When you make homemade meatballs, you can skip the frying pan altogether, and bake your meatballs in the oven. Baked meatball recipes tend to provide fewer calories, which is good news if you are looking to cut calories. Keep reading for helpful advice for oven-baked homemade meatballs.
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Why Bake Homemade Meatballs?
If you are familiar with traditional meatball-cooking techniques, you may be aware that most recipes call for pan frying your homemade meatballs. But you don't need to use the frying pan, or copious amounts of oil, to make a delicious-tasting meatball that you can add to your favorite sauce.
There are two advantages to baking your favorite meatballs. First, meatballs in the oven offer lower calorie counts and less fat. If you are watching your calorie or fat intake, baking your meatballs can help.
The second advantage is that baking meatballs is a simpler cooking method than the complicated, tight tolerances of frying. When you fry meatballs, you have to heat the oil. Then you have to watch the pan and flip the meatballs periodically.
When you bake meatballs, you just need to roll them into balls and place them on a non-stick cookie sheet, or a sheet pan coated in a non-stick spray. Once they're in the oven, you can generally leave them alone, other than sometimes having to flip them once in the middle of cooking. In some recipes, you may don't even need to flip them.
Preparing Homemade Meatballs
Meatballs come in a wide variety of meats. You can use ground beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or a combination of these meats to make delicious-tasting homemade meatballs. Many prepared meatballs include a combination of beef and pork or beef, chicken, and pork. Picking the meat can come down to choosing the flavor you like best, but the meat or meats you use can also significantly affect calories and fat load.
According to the USDA, 100 grams of store-bought chicken meatballs contain about 203 calories, 14 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, and about 8 grams of net carbohydrates. In comparison, the USDA indicates that 100 grams of store-bought beef meatballs contain about 250 calories, 16 grams of protein, about 20 grams of fat, and 3.6 grams of net carbohydrates. The USDA also indicates that 100 grams of store-bought pork meatballs contain 259 calories, about 15 grams of protein, about 19 grams of fat, and about 6 grams of carbohydrates, while store-bought meatballs that contain beef, pork, and chicken contain 294 calories, 15 grams of protein, about 24 grams of fat, and about 2.5 grams of net carbohydrates.
Of course, calorie counts can vary widely between brands, and based on whether or not you make them from scratch. The amount of breadcrumbs, and the type of breadcrumbs used as binder can affect the carbohydrate and calorie loads as well. Adding spices, like oregano, basil or pepper, will not add significant calories.
If you make the meatballs at home, make sure you wash your hands, spoon, bowl and any other surface that comes in to contact with the raw meat. This can help prevent foodborne illness.
Read more: Fry or Oven Cook Meatballs — What's Best?
Baking Meatballs in Oven
Making meatballs in the oven is pretty easy. You can use either store-bought meatballs, or meatballs that you make at home. Though frozen, store-bought meatballs may be easier, you have less control over their nutritional content. By making the meatballs at home, you can control how much, and the type, of crumbs, seasonings and meats you add to them. This can make a big difference, in both flavor and fat content.
If you are baking meatballs, you need to preheat your oven. Follow either the instructions in the recipe, or those on the packaging, to learn what temperature is appropriate for preheating. On a non-stick cookie sheet, arrange the meatballs in rows, leaving some space between. You can also use parchment paper, or non-stick spray, on a regular sheet, to prevent sticking.
Once they are arranged on the cookie sheet, place the meatballs in the oven. You will need to bake them according to the recipe or instructions. Once they are done cooking, you can mix the baked meatballs in sauce, and serve over your preferred pasta. Alternately, you could place them in a bun, and serve them as a meatball sandwich.