Frozen meatballs are a great item to keep on hand because they are ready to heat and serve over pasta, in a sub or sauced up as a simple entree, among many other delicious lunch and dinner ideas. Prepackaged frozen meatballs are usually fully cooked and just need to be heated thoroughly, but even if you've frozen homemade or store-bought raw meatballs yourself, the cooking process is just as straightforward.
Cooking frozen meatballs can be done on the stove top, in a slow cooker or in the oven, with the latter method being just as easy as any other. If you have a package of frozen meatballs with cooking instructions, follow those closely for the best results. Otherwise, use common sense (and ideally a meat thermometer) to determine when they're done.
Cooking Frozen Meatballs (Fully Cooked)
Most prepackaged frozen meatballs – the kind you find bagged in the frozen aisle of a supermarket – are already fully cooked. This means you just need to make sure they're hot all the way through before serving them, and you don't need to worry about them having uncooked meat in the center. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, arrange the frozen meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet or another ovenproof dish so that there's a little space between them, and use multiple dishes if necessary rather than crowding a single one.
Bake the meatballs for the time recommended on the packaging. If you're cooking frozen, fully cooked homemade meatballs, allow around 10 to 12 minutes for bite-sized meatballs, 15 to 20 minutes for medium-sized (two-bite) ones and 20 to 25 minutes for larger meatballs (three or more bites). Turn the meatballs over about halfway through the cooking time.
To see if your meatballs are fully heated, either use an instant-read thermometer to see if they've reached at least 160 degrees inside, or cut a meatball in half and touch the center with a finger. It should be steaming and piping hot to the touch.
Cooking Frozen Meatballs (Raw)
Cooking frozen meatballs in the oven calls for the same basic technique whether they're raw or fully cooked. However, raw meatballs will need a little longer in the oven than cooked ones, and you need to make sure they reach a safe internal temperature before serving them. Allow an additional five to 10 minutes over the time required for fully cooked meatballs.
The USDA states that ground pork, beef, lamb and veal should reach 160 degrees, and chicken and turkey should reach 165 degrees. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut a meatball open and make sure it's piping hot to the touch with no traces of pink left inside.
Cooking Meatballs in a Sauce
Instead of cooking frozen meatballs in the oven and then adding them to a sauce, you can bake frozen meatballs and a sauce together at the same time. Simply stir the frozen meatballs and sauce together in a casserole dish and bake, covered, for about 30 minutes and then bake them uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the timing as necessary depending on the size of the meatballs.
Use the same technique to create a full one-pot meal by adding frozen or quick-cooking vegetables and cooked pasta, rice or another grain along with the meatballs and sauce. You could try marinara sauce with al dente pasta, frozen mixed vegetables and spinach or cooked rice, canned beans, frozen corn and enchilada sauce. Top both of these dishes with grated cheese close to the end of the cooking time, which will be in the 45- to 60-minute range.
If you're cooking meatballs in a sticky sauce or glaze with a high sugar content, wait until the meatballs are at least halfway done before adding the sauce to prevent burning. Examples include sweet barbecue, teriyaki, sweet and sour and honey-soy.