You have an array of choices when it comes to cooking meatballs. Some methods work best for specific meatball dishes, while others work for any meatball entree. All cooking methods, from frying to baking to simmering in liquid, work whether your meatballs are made entirely from ground chicken or beef; contain a mix of pork, veal and beef; or contain your own special blend of ground sausage. After cooking, check a few meatballs to ensure that they've reached a safe internal temperature on an instant-read meat thermometer -- 160 degrees Fahrenheit for red meat and 165 F for poultry.
With baked meatballs, you get a flavorful, brown crust and splatters that remain contained in a baking dish instead of covering the stovetop. Either oil the bottom of a baking dish or cook the meatballs on a sheet of parchment paper to save even more time with cleanup. Cook the meatballs spread in a single layer in an oven heated to 375 F for about 45 minutes for very large, quarter-pound meatballs or half that time for smaller meatballs, or if you plan to finish cooking the meatballs in a sauce.
Pan-Frying Small Meatballs
Pan-frying works best for small to medium meatballs, around 1 to 2 inches in diameter, because they can cook quickly. Use a few tablespoons of oil in a large, 12-inch skillet, and cook the meatballs in batches, if necessary, so that they remain in a single layer and fry instead of steam. Turn the meatballs every minute for about 5 to 6 minutes until they're well browned on all sides, then drain them on paper towels. Use the meatballs as an entree on their own, topped with sauce in a meatball sandwich or placed in a meatball soup or sauce.
Simmered Meatballs in Liquid
Whether you plan to add your meatballs to a tomato sauce for spaghetti and meatballs or a clear broth for soup, pan-fry or bake them first for more flavor. Cook them long enough to become brown on all sides, then finish cooking them submerged in the sauce or broth, checking them for doneness with a meat thermometer as you would for any cooking method. If you're making soup, keep the meatballs on the small side, about 1 inch in diameter.
Deep-frying works for small to medium meatballs; large meatballs will become too browned on the outside while remaining uncooked inside. Use enough oil so the meatballs are submerged and cook them in batches if you need to. Heat the oil to medium, 350 to 375 F, and cook the meatballs until they are golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. After draining them, use the meatballs for sandwiches, covered with sauces or on their own.
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