Confession time. I’ve never been a big fan of meatballs. At least not of the traditional Italian-American style — you know: Those leaden orbs of ground beef simmered in tomato sauce until they’re as soggy and heavy as wet newsprint.
But cook the same meatball on the grill and you sizzle out the fat, crisp the meat, and acquire all those crusty browned caramelized protein flavors known scientifically as the Maillard reaction.
In my book Planet Barbecue, I cover how this truth is understood by grill cultures as varied as Middle Eastern, where kofta — herbed grilled minced lamb balls — are as popular as hamburgers are in the U.S. and in Asia, where ginger-and-coriander-flavored chicken meatballs are grilled over a bincho-tan charcoal to make Japan’s beloved tsukune.
The question is, how do you grill something as fragile and soft as a meatball? You won’t be surprised to learn that where there’s a challenge, there’s a tool: the Meatball Grilling Basket. I’m partial to my Best of Barbecue meatball grilling basket, of course, but many companies manufacture meatball grills and all will get the job done.
So what’s my formula for making the ultimate grilled meatball? Try my Grilled Meatballs with Lemon-Dill Sauce recipe. But what really interests me is hearing how YOU make great grilled meatballs. Please post recipes and photos on the Barbecue Board. Make us hungry.