How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (2024)

By Elizabeth Atia

How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (1)

Homemade meatballs can be a notoriously tricky thing to make.

It's not just a simple case of mixing your ingredients together, forming them into meatball shapes and then frying them to perfection – there's a food science to it.

Here's how to make the perfect meatballs that won’t fall apart when you cook them:

1. Massage your meat

True story. Get your hands into your mixing bowl and combine the ingredients for your meatballs using your fingers.

The heat from your hands will help release the proteins in the meat which will in turn help the mixture stick together when it cooks.

Don’t overmix, just a few minutes will do. The mince will turn slightly sticky when it’s ready.

  • How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (2)
  • 2. Add breadcrumbs

    Add breadcrumbs to the mixture, but not too many breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs act as a filler and they also prevent the meatballs from becoming too dry by absorbing some of the meat juices released during cooking.

    Too many breadcrumbs can ruin the texture of your meatball though, turning it into something more like stuffing rather than a mini-meatloaf.

    It can also make the finished mixture loose, and it’ll fall apart when cooking.

    Too few breadcrumbs, on the other hand, won’t give you the desired filler effect. You're looking to use around 3 tablespoonfuls of fresh crumbs per pound of mince.

    If you’re following a gluten free diet, oats make a good breadcrumbs substitute.

    3. Add egg

    Add a lightly beaten egg, but not too much. Egg acts as a binder for the ingredients, but you only need a small amount. One small egg will do for one pound of minced meat.

    Alternatively, if you’re following an egg-free diet, you could soak fresh bread in milk, squeezing out any excess milk, to use as a binder.

    This will result in a softer-textured meatball, but it does work.

  • How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (3)
  • 4. Don't add much apart from meat

    Don’t add too many non-meat ingredients to your meatballs. Herbs and spices are fine, but once you start adding loads of chopped vegetables you’ll be creating all sorts of difficulty when it comes to getting it all to stick together.

    Stick the vegetables in your sauce, or serve them on the side.

    5. Roll your meatballs in flour

    Roll the finished meatballs in plain flour before frying. This is, hands down, one of the easiest ways I’ve discovered to prevent meatballs from falling apart when cooking.

    6. Give your meatballs space

    Don’t overcrowd your frying pan. Allow the meatballs space to move as they cook.

    7. Shake your meatballs

    Shake the meatballs in the pan as they cook too, don’t flip them. This will give you that lovely round meatball shape with a crispy, browned exterior.

    Alternatively, bake your meatballs in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size.

    8. Brown your meatballs first

    Don’t add raw meatballs to your sauce without browning them first. This will also give the meatballs extra flavour.

  • How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (4)
  • So, there you go, a few tips and tricks to make the perfect meatball that won’t fall apart when you cook them.

    Whether you’re making a classic spaghetti and meatballs recipe, a comforting Scandi-style meatballs with gravy dish or serving them up in a BBQ meatball sub, you’ll not have to worry about your meatballs falling apart again.

    But, if they do, don’t despair – just break them all up and make Bolognese sauce instead!

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    How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (7)

    How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart (2024)

    FAQs

    How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart? ›

    Whether it's breadcrumbs or egg (or both), or simply salt, binding the mince is a crucial step in maintaining the softness of your meatballs while preventing them from falling apart. Try soaking your breadcrumbs in milk for extra moisture and fluffiness.

    How do I keep my meatballs from falling apart? ›

    Whether it's breadcrumbs or egg (or both), or simply salt, binding the mince is a crucial step in maintaining the softness of your meatballs while preventing them from falling apart. Try soaking your breadcrumbs in milk for extra moisture and fluffiness.

    What is the secret to firm meatballs? ›

    Egg: Adds more moisture and helps the mixture firm up once cooked. Parmesan: My secret ingredient for the best meatballs! Parmigiano-Reggiano adds flavor and salt to our mixture.

    What is the secret of a tender meatball? ›

    They are super flavorful but what makes them so so tender and moist is this: Plain Greek Yogurt. The lactic acid from the yogurt tenderizes the meat while adding subtle flavor. The addition of egg and parmesan cheese help keep the meat together so that you get delicious weeknight meatballs in minutes.

    What not to do when making meatballs? ›

    5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Meatballs
    1. Not seasoning the meat.
    2. Not adding any moisture to the meat.
    3. Over-mixing the meat.
    4. Not shaping the meatballs correctly.
    5. Not forming evenly-sized meatballs.
    May 1, 2019

    How to make meatballs that stay together? ›

    How to make meatballs that won't fall apart
    1. Massage your meat. True story. ...
    2. Add breadcrumbs. Add breadcrumbs to the mixture, but not too many breadcrumbs. ...
    3. Add egg. ...
    4. Don't add much apart from meat. ...
    5. Roll your meatballs in flour. ...
    6. Give your meatballs space. ...
    7. Shake your meatballs. ...
    8. Brown your meatballs first.
    Mar 3, 2022

    Why do you put milk in meatballs? ›

    Even if you don't shy away from ground meat that contains a higher percentage of fat, whole milk's luscious consistency adds richness to any meatball recipe. Home chefs who enjoy using lean ground chicken or turkey can rely on eggs and dairy to replace the missing fat component in this versatile dish.

    Is it better to bake meatballs at 350 or 400? ›

    For 1-2 inches of beef, pork, or turkey meatballs without any pre-cooking, use these guidelines for your wall oven:
    • 350°F wall oven:
    • 8–14 minutes for 1-inch meatballs.
    • 14–18 minutes for 2-inch meatballs.
    • 400°F wall oven:
    • 6–10 minutes for 1-inch meatballs.
    • 10–14 minutes for 2-inch meatballs.
    • 425°F wall oven:
    Aug 16, 2023

    Why do you put baking soda in meatballs? ›

    Baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, appears often in köfte recipes. It raises the PH level of the meat, making it harder for the meat's protein molecules to bond. This in turn allows the meat to retain water as it cooks. And more water means a moist meatball.

    Do meatballs get softer the longer you cook them? ›

    Tenderizing the Meat:

    As the collagen in the meat dissolves over time, it transforms into gelatin, which not only adds a silky texture to the sauce but also contributes to the overall richness and depth of flavor. The longer the simmer, the more tender and succulent the meatballs become.

    What is a good binder for meatballs? ›

    Egg and breadcrumbs are common mix-ins to add moisture and tenderness. Another binder option that people swear by is a panade, which is fresh or dry breadcrumbs that have been soaked in milk. “The soaked breadcrumbs help keep the proteins in the meat from shrinking,” as food writer Tara Holland explained in the Kitchn.

    Why did meatballs fall apart? ›

    Home Cook World notes that if your non-meat ingredients are too large, they will keep the ground meat from binding together, and your meatball will fall apart.

    Is it better to fry or bake meatballs? ›

    Baking will result in meatballs with a crunchy exterior, though the caramelisation achieved from frying will be superior. Baked meatballs take the least amount of effort, as you'll only need to turn them once or twice throughout the cook and you can make a larger batch at once.

    How do you keep meatballs from falling apart without eggs? ›

    Some recipes also call for taking slices of bread, cutting the crusts off and soaking them in milk for several minutes. Once the bread is soaked, you squeeze out as much of the milk as you can. What soaking the bread does is add moisture to the meatball as well as bread for a binder.

    Why do you put cornstarch in meatballs? ›

    Cornstarch is used as a low-fat alternative to tapioca starch in meatball dough, resulting in a healthier version of the snack. The addition of corn silk, a byproduct of sweet corn production, to meatballs increases their crude fiber and ash contents, as well as their redness, yellowness, juiciness, and shrinkage.

    Should I roll my meatballs in flour before baking? ›

    A traditional size for this sort of meatball is 2 to 3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. Once you roll the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating. Set each one on a baking sheet as you work.

    How do you keep meatballs from sticking together? ›

    Freezing the meatballs in a single layer first means that they won't stick together once frozen. This means you can take out only what you need, which is helpful if you're freezing more than one batch at a time.

    How do you keep meatballs perfectly round? ›

    Use a small ice cream scoop to make perfectly round meatballs of the same size. Put some of the meatball mixture in one hand and dish up (with your scooper) equal-sized meatballs and drop them on a baking pan. After scooping, smooth them out into round meatballs by gently rolling in your hands.

    Why are my homemade meatballs mushy? ›

    Cook's Illustrated explains that adding too many eggs will put your meatballs at risk of having a soggy texture. Any additional and unnecessary liquid will also cause difficulty mixing and forming meatballs. Adding a single egg should be enough to do the trick, with two being the maximum for each pound of meat you use.

    Do meatballs need a binder? ›

    The Key to Tender Meatballs

    One trick to making sure meatballs are totally tender once they're cooked is to use a binder.

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