Why Moisture Is So Important For Meatballs

You see them in spaghetti dishes, smothered in gravy à la Swedish-style, and atop a toasted sub sandwich with marinara sauce and melted cheese. Not only do meatballs provide a source of protein for these types of dishes, but they're also packed with savory, meaty flavors that make our taste buds sing.

To make special Italian meatballs, one must combine ground meat with milk and/or breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, and possibly an egg or two. Onions and certain seasonings may also be added to boost the flavor of the meatballs, per The Kitchn. After the meatballs are formed into round shapes, you can introduce them to a frying pan or a broiler for those beautiful browned colors and flavors, which can then be cooked in a tomato or marinara sauce of your choice, via Serious Eats.

But sometimes mistakes happen in the kitchen and the meatballs can turn out dry instead of juicy and tender. Fortunately, such mishaps can be prevented with the following step.

Moisture is key

Remember how we mentioned that ground meat is typically combined with eggs and/or milk? That's your moisture right there and meatballs soak 'em up like a sponge. As The Kitchn explains, meatballs that are zapped of moisture shrink and turn tough, which is where a binder and/or some kind of liquid comes into play. Sweet Love and Ginger also emphasizes that moisture improves the lightness of a meatball, which can be further enhanced by not overmixing the meatball mixture.

When it comes to binding agents, you have plenty of options to choose from, as noted by Livestrong. Some also add a boost of flavor and nutrition to the finished products, but their key role is to add moisture and texture to foods like meatballs. Such binders include milk, eggs, evaporated milk, oatmeal, and rice. Breadcrumbs are also a binding agent, which can be mixed with a liquid to make them softer, thus, adding even more moisture to meatballs.

Serious Eats is also a fan of moist meatballs and suggests adding some chopped-up gelled stock into the meatball mixture. That way, when the meatballs cook, the gelled stock starts to heat up and dissolve throughout the meatballs, making them extra juicy, tender, and flavorful.

So next time you're making a batch of homemade meatballs, be sure to add plenty of moisture into the mixture. Your spaghetti and meatballs dish will happily thank you.