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meatballs - roast 'em or fry?

Making meatballs with pasta - and would like to know if I will get substantially different result if I roast the meatballs in the oven instead of browning them. Thanks.

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  1. They won't get all nice and crispy brown on the outside like they do with frying. As such, they won't taste quite as good. It will work, but I'd still fry 'em.

    1. I usually roast or bake mine and add the juices to the sauce.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bayoucook

        I would fry them in olive oil, can't I add the fry oil to the sauce as well?

        1. re: serious

          That would make for a very greasy sauce.

      2. IMO you will get a substantially better product if you roast in a hot oven ~~~ 400* for a few minutes...they will lightly brown, and not carry so much grease to your sauce......


        11 Replies
        1. re: Uncle Bob

          roasting is winning me over - and adding juices to the sauce. I'm making them with sirloin only, I've tried various meat combos and the sirloin seems to impart a unique flavor - don't report me to Campania food police.

          1. re: Uncle Bob

            I always fried but on my last batch I roasted them in muffin tins. There browned nicely, stayed round and came out excellent.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              How does using a muffin pan help meatballs stay any rounder than baking on a sheet pan? The bottom is still flat.

              1. re: Fritter


                I can only surmise scubadoo97 feels they stayed round from not having to be flipped due to batch frying in oil, and thus having two flat sides. Roasting in the muffin pans does not require the meatballs to be flipped.

                The tip to use muffin pans was from a reader of Cook's Illustrated magazine a few years back. The higher sides of the muffin tins are believed to reduce oil splatter and make less of a mess than a typical baking sheet pan during baking. ;-)

                1. re: fourunder

                  I think I'd rather roast them in lasagna or roasting pans than deal with scouring the fond out of the muffin tin's bottoms and sides....

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Teflon type coated pans.....presumably would only require a simple wipe out with paper towels, i.e., of course if the pans are on the new side....and then a simple wash with soapy water and rinse.

                  2. re: fourunder

                    I've never had an issue with splattering while baking meatballs on a sheet pan. I hear the same sillyness about cooking bacon on a sheet pan.
                    It's a non-issue. Now scrubbing muffin tins could be a royal PITA.
                    The only thing I like about frying meatballs is that they stay "rounder" (I never get two flat sides) if you don't do too many at a time but IMO it's just not worth the mess at home.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Actually I picked it up from an Alton Brown episode. Figured I'd give it a try. Worked well.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I've tried the muffin pan myself. Like Fritter does, I generally use a sheet pan, but I like my meatballs in the 2-3 ounce range (small).....the muffin pan works better when the meatballs are larger and more prone to oil splatter from my experience. If I am cooking many meatballs, I use a roasting pan/hotel pan made of stainless steel. Higher sides and never a problem with sticking....it's also a lot lighter than my Anchor Hocking Glass Bakeware

                        1. re: fourunder

                          I make mine in the 2 ounce range as well. I can't say it even occurred to me to use a hotel pan but that makes perfect sense. The biggest draw back I see to a muffin pan (for me) is that I can fit 24 balls on a half sheet pan. I'd need several muffin pans for that. Because I grind my own sirloin I tend to make enough for a couple of meals at a time and freeze them.
                          I haven't seen the Alton Brown Meatball episode. I'll have to watch for that.

                2. re: Uncle Bob

                  That's it exactly, only I roast them for about 20 minutes. The drippings are delectable and not greasy at all. I add some ricotta cheese to my meatballs and a bit of that oozes out as well. Delicious.

                3. I always roast them in the oven at 400 for 40 minutes and put them in a big pot of sauce to flavor the sauce. I make 60 to 80 two inch diameter meatballs at a time and then freeze them in quart containers in the sauce. If you don't freeze them in the sauce they get freezer burn quite easily.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Den

                    Really? I often freeze meatballs without sauce to use in Italian wedding soup and other things and have never had a problem with them getting freezer burn.

                    1. re: writergeek313

                      I freeze mine with a foodsaver - no problem. Use for all kinds of things.

                      1. re: bayoucook

                        ditto for jfood in the bag sucker. four per bag, just enough to one person.

                        BTW freeze them first on a cookie sheet so they do not compress when you use the bag sucker.

                  2. Jfood has been a fry-er for 30+ years but roasted his last batch a few months ago and he thoughtthe texture was outstanding. The major difference jfood found was the texture was moist poofy and extremely moist. The fried version he has used for years had a much denser texture.

                    It is hard to say but jfood thinks he will become a roasted versus a fry-er in the future.

                    1. it also depends on the meat. with just pork or lamb i generally roast in the oven. with beef/pork combo i usually fry. i typically put sausage in my meat sauce, so don't add any of the frying oil.

                      1. I roast first, until there is browning on the edges and almost done, then pop them (and juices) into the sauce, pot into in the oven about 300, and finish them off so they're coated w/ the sauce. It gives them more flavor.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: chowser

                          i always finish in the sauce too, but why do you put the pot in the oven, instead of just simmering on the stove?

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Many cooks I have known like to finish in the oven, rather than on the stove top, so they can reduce the risk of burning any sauce on the bottom of the pot. Their attention can be given elsewhere to their other duties.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              Exactly. On the stove, I've broken meatballs trying to stir or the bottom can burn. I've also used less liquid and put it in the crockpot at that point if I'm planning to go out. Also, in the summer, the stove is cooler than simmering on the stove.

                              1. re: chowser

                                For those of you finishing in sauce in the oven - what kind of cookware are you using? I'm considering buying a dutch oven I just dunno which one to choose and would use it alot for applications like this I think... I just saw an AB episode of Good Eats where he extolled the versatility of his Lodge cast Iron...I wonder if anyone has an opinion about the functionality of enameled vs traditional (if that's the right word) cast iron?

                                1. re: maplesugar

                                  I use an All Clad stock pot so I can cook it on stove and then move to the oven. A dutch oven would work fine, too--either one. I have a smallish regular Lodge dutch oven for no-knead bread that I bought from Costco at a pretty good price but would like to get a larger one at some point.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Le Creuset is my Dutch oven of choice.

                                2. re: chowser

                                  i'm old school enough that the stove top simmer is also reducing out water, which would not happen in the oven, and makes a thicker mor flavorful sauce. i'm more mindful of stuff on the stove too.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    It simmers in the oven, too. It could be comfort level for me since I also prefer to braise in the oven and not on the stove. I feel like the temperature control is over the whole pot and not just under it. I tend to get distracted, and forget to stir sometimes. It does take longer, though.

                          2. I've been roasting meatballs for sauce in the oven for years. I believe, as others have mentioned, it promotes more even browning, softer texture and more moist meatballs.....the added benefit is less clean-up and less time frying in batches.

                            1. I bake mine in the oven too. I drizzle a little olive oil on them before I put them in. They come out perfectly browned. I finish them in the sauce too.

                              1. Neither. I drop them gently into the simmering spaghetti sauce. That's how my grandmother taught me to do it. I'm not a fan of the crust on the outside.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Kagey

                                  That is how my family does it as well, another bonus, one less pan to clean!

                                  1. re: Kagey

                                    I drop 'em straight in the sauce, too, per my MIL. I have tried both frying & oven, but usually revert back to right in the pot.

                                    1. re: Kagey

                                      Add me to this list. Although I've never tried roasting them; may try that next time just for curiosity's sake. Must say doing it all in the sauce makes for easy clean up, though!

                                    2. I find that they hold their shape better when I roast them; they get heat from all sides, which keeps them round. When I fry meatballs, I get all these flat edges and can't properly brown the whole thing...

                                      That said, if browning is not an issue I put them right into the pot (as Kagey said) and find this eliminates the added step, if they will be ending up in a sauce.

                                      1. Does anyone have a great meatball recipe? I'd like to try roasting meatballs and then adding them to a pot of sauce. Something with no dairy, please.