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I would like to make some meatballs to go with a generic pasta dish. I am thinking about 10 balls from a pound of raw ground pork or beef. I have been searching for how to safely do this. Some say to boil the meatballs for about 30 min, others claim that 10 min is enough. I imagine just boiling them in a large pot in broth or water with spices added.

How can one safely boil meatballs?

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5 Answers 5

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Getting meatballs done is a matter of raising them to the correct internal temperature. 30 minutes seems like a long time even for large meatballs, but it depends on many factors. The best way is to pull the biggest one out and test it, first see if it's firm or squishy - firm means it's getting close to done. If it's firm stick an instant read thermometer into the very center of it, if the temperature is at or above 160F (70C) then they are all done. If you test a medium size one the larger ones may need a little longer.

Incidentally, boiling meatballs is not the only way to do it, and my least favorite because some of the flavor is lost to the water. You can bake them, fry them, or cook them in a sauce as well. Cooking them in a sauce imparts flavor to the sauce, you'll get the fat from the meat too, though.

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    And an Italian lady that I used to know always fried the meatballs first to get a little brown on them and then plopped them in the gravy. Also you boil them in the gravy for a long-ish time not to make sure they are cooked but to impart flavor to the gravy... (oh and gravy = tomato sauce) Feb 20, 2019 at 18:22
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    Italian's and Italian-Americans are generally mixed on the approach. Some prefer a sear first, some prefer a straight poach in the sauce. Both can be delicious.
    – moscafj
    Feb 20, 2019 at 18:44
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    There is no single Italian way to do it, recipes vary from region to town to family. However, they all agree Italian-Americans do it wrong!
    – GdD
    Feb 20, 2019 at 18:51
  • I hope the Italian lady wasn't preparing meatballs for pasta...
    – Lonidard
    Feb 21, 2019 at 0:43
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If you only boil the meatballs, food safety shouldn't be your primary concern, making something tasteless is :-). Please brown them first! That will take a few minutes. Then you can finish cooking them by simmering in the sauce, but also impart some flavor to the sauce in the process.

Hardly any flavor will go from something in the water to boiled meatballs, you'll just leech all the flavor out. The herbs should go in the meatballs. I usually find that if I put the water on when I put the meatballs in the sauce, the desired degree of doneness/flavor melding will be achieved by the time the pasta is done (although mind that I usually make whole wheat pasta, so maybe add 5mn simmering if you don't).

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Sous Vide them for an hour or so at 65c. You can seal them first or get some colour on them after. Get all the juice that comes out of them and then stick it in your pasta sauce - mad flavour!

Or just seal them off in a pan for flavour, then finish them in the pasta sauce for 10 mins most.

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The meatballs are ready a few minutes after they float (about 15 minutes).

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    The question was how long to boil them, not whether or not to do so. If you remove all the unnecessary details that distract from your answer, it would be much improved.
    – Esther
    May 22, 2023 at 2:58
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Frying makes rubber balls. Boiling makes British food. I don't understand why almost no one does this, but put meatballs under the broiler [spread out on the sheet(tray) to start] to get the Mallard {quack, quack} reaction.

After browning the first side, it's easy to flip them over and lean them against each other in the center of the sheet to brown the other side. I don't even use Tongs.

After browning meatballs, simmer them in sauce or stock to bring internal temperature up to "cooked".

If you hate tender, tasty meatballs that have no hint of rubberiness, then please do not follow this suggestion.

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  • I usually roast them in the oven, so I don’t have to pay quite so much attention to them, but broiling would work, too
    – Joe
    Mar 22, 2022 at 1:19

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