The Game-Changing Trick To Achieve Moist Meatballs Every Time

Despite its popularity, Italian American cuisine does not hold a monopoly on meatballs. Though they are regularly doused in tomato sauce atop a bed of pasta, the idea of mixing ground meat together with egg and seasoning, and then shaping that mixture into balls translates across multiple cuisines. Swedish meatballs, Vietnamese Bun Cha, Turkish Koftes, and Iraqi lamb meatballs are all examples of this concept played out across different cultures. Each variation has one thing in common though — they're all moist and juicy. 

No one likes a dried-out meatball. They're chalky and bland. Plus, there's something highly unappetizing about chewing your way through an overcooked amalgamation of ground meat. There are several remedies for this. You could sear the meatballs to lock in the juices and then slow cook them in the sauce they're going to be served with. Drying out the inside of a meatball is most common, however, when one decides to bake them in the oven. It's a calculated risk all cooks take. 

Yet, there is a game-changing trick that will all but guarantee you the juiciest meatballs imaginable. Taking a cue from the succulent Chinese recipe xiao long bao (aka soup dumplings), and Chef David Kuo, all it takes for the moistest meatballs you can think of is a little stock and a packet of gelatin powder.

Mix in gelatinized stock

The trick begins by warming some homemade or store-bought stock. One packet of gelatin dissolved into half a cup of stock for every two pounds of meat. Once the gelatin powder is dissolved into the stock, it needs to chill in order for the liquid stock to become a jiggly stock jelly. To mix it into the meat, use a fine mesh strainer, and sieve the stock jelly through the mesh so it lands on the meat as small cubes.

As the meatballs cook, the gelatinized stock will warm and lock the moisture inside the meatballs. This technique is meant to replicate the juicy meat filling of xiao long bao. The xiao long bao meatballs are steamed inside of the dumpling along with cubes of gelatinized stock; when they are cooked the stock jelly melts into soup and leads to a deliciously moist, succulent filling.

By replicating this method in your meatballs, you can bake your meatballs with or without any extra liquid, and they will still turn out juicy. One word of caution though: we don't recommend adding the stock jelly to a meatball recipe that uses breadcrumbs as a binder. The extra moisture will make the breadcrumbs soggy and thereby weaken the binding, causing the meatball to fall apart. Otherwise, this trick works across a multitude of meatball recipes. Give it a try for yourself and reap the tasty, moist results.