These meatballs were inspired by the pastel palette and tropical rhythms of Cuba. Tender and lush with sweet raisins, briny black olives, and savory blanched...Read More
MMM: Making “Meat Dough”
In this post, I’m going to share the three methods I use to blend what I affectionately call “meat dough,” a.k.a., meat mixed with seasonings that’s then turned into luscious balls of goodness. You can make meat dough with a food processor, a standing mixer, or by hand mixing — and each method offers different advantages and characteristics.
Let’s mix it up!
Thanks to the whirling blade of the food processor, you can make a batch of meat dough in a few seconds flat — big advantage! The potential downside is that this method churns out a sort of paté version of meat dough — very smooth and homogenized with all of the ingredients puréed and completely incorporated. This method works best when you want to recreate the texture of sausage. I like to use the food processor when I’m making Merguez Meatballs and Pesto Chicken Meatballs, mixing meat for Meatza, combining ground pork with Italian Sausage Seasoning to make sausage meatballs, or flavoring the meat for Scotch Eggs — and The Domestic Man recommends the food processor for his Indonesian Beef Ball (Bakso) recipe.
Note: When using the food processor, you want to pulse the ingredients until they’re just combined. Over-mixing will make the meat dough tough instead of springy and light.
I think the standing mixer might be my favorite method for mixing meat dough, especially when I’m making double or triple batches — or when I’m making multiple kinds of meatballs in one massive cookup. It’s awesome for setting up a meatball assembly line and allows you to quickly mix up multiple batches with just a rinse of the bowl in between. The standing mixer quickly and evenly distributes the ingredients throughout the meat, but doesn’t purée everything the way the food processor does. It’s ideal for meatballs that you want to include flavorful bits of goodies that are still identifiable, like dried fruit, seeds, and nuts — recipes like Turkey and Cranberry, Czech, and Bacon-Jalapeño Burger Balls.
Note: When using the standing mixer, use the paddle attachment or dough hook and mix on medium speed until they ingredients are just combined. Again, over-mixing will make the meat dough tough instead of springy and light.
Any meatball can be mixed by hand with good results, and when I’m only making one pound of meat, this is usually the method I use because I’m too damn lazy to get the standing mixer down from the top of the refrigerator. There’s a texture difference when the meat is mixed by hand, so if you want a more traditional, nubbly texture, hand mixing is the way to get it. You can see I’m wearing disposable gloves in the photo above — it’s not because I was investigated by the food safety inspectors! The gloves prevent the meat from sticking to my hands and make the whole process much faster and less annoying; they’re also very helpful during the meatball shaping process for the same reasons.
Note: It’s pretty hard to overmix by hand, but for the tenderest meatballs, gently fold the ingredients into the meat until they’re evenly distributed.
Burgers, Balls, and Bangers
Once your meat dough is prepared, you can shape it into burger patties, meatballs, or sausage shapes, which I like to call bangers because it’s fun. BANGERS!
Balls: For meatballs, I like to use a 1-tablespoon scoop because the meatballs look like party food that way!