Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grilled Meatballs

Trevor's football season is well underway. Two hour practices 4 nights a week make for a very hungry 11 year old player to feed and not a lot of time to prep meals.

The secret weapon for cooking with a busy schedule is “grill once, eat twice” as we learned at Kingsford University this spring. Last night was an “off night” so I grilled a few batches of meatballs for dinners the next few nights.

Meatballs are ideal for the “grill once, eat twice” game plan because you can use them for meatball subs, spaghetti, or for my special idea for this Friday night.

This is a work in progress but it was good for a first try. I don't have an Italian gene in my body and don't have a family secret meatball recipe. My lack of any “authenticity” provides a lot of freedom so I tried these a couple of ways.

Grilled Meatballs
Yields: 2 dozen meatballs

2 one inch slices of French bread, crusts removed
¼ cup milk
1 egg

1 cup onion, very finely diced
¼ cup mixed peppers, finely diced and seeded (I used 1 red jalapeno & 1 green jalapeno)
2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp thyme (if using dried thyme, use 1 tsp instead)
1 teaspoon roasted garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper, ground

2 lbs ground beef

1 can petite dice tomatoes
¼ cup onions, diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Whisk the egg and milk together. Soak the bread in the mix for 5 minutes. Squeeze the liquid out of the bread and the gooey “bread paste” that you have left is called a panade. Panade is French for “sounds better than gooey bread paste”.

Put your panade in a large bowl and mix together with everything else except the beef. Now add in the ground beef and mix thoroughly.

Form into ping pong ball sized balls. I like to use a scale to portion out 1.5 ounce for each ball but you can just guesstimate if you don't have a scale. 

Direct Grilling Method
Preheat a charcoal grill to 350f. Once the grates are preheated, wipe them clean with an oiled rag. Place the cold meatballs on the grate, close the grill and don't touch them for 3-4 minutes. 

Then carefully roll the balls ¼ turn on to their side. Repeat every 2-3 minutes until the meatballs reach an internal temp of 160f.  This took right about 15 minutes total for me. 

Remove to a cooling rack for a few minutes.
Skip to **

Pan Fired Method
I then did basically the same thing as the direct grilled method but this time used a preheated cast iron pan on the grill. 

Oddly it took almost the same amount of time, I thought it would take longer with the pan. Remove the meatballs from the pan.

**Add the sauce ingredients to the pan and stir for 1 minute.

Return the meatballs to the pan, cover and simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the hot pan from the fire and rest for 10 minutes.

The direct grilled meatballs were a bit difficult because they want to fall apart if you turn them too soon. The trick was to put away the tongs and use a large spoon to roll them. But the grilled meatballs had a nice crispy outer texture.

The pan fired meatballs held together easier and had a better overall texture throughout. They just seemed to be more what I consider a meatball. The other advantage with the pan fired method is you keep some of the rendered fat and sucs for the sauce.

Last night we used some of the meatballs for open faced meat ball sandwiches.

I have something better in mind for these guys for Friday night....

So what are your favorite meatball tricks or techniques?


  1. I don't have any tricks or techniques to share, but this does strike me as a super idea for a busy weeknight supper (and the variations like meatball parm subs), especially now that NFL preseason has started!

  2. One advantage to the direct method is the option of getting some smoke in to the meatballs (mesquite would be my first try), although this could be done on the pan version with liquid smoke too, hickory or mesquite.

  3. I remember being kind of freaked out when I found out meatballs had stale bread in them. Still a little freaked.

  4. Why does anyone post as "anonymous"? Toon, I suspect you can't even spell "panade". Well, Chris, there you have it. My daily rant. I happen to love meat balls and have a number of ways to make them. I do consider the panade an indispensible ingredient.

    My 13-year-old son does not play football. He's a dog.

  5. I have this vision of doing this on my grill and the meatballs falling one by one into the abyss!! lol Love the idea though.. call it the Italian griller in me :)
    My only technique is to use a mixture of beef and pork.... I think meatball making was taught to me in the womb!! lol

  6. Another great dish to tell me this, do you ever use non-stick spray on your grill? Wouldn't that be easier than wiping with oil? Enquiring minds want to know! xo, Nan

  7. Grilled meatballs? Why not? They are like mini burgers... GREG

  8. Wow! That last photo with all the gooey cheese has left me speechless.

  9. Can I bring my sweaty, stinky and very hungry soccer players over - this is one of their favorites! I love the fact that your grilled them.

    I can't but I can believe you weight your meatballs! Ask Alexis to pass the shine and Dr. Pepper - lol

  10. DOH! Genius, I bet the flavor is so much better then plain old baking!

  11. Not really a sports fan, but i may have to find an excuse to grill some of these up. Doesn't the curling pre-season start some time soon?

  12. I can relate to the busy weeknights. My son plays soccer. It's crazy during the week. I really like the idea of grilling meatballs. I think it packs more flavor. I will remember this recipe idea.


  13. This recipe did not work for me at all. I don't know what I did wrong, but indeed up with bits of meatball all over my grill. The meatballs fell apart and stuck to the grill. Wow, what a colossal disappointment!


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