The Easy Way To Ensure Juicy Meatballs

Does one of your family members have their meatball recipe under lock and key? Are yours dry and theirs always moist and delicious, but you can't get them to share their secrets?

There are many reasons your meatballs might be dry from overcooking the minced meat you prefer to a poor combination of ingredients negatively impacting the flavor and texture (via Masterclass). The science of how meat behaves while cooking is also at play. According to the Washington Post, the protein fibers in meat tighten and contract during the cooking process. As a result, all of the moisture is drawn out. That's why your meatballs might look a lot smaller after the cooking process, and could explain your dry meatballs. 

A good binding agent will counteract this process and add texture and volume to ensure tenderness. These binding agents will prevent a cooking fail and transform your meatballs into juicy, tender goodness. One method in particular, which you can make with basics that are likely already hanging out in your fridge. It's a simple cooking hack that can help you defy science and one-up your family member. And no, it's not ketchup, and it doesn't matter what kind of breadcrumbs you use.

Instead, to moisten your meatballs, you'll need 'panade.' Never heard of it? It's a simple trick that's surprisingly easy to make and requires the grocery-haul staples of bread, milk, and eggs.

Panade is the perfect binder for juicy meatballs

According to Cook's Info, a panade, which literally means "bread mash" is a mixture of liquid and starch. It's a simple way to add flavor, texture, and moisture to minced meat, although it can also be used for other purposes like thickening sauces.

How is panade made? Culinary Hill explains that there are many variations (using different ratios of bread-to-milk and additional binding ingredients) depending on what you're using the panade for, but we'll stick to meatballs. For meatballs and meatloaf, the website recommends equal parts bread and milk plus one egg per pound of meat. Delish recommends using crustless, day-old bread — you may also use breadcrumbs — and explains that you should soak it in the milk until it becomes a paste. You'll then combine the paste with the minced meat and eggs, which Delish recommends beating in a bowl first because it helps the other ingredients bind easily.

Combined with a few cooking tips like using an ice cream scooper to achieve a consistent size, and storing leftovers properly (via Masterclass), a panade is like a magic combo to get you a batch of deliciously, juicy meatballs. Whether you're making Italian-style meatballs, Swedish meatballs, or BBQ meatballs, they'll surely beat out the other dishes at any family gathering.