Sorry there aren’t many pictures, next time I make these, I’ll take some in-process. Also, keep in mind I rarely measure my ingredients exactly, I eyeball most of this stuff!
Whenever I make my meatballs, Hubby comments about how he wants to put my balls in his mouth… umm… yeah…
Okay, now that’s out of my brain, today I will explain how to prepare tasty meatballs that can be stored in your freezer for months and can be used whenever you need them. By purchasing ground meat on sale, I find that I can separate large packages for use later. This is just one of the ways I stretch my food budget. The last time I purchased ground beef, it was in a 4-lb package. 2 lb went to meatballs, the rest was separated into 1 lb sections and frozen for whatever I need down the road.
What you will need: (Remember, my ingredients are flexible for your taste! You can use whatever’s available.)
- Large mixing bowl,
- Flat pans you can place in the freezer (No glass, please!),
- Plastic wrap/foil (optional),
- Spoon (for measuring the balls),
- Ground Meat (Beef, Pork, mixed, whatever),
- Seasoning (Your Choice, see below),
- Eggs (or egg substitute),
- Bread crumbs (or crushed crackers, potato flakes, etc),
- Something in which to store your frozen balls
First, start out with about 2 pounds of ground beef (or your choice of meats). It’s your choice as to the fat content, but for me, the leaner the better. I look for meat on sale before I make my balls to get the best value possible.
Break the ground beef apart into half-fist-sized chunks in a mixing bowl large enough for the task. (You can just plop the meat into the bowl, but you risk either overmixing or uneven distribution as the other ingredients will be added on top.)
Seasoning: Here is where the ability to eyeball comes in handy. First, pick your preferred seasoning. I chose powdered brown gravy mix for mine, but here are some more options:
Italian (spaghetti) seasoning, Powdered/grated cheeses, Taco seasoning, Ramen seasoning packets, Garlic/onion powder/minced, Teriyaki, BBQ, Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, it all depends on what you want to use it for!
*When adding your seasoning, think about how much would be a serving and how much you would want to season that serving. (1/3 to 1/4 lb makes 1 hamburger) If you are using something like a packet of taco mix, it’s typically meant to season 1 lb, (check your packet) but it’s also meant to be used in tacos. I would suggest one of those packets for 2 lb ground meat, personally. Season on the side of caution!
Next, add the dry crumbs. How much? it depends on how wet the meat is, how much wet seasoning you put in, and how much egg you use. I would guesstimate about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per pound of meat. It also depends on what kind of dry filler you choose as well. Potato flakes are great for absorbing moisture, but don’t do much for the flavor. Panko bread crumbs are excellent, but who keeps those lying around the house? I usually do 1/2 potato flake, 1/2 well-crushed cracker crumbs. Good absorption, plus flavor.
Crack 1 or 2 eggs over the meat. This depends once again on preference. The more egg in the meat, the looser the wet mix and the texture of the cooked ball changes.
*(I’ve never used egg substitute, but I understand there’s seasoning in some of those. Adjust your seasoning accordingly if you use some.)
The purpose of crumbs and eggs: The eggs help the meat stick together, and the crumbs help absorb juices. A secondary purpose is basically filler, expanding the final volume. If you like, you don’t have to use any dry crumb or egg.
Now comes the fun stuff: Mixing! Mix with your (Clean!) hands, a large spoon, whatever, as long as all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Please don’t over-mix! The more you handle meats like beef, the denser the product becomes. (Unless you WANT very dense meatballs.)
Meat-Ballin’: Get out your pan that will fit into the freezer, put a layer of plastic wrap over it. (The plastic wrap is optional, I find it’s easier to remove the balls after they’re frozen. You can also use foil.) I use medium sized cookie pans.
Choose the size of your balls. I prefer using a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon for consistency. You can just rip off chunks, use a normal spoon, whatever.
After separating your meat-wad, roll it between your palms lightly to give it a ball shape.
Place it on the pan, continue adding balls slightly spaced apart until you fill the pan or run out of meat, whichever happens first.
Put the pan in the freezer, laying it as flat as possible. I usually have to move items around to do this, with the pan resting on bags of frozen veggies and ice cream cartons.
If you need to do a second pan, I’ve noticed that my first set of balls is mostly solid by the time the next pan’s ready, so I put a layer of plastic on top of the first, then layer the second pan. However, this usually results in slightly flattened balls in the first layer. Otherwise, store the mix in the fridge and wait an hour or 2 until the first pan is frozen to do another set.
When the meatballs are frozen solid, (1-2 hours should do it, depending on ball size) transfer them into a freezer bag. When I make 2 lbs worth, I use either a single gallon size bag or a couple of quart size bags. My batches end up with about 4 dozen balls, usually. You can label the bags and store until they start to get freezer burn. If you have one of those vacuum bagger things, they’ll last even longer. Meatballs rarely last longer than 2 months in my house.
*If you make different flavors of meatballs, labeling is a must! Serving your taco-seasoned meatballs with spaghetti to unsuspecting guests creates unwelcome surprises.
Cooking your balls: This is the easy part. All you need is a frying pan and your meatballs. This is the part that doesn’t really need a description as everyone’s cooking methods are different. I have an old electric stove, so I place however many frozen balls I need in a non-stick pan and then I pre-heat the pan on high heat, turn it down to medium and toss the balls ’til they’re cooked through. I’ll usually sacrifice one to test for doneness by cutting it open. After they’re cooked, drain any oil and then you can either add them to whatever you like or add a sauce to the pan and let them soak on warm to low heat. You can make Swedish meatballs, have spaghetti and meatballs, serve them as appetizers, even put them in lunchboxes.
Note: Someone suggested using cooked rice in the balls, but I never have any on hand or am too lazy to make the rice when I find my meat on sale. One of these days I’ll get around to it and share the results!