What are Meatballs?
Meatballs are made from ground meat rolled in the shape of small balls. The meat most often used is beef or pork, but it can also contain chicken, fish, and other meats. They are often seasoned with ingredients such as parsley, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, red chilli flakes, onions, garlic, and mustard.
- Breadcrumbs and eggs are used to hold the balls together and the dish may be cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising.
- Different versions of this dish exist throughout the world.
Some popular meatball dishes are:
- Meatballs (Italy)
- Fish Balls (China)
- Köttbullar (Sweden)
- Kofte (Middle East)
- Bun Cha (Vietnam)
- Frikadeller (Denmark)
- Albondigas (Mexico)
- Bakso (Indonesia)
- Klopsiki (Poland)
- Kofta Masala (India)
Origin of meatballs
Though apocryphal, this dish likely originated in ancient Persia. This dish was called kofta and is still popular in the Middle East and South Asia today. The Arabs adopted the dish and popularized it, with some mentions of it appearing in early Arabic cookbooks. From Arabia, it spread to the Mediterranean countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa through trade routes. Additionally, Islamic conquests spread the dish southwards. However, ancient Rome and ancient China may have also invented meatballs separately.
Nutritional profile for meatballs (per ball):
In addition, meatballs are rich in sodium, calcium, iron, fatty acids, and amino acids. They are a rich source of high biological value protein and essential nutrients that are more bioavailable than in other food sources. Also, they are a good option to increase satiety and limit obesity. However, regular consumption of red meat may lead to cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancers, and obesity.
Meatballs may be produced commercially and sold. First, the meat is fed into a meat grinder and then chopped to make ground meat. After that, seasonings may be added and mixed well. Next, the minced meat is put into a machine to form balls. Then, these are boiled to cook them through, then cooled and packaged.
The USDA recommends that ground pork and beef must be cooked at minimum 169°F (71°C). Also, it is recommended to keep ground meat in the freezer or below 40°F (4.4°C). Cooked meatballs may last for up to 4 days in the freezer.
This is a versatile dish that can be prepared with different cooking methods, seasonings, sauces, and pairings. Here are a few recipes to try:
- Dump and Bake Casserole
- Mongolian Glazed Meatballs
- Meatballs with Peas
- Frikkadel with Sheba Sauce
- Lamb Meatballs with Couscous
- Beef Rendang Balls
- Chicken Satay Balls
- Meatball Curry
- Shi Zi Tou
The USDA regulates all meat products, including pork and beef. Ground meat must contain less than 30 percent fat content. It may contain seasoning but not binding agents, water, phosphates, or extenders.
Turhan, Sadettin et al. “Evaluation of the Nutritional and Storage Quality of Meatballs Formulated with Bee Pollen.” Korean journal for food science of animal resources vol. 34,4 (2014): 423-33. doi:10.5851/kosfa.2014.34.4.423, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662146/
Marissa Landrigan, Not Your Grandmother’s Meatball , The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/history-of-the-meatball/475083/