Ground Beef For Meatballs

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Make the best ground beef for meatballs with these tips from food experts. Food Bloggers and culinary experts love sharing the tips and tricks they’ve learned over the years, it helps them connect with other people who enjoy their brand of cooking.

The Best Kind of Ground Beef for Meatballs, Meatloaf, and More

Whether you’re buying a car or a pound of ground meat, one rule applies: always read the fine print. Those shrink-wrapped packages of bright red beef at the supermarket may look exactly the same but there is a key difference you should know about.

Instant Pot Meatloaf Image

All ground meats have a lean-to-fat ratio; you can find the numbers in fine print on the packaging. If ground beef is labeled “90/10” that means it is made of 90 percent lean meat and 10 percent fat. The ratios range from 70/30 (fattiest) to 93/7 (leanest), but the most common ratios you’ll find at most grocery stores are 80/20 and 90/10.

You may also see other labels, such as “ground chuck,” “ground round,” and “ground sirloin.” These names also refer to the lean-to-fat ratio; ground sirloin is the leanest and ground chuck contains the most fat. Knowing the percentage of fat will help you choose the best type of ground beef for the dish you’re making. Read on to find out which one is best for three common recipes.

Meatballs
Most meatballs served in marinara sauce are made with a mixture of beef and another ground protein, like pork sausage or veal—or all three. Pork gives the meatballs extra flavor, and veal helps keep them moist and tender. But all-beef meatballs taste great too, as long as you choose an 80/20 blend, which has enough fat to keep the meatballs from drying out. If there are other types of meat in the mix, choose 90/10.

Meatloaf
Unlike meatballs or burgers, which cook relatively quickly, a meatloaf spends a good amount of time baking in the oven. This means you need enough fat to keep the meatloaf from being tough and dry. Like meatballs, many meatloaf recipes include a blend of meat, which will determine whether you need fattier or leaner beef. If it’s an all-beef recipe, avoid 90/10, and go for 80/20 or 85/15.

Burgers
Most recipes call for 70/30 or 80/20 ground beef, which makes a rich and juicy burger patty with a good exterior crust. But if you prefer a burger that doesn’t require 10 napkins, look for 85/15. 

Easy Homemade Meatball Recipe

This easy meatball recipe is so easy to make and come out juicy and flavorful every time. They’re perfect for appetizers, subs or on top of spaghetti!

If you’re a fan of Italian food, you’re going to love this easy meatball recipe! It’s a staple and is so simple to whip up. In just 30 minutes or so, you’ll have a delicious, homemade dinner in no time! You’ll also love my homemade bolognese, crockpot lasagna and creamy alfredo.

spaghetti and meatballs in a white bowl

Family Favorite Dinner

These baked meatballs are always on our monthly rotation. Spaghetti and meatballs are one of my kid’s favorite dinners…they request them almost every week. And because these are so easy to make and super flavorful, I have no problem with that! If there’s leftovers, we usually make meatball sliders.

I love that you can bake them in the oven…it makes them so simple to whip up and keeps the meatballs juicy. Once they cook in the oven, all you have to do is simmer them for a couple of minutes with marinara sauce while you cook the pasta.  Sometimes I’ll even make my own homemade tomato sauce if I have some fresh tomatoes on hand. We also love to serve with garlic bread.

Ingredients

To make these Italian meatballs, you’ll need the simple ingredients below. The parsley is optional, however I highly recommend adding it in if you’re making them with spaghetti. It adds tons of extra flavor. If you’re serving these with a sweet and sour sauce or making my crockpot meatballs, I recommend leaving it out.

  • Ground beef – I typically use 80% lean ground beef. It’s not overly greasy, while still containing enough fat to make the meatballs moist and juicy.
  • Egg – This is used as a binder to hold the meat mixture together. Whisk the egg first before combining with the beef.
  • Breadcrumbs – These help absorb the juices in the meat, so that your meatballs stay juicy and flavorful on the interior.
  • Parmesan cheese – Freshly grated parmesan cheese will give you the best flavor.
  • Onion – Fresh chopped onion is my preference, but onion powder is also a great substitute if you don’t have any on hand.
  • Garlic – Fresh minced garlic adds a robust flavor. You may also swap with garlic powder if you’d like.
  • Salt and pepper – Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper are a simple way to elevate the flavor.
  • Parsley – This is optional, however I love to add fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley to my homemade meatballs. It adds a slightly peppery taste and makes the flavor more vibrant.

How Do You Make Meatballs?

Scroll down for the printable recipe.

  1. Combine: Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until combined. If needed, add a Tablespoon of milk to keep mixture wet.
  2. Shape: Scoop the meat from the bowl and form into 1 1/2″  balls. Then place meatballs on baking sheet.
  3. Bake: Place onto prepared baking sheet and bake meatballs uncovered for 17-20 minutes, or until middle is no longer pink. Flip halfway through.
  4. Simmer: If desired, simmer with marinara sauce for 10 minutes and serve over cooked pasta.
Meatballs in a pot with marinara sauce

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t over mix! Over-mixing can make the meat tough.
  • Use a cookie scoop (an ice cream scoop works too) to make the meatballs equal in size. This will ensure they all cook the same.
  • If your mixture is too dry when combining, add a Tablespoon of milk to keep it wet.
  • Make sure to flip the meatballs halfway through so that the bottoms don’t burn!
  • If you don’t have fresh garlic or onion on hand, sub with garlic and onion powder.

Can You Freeze Leftover Meatballs?

Yes, you can definitely freeze the leftovers, or make a double batch for later. All you need to do is allow them to cool. Then transfer the meatballs to a clean baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour. Once they harden in the freezer, transfer to a ziptop bag or freezer container. Label and place them back in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To thaw, place the in the refrigerator overnight. I like to take them out of the freezer and add the meatballs to the slow cooker with marinara sauce. I just cook them on low for 2-3 hours for an easy dinner later on!

How To Make Meatballs: The Easiest, Simplest Method

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When I get a craving for meatballs, I have a very specific meatball in mind: They’re completely tender all the way through without even a hint of toughness. They’re big enough to require a fork, but modest enough to justify several on the plate. Maybe some onions and fresh herbs mixed in. Nothing fancy. Totally old-school.

Yes, this is a recipe for those very meatballs. More than a recipe — I’m walking you through each step, from mixing the meat (use your hands!) to shaping the meatballs to cooking them to perfection. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight. Do you?

The Easiest Classic Meatballs

I don’t want to make anything too complicated here — meatballs are comfort food and should therefore be kept simple — but let me just touch on some basics.

The Ground Meat

You can use any ground meat or mix of ground meat you like. My personal favorite is a blend of ground beef and pork. I’ve also done just ground beef and just pork. Ground lamb, turkey, chicken, veal, or buffalo are all also fair game.

Keep in mind that the fattier the meat you use, the more tender your meatballs, and vice versa if you use leaner meats. If you want to make meatballs with turkey, chicken, or lean ground meat (or a mix of these), watch the cooking a little more carefully; because they lack fat, they can overcook and become tough much more quickly.

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Breadcrumb & Milk Binder

One trick to making sure meatballs are totally tender once they’re cooked is to use a binder. Here, we’re soaking breadcrumbs in a little milk until the bread becomes soggy, then mixing that right into the meat. This binder (aka panade) helps add moisture to the meatballs and also prevents the meat proteins from shrinking and becoming tough. (Eggs also contribute to tenderness, so don’t skip them!)

If you don’t have breadcrumbs handy, you can use panko, a slice of torn-up bread, or even crumbled saltine crackers. A little yogurt or buttermilk thinned with water also makes a handy stand-in for the milk.

Avoid Overworking the Meat

Another trick to tender meatballs is not overworking the meat — mix the meat with the binder and other ingredients just until they’re combined. I also recommend using your hands for this step; since you can actually feel when things are mixed, you’re less likely to overwork the meat.

This said, I understand why the idea of squishing meat with your fingers might be a little disconcerting. If you prefer, you can use a stiff spatula or spoon instead.

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Roasting vs. Simmering the Meatballs

Last but not least, we should talk about how to cook the meatballs! You have two options: roasting them or simmering them in a sauce.

Roasting: Roasting is the best option if you’re planning on serving the meatballs in something other than a sauce or if you’re planning to freeze the meatballs for later. Roasting also gives the meatballs a little more flavor since the outside sears in the heat of the oven. You can roast the meatballs under the broiler for maximum browning and crispy-edged effect, or you can cook them more gently by roasting in a hot oven. Both options are described below.

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