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Meatballs - Hors d'Oeuvres - "Juicy"

Anyone have a sure-fire recipe for 'toothpick' meatballs that will definitely be "juicy?"

I'd prefer the juiciness not be a result of a lot of fat.

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  1. Use a panade of bread and buttermilk (buttermilk is lowfat). Use only the yolk of an egg (egg whites make meatballs gummier; you need the lecithin in the yolks to help emulsify and retain the liquids in the meatball). And don't try to use meat that is too lean. Brown the meatballs to maximize flavor.

    1. Don't go lower than 20% fat.
      Sorry, but that's the bottom line.
      Of course a panade, wet panade, helps.

      1. Adding a little grated onion can increase the juiciness, and it has the bonus of adding flavor.

        1 Reply
        1. re: linguafood

          There is never anything less than a LOT of onion in my meatballs, which are always tender and moist. I also always use a panade, and most often also mushrooms, grated carrot and bell pepper. By volume, there's probably as much filler as meat, which is what makes them delectable.

        2. A sauteed mirepoix helps to keep things moist, too.

          1. Good stuff so far - tks. Am wondering if much experience with mixing pork and beef - pork fat IMO is tastier and easier to work with - and the pork meat itself works with the beef - course won''t be Kosher :-)

            1 Reply
            1. re: jounipesonen

              Well at least 1/3 should be pork OR (even better) pork sausage (especially if you use lean beef, bison, venison, or turkey/chicken - generally, if one must use poultry, use dark meat only, as dark meat tolerates being cooked well). I am more of a fan of veal in meatloaf than in meatballs, where the collagen can more easily just leach out. (In a meatloaf, beef provides depth of flavor, pork provides sweetness, and veal provides collagen which makes it succulent; a meatball's comparatively high surface-to-volume ratio means it leaches more than a meatloaf).

            2. I know this is way off base but the first thing I thought of after reading the title of your post.
              Jucy Lucy Meatballs.

              1. I use a 50/50 mix of ground pork and ground beef (80/20 beef).

                Panade of milk and bread.

                Grated onions like the others. For meatloaf slow and soft sauteed onions.

                If you want to go REALLY moist for meatballs, I ad ricotta to the mix for anything but Asian style, and for those I use drained silken tofu (same as what many good dumpling houses use).

                Since ground meat fibres contract once fully cooked through (vs. say, a medium rare hamburger), the protein coils can and do squeeze out the moisture.

                I like ricotta meatballs in main dishes, due to the soft nature, but I'm not sure they will stand up to the toothpick test.

                For that I just do normal meatballs.

                And for family throwback gatherings, use the old grape jelly and heinz chili sauce in a crockpot as the sauce delivery system.

                Never had a leftover. Ever. :-)

                1. Since ground meat fibres contract once fully cooked through (vs. say, a medium rare hamburger), the protein coils can and do squeeze out the moisture.

                  The panade helps mitigate this.

                  1. I find that ground beef dishes (meatballs, meatloaf, whatever) always benefits from a little pinch of powdered gelatin mixed in. Maybe I stole this from America's Test Kitchen???

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Meann

                      They do a meatloaf with gelatin.

                    2. I love these lamb kofta meatballs which I first found in a Jaffrey book. They are moist, and a nice pre-dinner nibble.


                      1. The bread soaked in milk method should do the trick for you. I was surprised to read that there is actually more science to that method than I was previously aware of - something about the milk reacting to the meat protiens. It also makes the meatballs a bit lighter, and not too dense/heavy. I would be careful with the shredded onions, too many and if they are chopped too coarsely, and the meatballs won't hold together well.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Atomic76

                          For both meatloaf and meatballs, I use the mandoline to make thin rings of onion and bell pepper. Though they break into strings while mixing into the meat, this creates a matrix to which the meat clings, so the slices/balls won't fall apart even with the high proportion of filler that I prefer. Of course I use egg in the mixture, too.