How to make meatballs that won’t fall apart

By Elizabeth Atia

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.

To make the perfect meatballs that won’t fall apart when you cook them you can:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Don’t add too many non-meat ingredients to your meatballs. Herbs and spices are fine, but once you start adding loads of chopped vegetablesyou’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.

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

  • 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 makinga 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!

    Elizabeth Atia

    Mum, daydream adventurer, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain's most northerly award-winning food blogger. Calls Shetland home.

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