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How do I prevent Swedish meatballs from falling apart?

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How do I prevent Swedish meatballs from falling apart? I don't really have a fixed recipe. I use minced meat, bread crumbs, grated onion, eggs, cream and spices. I also did allow the bread crumbs to swell in the cream for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. But my meatballs keep falling apart when I fry them. What is the secret here?

Got request for proportions in comments, but since I never measure anything I can only give a rough estimate.

This time, I think it was 1kg of minced meat, 3dl cream, a half grated onion, 2dl bread crumbs and one egg.

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2 answers

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Falling apart means too much liquid or too little binder, or both. In your case, I think it's mostly the binder.

Your description sounds similar to this recipe. The proportion of breadcrumbs to milk/cream is about the same, but notice that this recipe uses about 0.75kg meat and one large egg. You're using 1kg of meat and one egg (of unspecified size). My meatloaves uses to have problems with structural integrity until I understood that recipes (at least in the US, where I live) default to large eggs, not the medium I was using. For your meatballs, I would try adding another egg or upping the egg size (medium -> large or large -> extra-large).

I don't use dairy in cooking meat so I don't have direct experience with the breadcrumbs/cream part, but I noticed that the linked recipe says to let them soak for about 10 minutes, longer than you said you soaked yours. 2dl breadcrumbs aren't going to fully absorb 3dl cream but you want the breadcrumbs to absorb as much as they can, so try soaking them longer. Or if you're in a hurry, decrease the cream.

Finally, with meatballs (unlike meatloaf), you can adjust as you go. Start with just a few meatballs in the pan, and if they fall apart, adjust the mix before doing more by either adding some breadcrumbs (to soak up extra liquid) or adding some more egg. (It doesn't have to be a whole egg; lightly scramble an egg in a bowl and then you can decide how much to pour in.) Cook a few more, see how they do, and when you like the results, you can cook the rest.

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Thank you. I'll try those tricks. The reason I used so much cream was that I did not find any minced pork, and beef does not have enough fat for good meatballs. klutt 27 days ago

Wow. That's different from what I would do on 3 counts: I'd never use cream with meat (not kosher), never use pork (not kosher) and I also always go for the "extra lean ground beef". Even with the extra lean ground beef (which is noticeably less fatty than the "regular"), I still find plenty of fat for frying (though with meatballs I usually either boil in sauce, or bake) and for flavor (because too much fat is bad, but too little is bland). manassehkatz 27 days ago

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Like what has already been said, falling apart would likely be due to too much liquid, too little binder, or both.

I checked what one of my cookbooks says about Swedish meatballs, and that recipe calls for (among some other ingredients) 400g mixed1 minced meat to one egg and four tablespoons (60 ml, 0.6 dl) of breadcrumbs. Scaling that up to 1 kg of meat, that would be 2.5 eggs and 1.5 dl of bread crumbs, but no cream; I suspect the additional eggs also serve a similar purpose to the cream.

Since the eggs would serve both to provide a bit of liquid as well as binder, I strongly suspect that your issues are caused by both too much liquid and too little binder.

Especially for 1 kg of minced meat, I would suggest that you try cutting back on the cream and adding an egg or two.

  1. a combination of pork and beef meat, usually resulting in about 20% fat

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Well I don't know about the bread crumbs, but it clearly looks like I need more egg. klutt 26 days ago