Meatballs are mostly overcooked

How to make the perfect meatballs

A life without Köttbullar, meatballs & Co. is possible, but pointless.

Everyone knows them, but they are rarely in the spotlight: meatballs! If you are not yet a fan of them, we will convince you today. They appear in almost infinite variations (yes, we're also talking about meatless meatballs) in the kitchens of the world, e.g. B. in traditional Chinese cuisine (Shi Zi Tou, translated: lion heads), in the Netherlands (Bitterballen), in Sweden (Köttbullar), Germany (Königsberger Klopse), Denmark (meatballs), Japan (tsukune), Spain (Albondigas), Italy (Polpette), Poland (Pulpety) and in the Middle East (Köfte).

But not all meatballs are the same: Each variant is characterized by something special and provides certain elements of surprise, e.g. B. when you bite into the unexpectedly crispy Dutch bitterballen or enjoy a buttery Koenigsberger Klopses. The German classic has its origin in today's Kaliningrad in Russia, formerly the royal capital and residence of Königsberg in East Prussia.

The best thing about meatballs, however, is their versatility. Once you've internalized a few basics, nothing stands in the way of your meatball dreams.

This is how you prepare meatballs

Before you can even cook meatballs out of your head, you should deal with the 3 main components: meat, binding agents and additional condiments. Depending on what kind of meatballs you want to eat, the exact composition of these ingredients will also change. To do this, you should ask yourself several questions.
✖ In which flavor would you like to go: classic, vegetarian, or maybe a bit spicier?

✖ Which preparation option do you choose: frying in the pan, boiling in the pot, or baking in the oven?

✖ How would you like to serve your meatballs: in a spicy sauce, a soup or with a creamy yogurt dip?

Once all the questions have been answered, it is easy to choose your favorite meatball. Let's look at the main components one by one.

The basic ingredient of every meatball, Köttbullar or meatball is the minced meat. Beef, pork, veal, chicken or lamb are among the most popular varieties and can be processed individually or in combination. Good examples of this are the Italian-inspired meatballs in the USA, which are made from ground beef and pork, or the Turkish version made from beef and lamb.

Do you want to do without meat completely? For the right consistency, we recommend a combination of cooked green or brown lentils and chopped mushrooms. This mixture can be refined with oatmeal, tempeh, tofu, quinoa, boiled beans, chickpeas or cauliflower.

Since no one has an appetite for a sad, dry meatball, you should take these tips to heart: Cut all ingredients as finely as possible (about the size of a cooked lentil). The easiest way to do this is with a food processor that mixes your basic ingredients together.

As soon as the basic mass is ready, the binders come into play. With eggs, vegan egg substitute, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, ground nuts, tomato paste, harissa or curry paste (you can find further options in the article below), the mixture will stick together during cooking.

The hardest part of the preparation is getting the perfect consistency. The meatballs should stick together but not get too dry either. If the mixture feels too crumbly, you can add another egg, flavored oil, grated onion, or a small sip of plant-based milk.

When shaping, the balls should stick together slightly, because if they don't already, they will fall apart later when frying or cooking. To prevent this, dry binders can work wonders.

And before we forget it: Your favorite vegetarian or vegan burger patty recipe can also be used to create excellent patties!

As you have probably already noticed, the binders play an extremely important role. Thanks to eggs, breadcrumbs, grated or fresh cheese (e.g. ricotta or feta), ground nuts or a combination of these ingredients, the meatball mixture holds together during frying, baking or cooking.

Depending on the basic ingredient, spices, and cooking method you choose, some binders are better than others. A heavily seasoned base that is then fried in the pan, for example, is happy to have an extra pinch of binding agent.

In general, you can stick to this rule of thumb: If the meatballs keep their shape while rolling and placed on a plate, you are on the safe side! If you are still unsure, you can put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes before cooking.

There are hardly any limits to the seasoning of meatballs. Classic flavoring agents are chopped onions or shallots, garlic, ginger, fresh herbs, chopped vegetables (e.g. celery or carrots), tomato paste, dried or fresh spices, sauces or other liquids, e.g. B. fish sauce or milk and of course salt and pepper, which in my opinion belong on every meatball.

Chopped lemongrass, pickled lemons, curry paste or harissa, as well as dried fruits like dates with lamb or apricots with pork are a few more experimental suggestions that our editorial team loves.

If that's too much for you and you don't know exactly where to start, then try these 5 suggestions for small, tasty meatballs first. Then you can still choose a favorite and refine it according to your taste.

The secret meatball ratio

Since it would be mean to leave you with a list of ingredients without any quantities, we thought about a little something (and we have patented it). If you memorize this relationship and remember a few additional tips from this article, nothing stands in the way of your meatball experiments.

This is how you shape meatballs

The base is mixed together, holds together thanks to the binding agent and has been seasoned enough - now you can start rolling. Here, too, there are a few tips that will make your work easier.

Wet your hands to prevent the mass from sticking to your fingers and use an ice cream scoop (it works really great!) Or a tablespoon to portion evenly sized meatballs. Roll the mass into a spherical ball between your palms, taking care not to press too hard. After shaping, you should move the meatballs as little back and forth as possible. We leave it up to you whether you prefer to shape walnut-sized or tangerine-sized meatballs. However, the bigger they get, the longer they take to cook. Particularly large dumplings are best prepared in the oven, while small versions are great as soups due to the short cooking time.

5 different preparation methods

There are at least 5 different methods to prepare meatballs and each has its own advantages: You can bake, stew, fry, boil or steam them.

For a brown crust, the oven or frying in the pan are particularly good, where baking causes the least mess and washing up and is therefore my personal favorite. Once you've prepared a sauce, the best thing to do is to steep the balls right in it. This is how the flavors combine and the meatballs stay nice and juicy. When cooked or steamed, they are unfortunately not necessarily appetizing, but they definitely do not get dry.

Our tip: first boil or steam and then fry until golden brown in a hot pan.

Bake meatballs: Preheat the oven to 200 ° C. Place meatballs on a baking sheet, leaving enough space between them. Bake until golden brown for approx. 20 - 30 minutes, depending on the size. If necessary, you can turn them halfway through the baking time. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut open a meatball and see if it's already done. If you like it a little crispier, you can use the grill function at the end of the baking time, raise the tray a little higher in the oven and grill the balls for 3 - 5 minutes.

Cooking meatballs: Bring a saucepan of water to the boil (the moment just before the water boils) and use a ladle or ladle to slowly slide the balls into the water. With a thermometer or the "slicing sample" you test whether they are cooked. If you want to cook it directly in the soup, you should also make sure that the soup does not boil.

Steam meatballs: Use your normal steamer or a steamer to steam and bring some water to a simmer. Put in the meatballs and steam for approx. 15 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

Fry meatballs: To fry, heat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat (cast-iron pans are particularly good) and add the balls. Once they get a nice crust on the bottom, you can turn them over and turn the heat down if necessary so they don't burn.

Braising meatballs: For stewing you need a sauce of your choice, for example an Italian tomato sauce, a Japanese curry or a spicy barbecue sauce. Once your sauce is warmed up and simmering gently, you can add the raw meatballs to the sauce. It is particularly important that they are covered all around with sauce. Then reduce the heat and cover the pot. After about 30 minutes you can test whether they are done. If the sauce gets thick, a little broth or water will help.

Freeze and thaw meatballs

I hope we have already convinced you of the wonderful world of meatballs - if not, we have an ace up our sleeve: Leftover Albondigas, Polpette or Königberger Klopse can be frozen and easily thawed again. Especially on hectic days during the week, at least of us stand in the kitchen and feel like rolling the little round balls fresh. Even if guests announce themselves spontaneously or your refrigerator is empty, frozen meatballs are the salvation! It is therefore best to always prepare a large portion and freeze the leftovers for later.

Even easier than freezing raw meatballs is to stow them in the freezer while they are cooked and then just warm them up. To do this, they should be completely cooled and stored in an airtight container or sealable bag. It is best to label the containers with the date of manufacture and then stow them in the freezer.

For easier handling, you can first let them set on a baking sheet for 3 - 4 hours and then stow them separately in a container. So they can also be taken out individually!

To warm up the meatballs, they are placed on a baking sheet and covered with aluminum foil. At 150 ° C in the oven, they are completely thawed after approx. 30 minutes and ready to serve. The balls also thaw super well in soups or broth. If you freeze them directly in tomato sauce, you simply bring the liquid to a simmer along with the meatballs.

What are your favorite meatballs? Let us know in the comments!

Published on August 23, 2019