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meatballs with breadcrumbs ?

Rainy day in Fl. with a 9 yr. old after school who wants meatballs. I've always used breadcrumbs but Ina Garten says soaked white bread is the key to moistness. Which way to go ?

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  1. People do seem to like meatball made with soaked bread, but I have always used breadcrumbs and I've yet to hear any complaints!

    2 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      I soak breadcrumbs in milk, to create a thick paste or panada, similar to what you would do when using bread and what monavano does, downthead; I rarely have white bread around.

      1. re: roxlet

        You might not hear any complaints, but give the shredded bread a shot, and you might hear a lot more ooohs and ahhhs.

      2. I've done both. A piece of bread soaked in milk vastly improves the moistness, if moist is what you're going for. I don't always do that, though. I used the soaked bread for swedish meatballs; if i'm doing something that requires a firmer meatball, I don't.

        2 Replies
        1. re: overthinkit

          After browning these are going back in the tomato sauce for a while. Will that affect the texture ?

          1. re: brevardbelly

            It shouldn't. If I remember correctly, CI's basic meatball recipe (for, say, spaghetti and meatballs) calls for using milk soaked bread. So I wouldn't think there'd be a problem. Are you worried about the acid in the tomato? Because I don't notice texture problems in Swedish meatballs. No tomatoes in the gravy for those, though.
            I really think it's just a moistness thing. So they might break apart more easily, and you might have to brown them more gently. But once browned, they should be fine.

        2. While we're asking breadcrumb questions. Does anybody have any advise/experience doing meatballs with gluten-free bread crumbs? We are still learning GF cooking due to my sister's celiac diagnosis.

          6 Replies
          1. re: arashall

            I prefer making meatballs with crustless GF bread soaked in milk or water. GF breadcrumbs become unpleasantly mushy when moist (imho).

            1. re: arashall

              i use gf oatmeal for my gf meatballs

              1. re: arashall

                I use a recipe that uses ground almond flour almost every time. I have not compared this very same receipe using homemade breadcrumbs in place of almond flour. I believe there are many recipes online for meatballs using the almond flour.

                However, for meatballs made with breadcrumbs, I make my own breadcrumbs. Which are quite different in consistency, volume and weight than what one would buy at the supermarket.

                I think breadcrumbs are better than torn pieces of bread. A piece of bread, no matter how it is soaked and torn apart, never seems to integrate itself well in a meat ball, IMO.

                1. re: arashall

                  Thanks, everyone for the GF advice! I was wondering what the GF would do, texture-wise.

                  1. re: arashall

                    gf breadcrumbs don't seem to have enough integrity and are a bit dense and if cooked in sauce the bread crumb kind of leaches out. It can be done - I make my own gf crumb with a better result -

                2. I use a panade of homemade bread crumbs (or panko if I'm out) and at least milk, if not half and half or cream.
                  I allow the bread to soak in the dairy until the bread is saturated and then put the panade in the meat mixture. I do not wring out the bread and leave the milk behind.

                  1. Panko soaked in milk, that's the best IMHO :) Now I'm hungry....

                    1. I use both a bread panade and bread crumbs.

                      The panade (white bread with no crusts combined with milk) act as a "glue" as well as adding moisture to the overall meat mixture.

                      I use parm. or romano cheese to help get the meatballs back to a firm enough texture to roll (considering I have eggs in there it can be rather moist) but too much cheese is overwhelming, so I often have to add std. plain bread crumbs to help even out the moisture.

                      I pan fry and brown first, then drop into the sauce as I have found too loose or moist of a meatball can be damaged or broken up with just a little stirring no matter how light of a touch you use. Pack tight so they do not break apart raw in the sauce and then they can be too dense when finished,

                      Its all about balance.

                      1. I add dried onion to plain panko breadcrumbs and whirl in the food processor until sandy. Then I season with oregano, thyme and one clove of garlic. Then I add this dry ingredient list to the meat along with one egg and knead it very well until the meat is really broken down and the dry ingredients are incorporated. Then I use a large scoop to portion the meatballs out on a foil lined baking try and bake at 375 until cooked and browned nicely. Then I had them to my sauce (if making tomato). I also freeze batches for appetizers and other recipes. I've tried the soaking method but prefer my own since I don't notice a big difference in the results.

                        1. I use fresh bread crumbs made in the food processor that I mix with a little milk to they have a consistency similar to the meat.

                          1. my mom used whole slices of bread tore up mixed with raw egg and milk then combined with the meat and spices

                            1. Some recipes I have for Italian style meatballs include bread, others don't,. I prefer the taste and texture without bread.

                              Of course, meatballs from some other national cuisines never have bread.

                              1. I've done meatloaf with soaked white bread, but never meatballs. Works well in meatloaf though.

                                1. I've done it both ways, but have switched only within the last 10 years to mainly using milk soaked bread. I think it gives a nicer texture though admittedly the difference shouldn't be that huge. On the rare occasions where I do use crumbs instead, I use a touch dry milk powder in the mix.

                                  The real trick, whether using crumbs or a panade, is to just not overdo it with either one...you really don't need much in there.
                                  A tender but still 'meaty' meatball is a glorious thing but a soft, mushy meatball is a definite fail.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    My husband and I have an ongoing discussion on what is the perfect texture for meatballs. I tend to like them softer than he does--meaning more bread crumbs--but we both like nuts in them, pistachios and walnuts have been featured lately. Maybe because we do beef meatballs, I find not enough other ingredients makes for a "hard" meatball since we like to brown ours well before putting into tomato sauce to finish--keeping a couple out to eat bare with salt of course!

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      Since you mentioned using nuts, it reminds me that I mentioned above using almond flour. Almond flour certainly makes a firm meatball. It doesn't come apart easily when later added (if one choses to) to a sauce. Besides a more complex taste, one gets more nutrients.

                                      So - next scenario can be bread crumbs AND nuts. I'll have to try that. A little bit of both sounds good.

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        We like the nuts chunky so it adds another texture to the meatballs. And lots of Romano too.

                                  2. I use milk, breadcrumbs, egg and grated Parmesan. They're moist, and I like them better with the cheese.

                                    1. I'm softly chuckling to myself.

                                      1. Am. Test Kitchen used white bread (w crust removed) soaked in buttermilk. I tried it and ended up using too much liquid, meat balls had trouble holding their shape. Not too bad but no improvement over my standard breadcrumb more traditional version.

                                        1. I put a lot of stuff into my meatballs, meatloaf, and frikadellen, so they are always moist. I have never used commercial breadcrumbs. I soak torn-up bread first, then add my onion, garlic, bell pepper, coleslaw, mushrooms, egg, tomato paste, dry onion soup mix, teriyaki sauce (or Kitchen Bouquet/Gravy Master). I mix all that together thoroughly with my hands, so that by the time I add the ground beef the bread has broken down completely. I don't brown the meatballs if I am putting them into spaghetti sauce - I just arrange them atop the barely simmering sauce and leave them to cook, unmolested, for about 40 minutes. By then they are firm enough to hold their shape when gently turned over with a soup spoon, so the tops will cook in the sauce. The reason I don't brown them first is that I think the sauce and meat exchange flavors better if there's no pre-browning. I did used to have more fragile meatloaf, meatballs, and frikadellen, until I started slicing the onions super-thinly on my V-slicer rather than shopping them. The thin strings of onion create a matrix for the rest of the mixture to cling to.