The Key To Making Sure Your Meatballs Don't Overcook

For many, meatballs are a comfort food staple. When paired with a sauce, the dish can elevate to impressive heights. There's just one thing to remember while cooking — don't let them overcook. 

Home Cook World says that the best way to prepare meatballs is to first sear them.  When seared properly, the meatballs should develop a brown crust while retaining their tender interior. This browning, which occurs as a result of a series of chemical reactions between food's proteins, sugars, and heat called the Maillard reaction, also will make your meatballs more flavorful. Once the outsides are brown and crispy, place them in a simmering sauce until they are fully cooked. 

Giving the meatballs enough time to cook is essential, but if they are left to soak up the sauce for too long they'll turn squishy. Your meatballs should be fork-tender, but not soggy. But things can go the other way too; poorly cooked meatballs can come out of the pan dry as opposed to juicy. So how do you walk this tightrope act and get perfect meatballs? To create perfectly cooked meatballs you'll need to choose the right cut of beef, and monitor the temperature of the meat while it simmers.

It's a combination of the right meat and timing

The first step to making killer meatballs is to choose the right cut of meat. Livestrong says that using too lean of a cut of beef can spell disaster for the underprepared cook and can lead to a dry or tough meatball. First We Feast suggests choosing ground meat that's 70 percent lean to 30 percent fat.

So let's say that you've chosen the right meat, and seared your meatballs until they have a perfectly brown crust, now it's time to drop them in the sauce. Here's another step where things can run amuck. How long should they cook for? 

Foodiecrush suggests leaving the meatballs and sauce to boil in a covered pan for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. That's a good starting point, but an essential step in creating a tasty batch of meatballs is to measure the meat's internal temperature. According to Frigidaire, meatballs should reach a temperature of 160 F to be cooked through and for juicy results. A great way to ensure meatballs reach that temperature while not burning is to use a meat thermometer. The kitchen gadget can be a lifesaver when cooking meat, whether for the first time or the tenth. 

Perfectly cooked meatballs are trickier than they might seem, but pair these tricks with a good amount of simmering and you've got yourself a delicious set of meatballs.