Meatballs are the tie that binds all the world's people together. It seems like every country makes them in some form. I guess there is something very natural about adding spices, herbs, and other things to ground meat and cooking it in the shape of a ball. Meatballs can be made from almost any meat. But most commonly they are made of some combination of pork, lamb, or beef. They often come in some form of sauce—either cream, tomato, or gravy based. But not always.
As far as cooking them, there are three methods that I have found to be very effective. The first being fried in a heavy saucepan. The problem with this is the meatballs don't come out perfectly round. They come out looking more like pyramids or squares. If you want perfectly round balls, I would try either baking or deep frying them. In the main part of this article, I will discuss the pan-fried method. At the bottom the page, I will go over the other two techniques.
1. Mix the Meatballs. Put the ground meat in a large bowl with the other ingredients. For this recipe, I used 2 pounds ground beef, ½ cup minced onion, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp cayenne pepper, a pinch of black pepper, 1 Tbsp dried oregano, and one egg. The key to mixing up ground beef is to mix it lightly and efficiently, making sure not to over mix it. Once over mixed, the meat becomes stringy. I use my hand for mixing, but you can use a spoon if you'd rather. If it's too moist, add some bread crumbs.
2. Make the Meatballs. Once it's all mixed together, begin forming small balls of meat in your hands. You can scoop it with an ice cream scooper to get a consistent size, or you can just eye it like I do. Shape the gobs of meat into balls. Place your balls of meat onto a sheet pan or large plate as a staging ground for frying. Once you have all the meat balled up, heat up a heavy fry pan on the stove, add a little vegetable oil, and put the burner on one click higher than medium.
3. Fry the Meatballs. Place the meatballs in the pan quickly, giving them enough space in between for rolling around. After a minute, use a spatula to roll them to another side to cook. The more sides that you are able to cook, the rounder the ball will become. Some people use their wrists to flip the pan and roll the meatballs around. This technique is difficult to master. I use a combination of wrist dexterity and spatula flipping, as meatballs are pretty delicate until they are cooked.
4. Sauce the Meatballs. Once all the sides are nice and brown, transfer them to another pan or, if you are putting them in sauce, do that. Make sure to cook the sauce for a few more minutes to be sure the meatballs are done. If you cooked them on too high of heat, the middles won't be done. If you are serving the meatballs sans sauce, transfer them to a pot and check the inside temperature. You want it at 150 degrees F. Finish them in the oven on a low setting if they aren't quite there.
Baking meatballs is a technique I picked up while working in a mass-quantity kitchen. We used an ice cream scooper also known as a portion scoop. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Scoop the meat with the portion scooper. Roll them into balls, and place them on to a greased sheet pan. When the oven is preheated, put them in and set a timer for 20 minutes. The cooking time length is going to depend on how big your meatballs are. The nice thing about this technique is the meatballs stay relatively round. Use a digital thermometer to make sure the inside of the meatball is at least 150 degrees F.
I learned how to deep fry meatballs while working in a Chinese kitchen. Later, I learned that a lot of restaurants deep fry their meatballs because it browns all sides of the meat while keeping the meatball nice and round. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Use a portion scoop to get just the right amount of meat, roll the meatballs, and place them on a pan to use as a staging ground for deep frying. Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, lower the basket into the empty oil. Next, carefully and slowly drop the meatballs one at a time into the oil. Don't splash for obvious reasons. The meatballs will only take a few minutes to get brown. They may not be cooked all the way through, so check the internal temperature; 150 degrees F is what you are looking for. If they are not quite there, place them in an oven to finish.