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Question on freezing meatballs


I am planning to make a large batch of meatballs and freeze half of them. My usual method is to brown meatballs in the pan and finish cooking in the sauce. My question is can I brown all the meatballs and then freeze half of them, to thaw and then finish in the sauce at a later date? In other words, is it okay to freeze partially cooked,meatballs that have only been browned? Thanks.

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  1. You might want to finish them off in the oven and then freeze them.

    1. I think it sounds just fine. Don't know why it wouldn't.

      1. Your method is fine. Just throw the frozen meatballs in the sauce and leave yourself enough time so they cook thru.

        6 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2

          agree par-cooking is fine. then spread on sheet pan to freeze, then bag. this way you can pull out as many as you need and not be stuck with a solid mass.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Be sure to label well, lest someone think they are fully cooked and consume something that isn't. I see no advantage to not cooking them fully in the first place. I've never refrigerated or frozen partially-cooked animal proteins.

            1. re: greygarious

              Well, if they're fully cooked, then they'll be overcooked, won't they? And it's unlikely that anyone would eat them straight from the freezer. By the time they heated them up, they wouldn't be partially cooked. But so what if they were?

              1. re: greygarious

                Provided one is using good beef and the diner is not immune-compromised there is nothing wrong with eating a "rare" meatball any more than a rare burger. Since I do and no one in my house is I feel no need to label as such.

                There are many people I know who swear by meatballs cooked fully in the sauce. I like to par cook mine to get out any excess fat/grease and then let them finish in the sauce. It makes for a very tender and tasty meat ball. I just made well over 100 yesterday and the ones not eaten yesterday or today are in the freezer, waiting to made into subs or sauce.

                1. re: greygarious

                  lol, is there somebody in your house who might eat a frozen meatball? if you freeze them cooked through, they will be overcooked with re-heating.

            2. I always make and freeze my meatballs uncooked.

              The benefit is the flavor from the fond (brown bits) during frying and fat that is imparted into the sauce once the meat is browned but not cooked through but as the sauce cooks adds depth.

              Browned but not cooked through loses the fond approach if frozen and reused. No need to brown then. Sauce loses out.

              Cooked all the way through and then frozen is the same approach as using bagged frozen meatballs.

              Awesome for convenience and far healthier if trying to remove the meat fat from your diet as a lot of it is cooked out in the baking process, just like a meatloaf.

              All are fine to freeze depending upon what sauce you are using and flavor profile you wish to have.

              Again, I either freeze raw, or if making a from scratch red sauce, freeze when sauce is fully cooked through with meat included.

              No right or wrong.

              Just varying degress of yumminess.

              1. You should brown at high heat so they hold together and then freeze then on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet. When they are rock hard move the meatballs to a zip bag and return them to the coldest part of the freezer for storage.

                If you cook them to full done they will be overdone when you reheat them.

                1. Thanks, everyone, for the replies. I had not thought in depth about the mechanics of freezing the meatballs, so those recommendations are very helpful as well.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: tomjb27

                    I dispute the claims that reheated meatballs will be *overdone* if they were fully cooked before freezing. Are kielbasa, franks, or other fully-cooked supermarket sausages that you keep in your freezer overdone when you thaw and reheat them, or use them as an ingredient? Of course not! It's ground meat, so there are no long muscle fiber contractions happening during cooking and the meat is then completely cooked. It doesn't cook beyond that point; it just reheats. The meatball meat has been mixed with vegetables and a filler, which increases the tenderness. Meatballs are the same mixture as meat loaf, which is a very popular cook-then-freeze meal, even though it is NOT frozen in sauce. Meatballs ARE frozen in sauce, so they are not drying out while frozen.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      i don't ever eat kielbasa or franks, but understand there are various kinds at the deli case, including smoked, cooked and partially cooked, as well as cured and uncured. they are not "just" ground meat and at the very least contain a TON of salt as a preservative. otherwise they wouldn't last for months in the refrigerator.

                      my meatballs do not have vegetables, (ok, garlic and parsley...) or filler, nor are they the "same" as meatloaf.

                      i have suffered through plenty of dry, over-cooked meatballs in other people's homes and in restaurants. of course, as always, ymmv.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        But, you run the risk of a well-done, dried out ball.
                        I had one last night, not good.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          The 100 plus meatballs I made yesterday certainly were NOT frozen in sauce. They were par-frozen on sheet trays and then popped into vacu seal bags. Not all the meatballs are for sauce. My son likes them reheated slightly in the micro as is for breakfast, as a grab and go snack before sports or in meatball and cheese subs.

                          I find if they are baked to the point of well done/cooked through they do dry out unless you put them in sauce. And if cooked all the way through they don't add a richness to the sauce when you finish them off in sauce. YMMV

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            I definitely like the idea of cooking in the sauce for that very reason. I think you've articulated from experience what I was hoping would be the case.

                      2. I either cook them all in sauce and then freeze them fully-cooked or freeze them raw without browning them. I've never done a partial-cook prior to freezing them.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Njchicaa

                          I should probably have stated up front that a driving reason for the brown and freeze idea is convenience and maximizing the up front labor, not what will give me the absolute best results irregardless of time and effort. I typically make about a pound of meatballs for a meal. Since i like using both pork and beef, it makes sense for me to buy a pound of each and make two pounds of meatballs. Not to imply that meatballs are a labor intensive meal, but on my schedule, and with my limited cooking skills and equipment, they are enough of a project to fall into my weekend meal category. Freezing post-browning pushes a lot of a labor into that initial weekend cook, Freezing uncooked would make the second cook that much less convenient and time-saving for me. Fully cooking all the meatballs and freezing would require more time and sauce and a larger pot up front, or cooking half the meatballs in the oven, which is a method I'm not really familiar or comfortable with. Brown then freeze seems like the sweet spot for leveraging my up front time and having a relatively easy second meal to make. Hope that makes sense and sorry for not being clear.

                          1. re: tomjb27

                            you were perfectly clear and i think you found a great solution for your needs. batch-cooking makes life sooooooooo much easier.