Killer Meatballs

After fumbling around blindly, I have finally discovered the true secret to great meatballs. And no, it's not to make them out of 100% meat. Nor is it to add oatmeal or bread crumbs or eggs. No, the secret is wet bread - in cooking lingo, a panade. The moisture in the panade both moisturizes the meatballs and makes the starch in the bread into a gel-like substance, which apparently coats the proteins in the meat and keeps them from cross-linking. Fat does a similar thing in meat. Yeah, a google search would have told me that, but who goes around googling meatballs? I put 100% meat in a meatball recipe up against a recipe with mashed, milk-soaked bread. The result? The panade-ized meatballs won by a long shot. The baking powder adds lightness and lift, making these truly great.

Yields 2 dozen small meatballs


1 lb ground beef (15% fat or less)

1/3 c milk

1/3 cup of bread crumbs

1/4 c onion, grated on a box grater

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (or more to taste)

1 tsp. baking powder

For a middle eastern flare (optional):

2 cloves garlic, minced very fine

1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp cayanne

pinch of nutmeg


Preheat oven to 425F with oven rack at the top level. In mixer bowl, soak breadcrumbs in milk until the bread becomes soft, 10-20 minutes, mashing occasionally with a fork. Add onions and optional spices. Mix on #4 speed for 2 minutes until the bread is a thick paste. Add ground beef. Mix on #2 for 30 seconds. Using a small cookie scoop (I use a 1 tbsp scoop) scoop meat mixture and roll into small balls. Place on a wire oven-safe rack set on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are brown all around and no pink remains on the inside. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or in tomato sauce with pasta. They freeze nicely for up to two weeks.

Nutrition Facts