Monday, December 08, 2008

Alton Brown's baked meatballs

We're cookin' again for Blog No. 8 ...

Alton Brown's baked meatballs is one of those rare recipes that needed little modification. Understand that I don't usually modify a recipe to correct flaws, but to convert to a large quantity format or to Dutch ovens.

I prepared a double recipe Friday afternoon for the annual Christmas social of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation. I weighted meat to ensure that I was working with AB's portions. And since I could only find 8/10th-pound ground lamb at the supermarket, I compensated with additional ground round.

Only one modification seemed in order. AB bakes his meatballs in a mini-muffin pan to ensure "even distribution" in the pan.

According the transcript:

This means that we will have even and rapid heating. But the real secret to this method is in making sure that the meatballs are just a little bit bigger than the cups. That way, they'll actually be suspended above the bottoms, okay? That means that they will keep their nice round shape, and any moisture will run off into the bottom of the cups, away from the orbs.("Great Balls of Meat" episode, Good Eats.)
Okay, AB. First, I don't have any mini-miffin tins. Not do I intend to buy something that I won't use. My only option was to use a baking sheet.

A standard half-sized sheet pan (13- by 18-inch) worked just fine for me. Since the meatballs didn't exude an excessive amount of fat and moisture, I don't see this as an issue.


I used a No. 24 disher to scoop out the meatballs. A lightly-packed scoop will give you a meatball that weighs

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground round
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 whole egg
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumb, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine pork, lamb, ground round, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup of bread crumbs. Using hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated, but do not overmix or meatballs will be tough. Refrigerate overnight.

Place remaining 1/4 cup of bread in a small bowl. Weigh meatballs into 1.5-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using hands, shape meatballs into rounds, roll in bread crumbs and place balls on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

The recipe makes 20 meatballs. Three meatballs per person leaves 2 extra for the cook!


  1. We are packing up for sail from Liberia to Tenerife, just now getting around to catching up on some blogs...things are busy...but the sail will be nice.

    I love a good meatball, better yet, recipes that don't need tweaking.

    Have you seen 'Feasting on Waves' with Alton Brown? I loved it, but only because I spent so much time on the Caribbean (Mercy Ship) and because I generally like Alton's shows (his personality).

  2. Thanks, Tyrone ...

    I've had them three times now since last Fridays. The meatballs keep getting better with time.

    And I ate two last night (late night snack!) cold -- the flavor was incredible.

  3. My family has an aversion to lamb. Would you just change the quantity on the other two meats?

  4. Thanks for you comment, Ed. Unless there's a medical reason to avoid lamb, why don't you sneak it into the mix.

    I ate maybe 20 of the meatballs over a week and didn't taste any lamb directly. The lamb adds an element of flavor and texture to the meatballs.

    If you must, try using equal parts beef and port. But you must report back and tell us how they came out.

    Thanks, Steven