at 40%. Then into some sauce if desired.

                                      • 1 pound lean ground beef
                                      • 1/2 pound ground veal
                                      • 1/2 pound ground pork
                                      • 2 large eggs
                                      • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
                                      • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
                                      • 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove, minced
                                      • Pinch of red pepper
                                      • Salt and pepper to taste
                                      • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
                                      • 1.5 -2 cups water
                                      • 1 cup olive oil
                                      • 1 clove garlic, lightly smashed

                                      1. Place the beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl.
                                      2. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and blend the ingredients together.
                                      3. Add the bread crumbs 1 cup at a time and blend into the meat mixture.
                                      4. Slowly add the water, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is moist.
                                      5. Shape the meat mixture into 1½ - 2 -inch balls.
                                      6. Place the meatballs on a rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet.
                                      7. Place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

                                      1. re: jfood
                                        c oliver RE: jfood Apr 23, 2009 11:49 AM

                                        Are these the ones you "spoke" of recently and how much you like them baked?

                                        1. re: c oliver
                                          jfood RE: c oliver Apr 23, 2009 11:52 AM


                                        2. re: jfood
                                          tallullah RE: jfood Apr 23, 2009 04:10 PM

                                          I make the same recipe, with my own tweaks, and have omitted the bread crumbs with no big changes in texture. The hubby was doing atkins so I upped the cheese and left out the bread crumbs.

                                        3. re: lattelover
                                          kchurchill5 RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 06:13 PM

                                          For me, and we will all differ, I use 1-2 pieces of bread soaked in milk and squeezed to 1 lb of meat approx. That is my general ratio. Sometimes I may have 1 1/3 or so. I am also sure I make them a bit different each time. I'm not a recipe follower but more a technique. If I thought the consistency of the "balls" with the addition of the egg and once piece that is all I use. I know that sounds difficult but I want a very moist loose meatball and it seems to always vary just a bit.

                                    2. m
                                      MazDee RE: lattelover Apr 22, 2009 07:12 PM

                                      Definitely use the bread, or something else to lighten them. In México we use rice.

                                      1. Phurstluv RE: lattelover Apr 23, 2009 05:59 PM

                                        Bob Brooks has it correct - it's a panade and you definitely need them for all the various reasons listed in the replying posts.

                                        I soak mine in milk, then add sauteed onions, garlic & red pepper flakes. Meatballs that are light, tender and delicious, everytime.

                                        1. h
                                          Harters RE: lattelover Mar 30, 2010 08:29 AM

                                          Absolutely not necessary. I never include bread.

                                          There was a similar thead many months ago when I was very much in the minority (as this thread). I went off to check my various recipe books - and got the confirmation that there was only a small minority of recipes that suggested bread.

                                          Therefore the practice of including, or not including, bread may be something related to where you are. Most of the meatball recipes I have are written by British cooks - or Italian ones who are cooking in the UK. Must be how we prefer our meatballs. Certainly after the last thread, I cooked some with bread to see how they compared and have to say I prefer the firmer texture of my normal recipes.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Harters
                                            Fuller RE: Harters Mar 30, 2010 08:51 AM

                                            "Absolutely not necessary. I never include bread."

                                            I guess we shouldn't ever listen to Mario Batali anymore then. He explains (as many here do as well) that the bread is what makes them tender. When Italians came to America and suddenly had a wealth of goods at their fingertips they started making meatballs without bread simply because they could. They felt that meaballs made from all meat were a sign of wealth. Little did they know that the meatballs then turned dry, hard, and tasteless.

                                            So pick and choose who you want to believe. I will follow the advice of Mario Batali.

                                            1. re: Fuller
                                              Harters RE: Fuller Mar 30, 2010 10:18 AM

                                              Being British, I'm afraid I've never heard Mario Batali's advice on the subject (and am not too sure even who he is - although I've read the name here on Chowhound).

                                              Of course, meatballs feature in several cuisines other than Italian (including our own humble rissole) - but I'm happy to follow Gennaro Contaldo's recipe for polpette when I want an Italian flavour.

                                              1. re: Harters
                                                MandalayVA RE: Harters Apr 2, 2010 08:11 AM

                                                I also don't make meatballs with bread crumbs (I avoid grains). The trick is not to overcook them. If I'm making a sauce with meatballs I throw them in maybe fifteen minutes before I'm planning on serving them, ten or even five if they're small.

                                                1. re: Harters
                                                  Bookwormgal RE: Harters Apr 12, 2010 02:44 PM

                                                  Mario Batali is an Italian-American chef who is friends with ...


                                                  and does not get along with ...


                                                2. re: Fuller
                                                  epabella RE: Fuller Apr 2, 2010 05:13 PM

                                                  i usually add bread crumbs but not all the time, i always thought that it was just a 'kind of insurance' so the meatballs don't dry-up. if i can spare the time to keep a close watch as i fry over a low flame, bread-crumbs will not be necesarry - regardless of what batali has to say. i am also partial to italy-born genarro contaldo and valentina harris being a better authorities on authentic italian cooking.

                                              2. whatwouldruthdo RE: lattelover Apr 12, 2010 04:06 PM

                                                I often use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs. I occasionally use rice.

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