HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Freezing bread for meatballs

I had a massive day old baguette that went mostlly untouched. I took the crusts off and cut it into bigish chunks in a big ziplock in the freezer. Any drawback to using this stuff for making meatballs? is regular unfrozen day old bread better? thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There should be no difference between frozen or unfrozen bread.

    1. You put bread in your meatballs?

      Do you see any benefit - other than making the meat go further, of course?

      5 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Unlike burgers, meatballs need something to give the soft texture one expects from meatballs. I have yet to see a recipe that didn't call for bread crumbs dried or fresh. This is not to stretch the meat but to improve texture. Meatballs without bread are quite dense. How do you make yours?

        1. re: scubadoo97

          "How do you make yours?"

          Without bread.

          As you say, the meatballs are quite dense (well, they would be - they're just meat and seasoning). I've added bread in the past when I needed to make the meat go further, but it's not a texture I like. I've never made burgers so can't comment on that.

          1. re: Harters

            meatballs typically are cooked through -- to well done. the breadcrumbs help hold the fat in and keep the meatballs moist. burgers are not cooked quite as much, so don't need the boost.

            1. re: Harters

              <I've never made burgers so can't comment on that.>
              Yes you have - a flattened ball of "just meat and seasoning" IS a burger! A meatball has bread or another starch to bind and tenderize, plus seasonings and usually egg (without egg they are dense and tougher).

              Freezing leftover/stale bread for later use in meatballs, meatloaf, and stuffing is common and wise.

              1. re: greygarious

                I might be British but I do recognise a burger when I see one and I think I'd know if I'd made them. It is a flat thing usually grilled. As opposed to a meatball which is, erm, ball shaped and not usually grilled.

                But thank you for your advice about how to prepare meatballs. It's actually something I've done for many years, using mince from a variety of meats. As earlier, I've rarely used breadcrumbs as I don't like that texture and prefer them just as meat and seasonings. I also rarely find the need for egg.

                Just by the by, most of my meatball dishes are based on recipes from a book published in 1982 by my usual supermarket, called "Marvellous meals with mince". It has half a dozen meatball or rissole recipes - only one of which mentions any binding (in that case it's semolina)

        2. I make mine with milk-soaked breadcrumbs and always add some ricotta. Plus all the usual stuff (lots of garlic). They're always soft and tender.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bayoucook

            I soak my bread in warm milk, as in Marcella Hazan's recipe. But I like the idea of adding ricotta. How much do you add to a pound of ground meat?

            1. re: knitterbetty

              for a pound, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup - I'll try the warm milk next time. I just bought her "Essentials of Italian Cooking" and haven't read it yet. I don't know where I read about adding the ricotta, but we really love it in there. I make 3-4 dozen at a time and vacuum freeze them in batches.

          2. i keep a bag of "old" bread in the freezer -- for meatballs, breadcrumbs, soup, gazpacho, etc.

            1. I keep day old bread, minus the crust, in the freezer for meatballs and meatloaf (along with other "trash" like day old bananas, chicken carcasses, meat bones, day old veggies, cheese rinds). No drawbacks and I have the bread ready when I need.

              1. To answer the OP's question, whilst I don't use bread in meatballs, I do freeze for other uses perfectly satisfactorily. I usually crumb it in the processor; bag it and freeze. It stays in crumbs rather than freezing into a lump

                3 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  Yes I usually do freeze plain untoasted breadcrumbs for later toasting as well, thats why I was wondering about freezing larger pieces for reuse, I thought it might go weird with textures or have problems combining with other ingredients but looks like everyone says its good to go. I really do think meatballs need some bread though the texture is much improved especially if they are fried first, the contrast between the crust on the exterior and the soft inside is great.

                  1. re: rezpeni

                    i freeze slices or pieces, rather than crumbing first. sometimes i want bigger pieces, like for croutons, or toasts. freezing will have no effect on the quality for stuff like this and is admirably frugal, rather than tossing. :)

                  2. re: Harters

                    Harters, you question something which I have taken for granted for years without question and I find that I may be wrong! I always assumed that the purpose of the bread or pulverized crackers in meatballs was to add structural integrity to a mixture which is inherently likely to fall apart under the rigors of frying. I figured bread plus eggs equals glue for the ground beef. Maybe I have been wrong.

                  3. I start saving slices or chunks of good bread around - well, around now every year, throwing them into gallon zips and keeping them in the freezer for holiday stuffings. I don't make meatballs much, as Mrs. O is not particularly fond of them, but most of the recipes (and ALL the Italian ones) for meatballs I've seen require breadcrumbs. It was a deliberate effort to extend a scarce and expensive commodity - meat - with a plentiful and cheap one, and in the natural run of things the bread-extended meatball (like the bread-extended meatloaf) became a treasured item all its own.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen


                      I was interested you particularly mentioned Italian recipes using breadcrumbs. I've looked in my copy of "Silver Spoon", which I now regard as definitive about Italian home cookery, since it was published here in 2005 in English.

                      There are nine meatball recipes. Six have no additional "filler". Three do, including one with potato rather than bread.

                      As I said earlier, I have used bread in meatballs but we prefer the texture without. Such is life.

                      You've now got me thinking about meatloaf, though. Something I've never cooked, although I've eaten it once on a trip to the States.


                      1. re: Harters

                        Here, try one of mine:

                        GREAT MEAT LOAF

                        1 1/4 lb ground beef
                        1 1/4 lb ground pork
                        2 large eggs, beaten just to blend
                        1 cup cracker crumbs
                        1 small onion, minced
                        (celery and/or green pepper can also be added, if you want it)
                        2 slices good bacon, chopped fine
                        1/3 cup ketchup
                        2 Tbs horseradish
                        2 cloves garlic, minced
                        salt, pepper, Tabasco and/or herbs

                        Preheat oven to 350º. Combine everything in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a fork to distribute ingredients, then use your hands to blend and knead until it's a fairly firm and homogeneous mass that will hold its shape. (Test seasoning by frying a small patty of this and tasting it.) Form into a loaf, then put into a 2-qt loaf pan, pressing down the sides to eliminate any gaps along the bottom edges.

                        Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs, to an internal temperature of 150º; use a bulb baster to remove accumulated grease as needed during the last half-hour or so.

                        For a sweet/savory topping, you can mix some ketchup and horseradish together with a little Worcestershire sauce and brush this over the top of the loaf after the first hour.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          I've found that Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup (!) makes a good base for meatloaf gravy.

                          1. re: Will Owen


                            Thanks for the recipe. Just a couple of transatlantic queries:

                            When you mention horseradish, do you mean just ordinary grated fresh horseradish.

                            And, with regard to cracker crumbs, we have crackers that usually get served with cheese - very crispy, flaky and quite salty (brand leader is Jacobs, if that helps). Are these the same thing as American crackers?

                            1. re: Harters

                              Harters, it sounds like your crackers are similar to what Americans know as "saltines". Those would do, as would Carr's Water Biscuits, or matzoh, or really any flavored crisp cracker. When American recipes don't say fresh horseradish, they mean the jarred "prepared" horseradish.

                              All that said, I doubt that I am alone in my lukewarm reaction to Will's meatloaf recipe. Most would use more onion for that amount of meat, and lay the strips of bacon over the top of the shaped loaf, so that it gets crisp and its fat goes into pan drippings from which you make gravy. Commercial dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs are, IMO, inferior to using home-made crumbs from fresh, dried, or frozen bread (or just tearing up a dlice and mashing it with egg and milk. His recipe strikes me as on the dry side.

                              The oft-preferred browned, crusty exterior is impossible if the meat is pressed into a loaf pan. Many recipes call for shaping and baking on a flat pan, with or without a small-mesh rack underneath. There are also special loaf pans - the meat goes into the insert, which has ridges and drainage holes on the bottom. The insert sets inside the outer pan, with a gap allowing for the drippings to collect in the bottom.

                              I'd suggest you read through a variety of recipes and pick one that appeals to you the most. Many CHers like the Martha Stewart version. I don't use a recipe,

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Ah. Thanks for that. I'm familiar with Carr's.

                                Must apologise to rezpeni, though. First I hijack the thread about the use of bread in meatballs and now a second likely hijack on whose meatloaf recipe is best . I fear war may break out :-0

                                1. re: Harters

                                  <I fear war may break out >
                                  I have no doubt! ;-D I own a copy of The Great American Meatloaf Contest Cookbook (Hearst,1994) by Peter "Meatloaf" Kaufman and T.K. Woods.
                                  Got it for a few dollars online. It might be of interest - BTW, in the US meatloaf is almost as much of a "guy" thing as grilling is.

                              2. re: Harters

                                I use bread crumbs instead of cracker crumbs, although like greygarious, I don't use a recipe. Meatloaf is one of those wonderful "born of poverty" -type recipes with meat and quite a bit of "filler" to make an expensive ingredient go farther, and so I imagine that any number of fillers would be equally good. My grandmother, as I recall, used breadcrumbs and rolled oats in equal quantity. Shredded carrots are another common addition, one without which I will not make meatloaf.

                                I also prefer all beef in mine, although I've been known to use (gasp!) ground turkey as well. I prefer very lean grinds of both, for two reasons: 1) the bread, milk, eggs, onions, and carrots add plenty of moisture so fattier meat becomes redundant and 2) I usually bake meatloaf in a loaf pan, since I prefer ketchup to gravy on meatloaf, and fatty meat makes for a dinner swimming in grease, i.e. not appetizing!

                                1. re: LauraGrace

                                  If you don't want or like to use bread (or breadcrumbs), shredded cabbage works just as well, if not better.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    My meat loaf recipe makes exactly the kind of meat loaf I like. It's meant to be a dinner dish fresh out of the oven, but its true calling is to be sliced cold and put into sandwiches, which is why it is deliberately made both firm and rather fatty. Interestingly enough, my brother's meat loaf, also founded on our mother's recipe as mine is, uses bread crumbs or rolled oats, and comes out quite loose in texture. His ultimate objective is also meat loaf sandwiches, but he prefers something more like a spreadable paté. To itch his own...

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      I'm back - can't resist another post.

                                      One of my all-time world-beating sandwiches was a meatloaf one bought from a place in Frederick, Maryland (?) and eaten in the car park of the Sharpsberg/Antietam battlefield park. A food and a place that shouted "AMERICA" to this foreigner.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        Fredericksburg, I would think. Famous Civil War battle there. I consider the offering of a meatloaf sandwich on a menu to be a sign of culinary purity, and I usually try it when I find it on offer. I am sometimes grossly disappointed, but I've found a few (including one quite close to me in the Los Angeles area) as good as, perhaps better than, my own.

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Definitely Frederick (stayed there twice now).

                                          We've also went to Fredericksburg on that trip (now about 15 years, when I first developed a real interest in the War Between the States). To keep this on-topic, I also recall the town has what I think of as another American icon - a pharmacy with lunch counter. That is such a good idea - eat a large sandwich, then buy indigestion tablets :-0


                        2. Okay I have two questions:

                          1. Once your ready to use your frozen bread slices/crumbs, how do you defrost them (in the refrigerator, counter-top, or do you cook them as normal)?

                          2 (not as related) What is the shelf-life of homemade (fresh) breadcrumbs? and homemade (cooked) breadcrumbs or croûtons?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cityhopper

                            I don't bother to defrost frozen crumbs before using. They're so small, they're almost defrosted walking the two metres from freezer to prep. area.

                            1. re: cityhopper

                              To answer part 2, I don't know what that might be. I've thrown them out only when they began to smell of Old Refrigerator. In a nice heavy ziplock that doesn't happen very soon.

                              My mom used to keep dry bread in a brown paper bag on top of the fridge, not even in it. Of course she used a lot of crumbs, making meatloaves and stuffings quite regularly, but I'm sure the bits at the bottom had some age on them. As long as the bugs stayed out, she considered them to be immortal. She may have been right.