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Living in Sweden I do eat meatballs almost everyday. What I've noticed is that most ready-to-eat meatballs you can buy in the store contains potato, potato flakes and potato starch. I'd never even think of putting any potato at all in home made meatballs.

I've also seen this in raw hamburgers. Even the "luxury meatballs" contains almost 15% potato.

Why does most meatball manufacturers use potato?

  • 1
    Because it's easier to grow potatoes than soybeans in Sweden, is my guess. – The Photon Nov 17 at 18:29
  • Wait.... so meatballs having to do anything at all with sweden isn't ALL an IKEA marketing joke? – rackandboneman Nov 19 at 23:10
47

With absolutely no citation or evidence to back up my claim ;-) I'm going to say that the reasoning is two- if not three-fold…. or maybe more...

  1. It's cheaper. It adds bulk.

  2. It helps the meatball stay whole; a binder. Similar reasoning as breadcrumbs &/or egg, but see 3.

  3. The binder is needed because the EU allows the meat producer to add 10% water to the meat before it's even completed the initial butchery stage[1]. Therefore you need some 'soak-up' to prevent the water being squeezed out as soon as you start to heat the product.

  4. It helps the texture; stops it becoming too chewy. A mouth-feel thing, same as you might make 50% beef/50% pork meatballs. 100% beef can be a bit heavy.

from comments

  1. There's no chance of gluten intolerance issues with potato.

…and a late

  1. It's very probably traditional. Burgers get breadcrumbs, meatballs get potato. Why or why not; because it's always been done that way, which sometimes defies all reason.

[1] I personally consider this a cardinal sin & were I ever to miraculously become 'President of Europe' this practise would become a capital offence ;)

  • 10
    I would also suspect that they use potato specifically because it's very unusual as an allergen. Anything with soy or gluten would decrease the number of people who can eat them. – Johanna Nov 18 at 8:32
  • 11
    A completely-meat meatball is actually a novelty, they were traditionally made with mostly stale bread. I've tried it and a 30% meat-meatball is still great. – Borgh Nov 18 at 9:27
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    Strictly speaking, if it's not 100% meat, it's not a burger. Traditionally, in most parts of the world, the filler in meatballs is breadcrumbs (or bread). Are the traditions really that different in Sweden? – Marti Nov 19 at 2:57
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    @Marti - The "must be 100% meat to be a burger" seems to be an American thing. To everybody else, it's not a requisite, it's optional. I always put breadcrumbs & egg in burgers. – Tetsujin Nov 19 at 10:30
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    It's not even an American distinctiion, I know plenty of people and restaurants that include things in burgers other than beef, and bread crumbs/potato flakes aren't at all unusual. – Joshua Rowlison Nov 19 at 18:37
11

100% meat would be a burger patty... in German this would be Kartoffel-Hackfleisch Frikadellen or in short Kartoffridellen, while the potato starch cause them to be more crispy on the outside and more juicy on the inside, since the water is being bound by the starch. Generally it's a cheap filler which most people won't notice, unless reading the fine print. They might not use breadcrumbs as binding agent (as the traditional recipe has it), because of the Gluten intolerance some people have developed - so that they won't need an extra Gluten-free version of them, which makes selling them a whole lot easier; that's "one size fits all", but people with potato allergy still cannot eat them. The recipe might be adjusted so that the biggest percentage of people can eat them.

Convenience & fast food often contain ingredients more concerning than potato, eg. MSG (which tricks the brain into believing it would be more Protein) and other agents. For comparison, try self-made meatballs or from the local butcher's.

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