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Meatballs are very straightforward. Chopped meat, some seasonings, and a binder. Roll into balls; cook. But there’s a secret to the moistest meatball of all. It lies in the binder, or more specifically, the bread crumbs — or lack thereof.

I grew up watching my mom take bread, soak it with water, and wring it like a sponge. She’d then grate it and mix it into the meat. Bread crumbs were just for schnitzel. I wanted to test her theory that they contribute to the softest meatballs, so I made the same recipe two ways.

  • 1 lb (450 g) ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs or 2 slices bread (55g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients. If you have time, chill mixture in the fridge for 1 hour, for easier rolling.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Shape meat into 1½-inch (4-cm) balls and place on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers at 160°F (71°C). Alternately, fry in a skillet with 2–3 Tbsp oil. Toss in your favorite sauce.

Method 1: Bread Crumbs

I mixed the ingredients using ½ cup bread crumbs. The mixture automatically felt dense but pliable. The balls rolled easily and held their shape perfectly.

Method 2: Bread Slices

I soaked 2 slices of bread in water, squeezed out the moisture, and grated them on a box grater. (You can also chop finely with a knife.) I then added it to the meat mixture. The mixture felt light and very moist.

My Verdict

I served my family the meatballs, and truthfully the kids could not tell the difference. But the adults could. The ones made with bread slices were more tender and fluffy. Both versions were delicious.

Bread crumbs are convenient, but bread slices have the upper hand. My mom, indeed, is always right.

(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 724)

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