Ikea meatball help.
January 31, 2009 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Help me with frozen meatballs. Wow, that sounds sad.

I have a couple of bags of Ikea frozen meatballs that I'd like to cook in a crockpot with NO SAUCE. I just want to heat them up.

Do I need to thaw them tonight or can I just throw them in the crockpot in the morning? How long should I cook them? Is this a terrible idea? Am I going to have a grease slick? I need my oven for other things tomorrow and I'd prefer not to experiment when I'm having people over.

I have googled and googled, enough to know that I will never look at grape jelly and barbecue sauce the same way again. Every recipe I find seems to call for some sort of sauce.
posted by sugarfish to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Keep in mind that slow cooking combined with the fact that the meatballs are frozen, will increase the amount of liquid in the pot substantially. So ideally, you should be aiming to make some form of gravy at the same time, otherwise they will more than likely not turn out too appetizing. A way around this would be to drain off the liquid after cooking and brown them in a pan if you insist on having them sauce/gravy free.
posted by scarello at 8:05 PM on January 31, 2009

I can't imagine how you could cook something in a crockpot without any sauce. From my experience that's the whole basis for how they work. Why not just give them a nice slow nuking in a bowl with a cover?
posted by alms at 8:07 PM on January 31, 2009

Or put them in the fridge to thaw tonight, and then brown and heat them in a pan tomorrow?
posted by JiBB at 8:16 PM on January 31, 2009

I don't have an answer, but here's a little research:

I Googled "crockpot temperature" and came up with this page which claims that the "high" setting on a crock pot = 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The instructions on the IKEA meatball package say to preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit and bake the meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.

The IKEA meatball package also says "Fully Cooked Swedish Meatballs -- just heat & serve!" (So, it doesn't seem that food safety is a concern, at least with respect to cooking the meat; the objective is to get the meatballs heated through.)

Is oven baking definitely not an option? You can't put them on another rack while (or after) baking something else?

If I were you, I'd take 3 or 4 meatballs out of the package tonight and try putting them in the crock pot (with no sauce, but definitely with the lid on) on a "high" setting for 30 minutes and see what happens. Take one out and cut it open and test whether it's hot in the middle. I doubt that it would take all day, as conventional starting-from-raw crock pot recipes do. If 30 minutes works on a handful of meatballs, then maybe 40-60 minutes plus some occasional stirring would work on a bagful? But this is guesswork on my part--anybody more experienced with these things?
posted by Orinda at 8:39 PM on January 31, 2009

I know alot of folks that do throw meatballs in the crockpot with a sauce on the LOW setting. You would never use high and you would never leave it overnight. Low is about 200 degrees, and is fine if you want to free up the oven. Just does not make sense to go this route to simply warm them up.
posted by scarello at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2009

I get the meatballs from CostCo with some regularity and will usually just heat them up in the microwave before eating. I think slow warming them is probably a bad idea.

By the way, I make the most amazing meatball sandwiches with them. I use my broiler to toast a roll, then put some mozzarella cheese and let it melt in. In the meantime, I heat up the meatballs in the micro and also heat up some pasta sauce (I tend to like the roasted garlic style). Once the cheese is melted, remove the roll, add the meatballs and then top with the marinara sauce. Absolutely fantastic!
posted by fenriq at 8:42 PM on January 31, 2009

Another idea: depending on your baking schedule, could you bake the IKEA meatballs as usual in your oven first thing, then slide them off the pan into a crock pot on the "keep warm" setting to hold until serving?
posted by Orinda at 8:44 PM on January 31, 2009

Defrost overnight in your fridge. Crockpot cooking can often be too slow to reach safe temp for thawing. You should only ever defrost in the fridge, or sealed against moisture under cold running water. Then you can just toss in a pan quickly with a little oil to brown the outside.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:18 PM on January 31, 2009

OK, I watch Iron chef. Can you put the meatballs in a ziploc baggie, put a few inches of water in the crock pot, and cook away? (Obviously a food-safe bag would be ideal) Meatballs don't get sauced up, but also don't get dried out and crusty.
posted by misterbrandt at 10:08 PM on January 31, 2009

Two bags worth? I'd be very worried about uneven cooking/heating in a crockpot if on high, or lingering in the danger zone if on low. Both of these sound like "experiments" that are likely to go bad.

I really think you should cook them first in the oven and hold them in the crockpot, as others have suggested. You can do them all at once and get it out of the way. I've impatiently broiled Ikea meatballs lots of times myself, so you could even do it that way to save some time (no preheating and no thawing!).
posted by O9scar at 10:33 PM on January 31, 2009

The problem with the crockpot, without cooking liquid, is that air is a lousy medium for conducting heat from the hot crock into the center of a pile of meatballs, so you'll end up with the middle of the pile being cold long after the meatballs that touch the sides and bottom of the crock are hot. If you stir them to address this problem, you may break a lot of them apart. There's also the chance that, as scarello suggested, the meatballs will give off some water as they thaw/heat. In a sealed crockpot that water would start to simmer. The steam would help heat the inner meatballs, but you'd end up with steamed meatballs, which may not be what you're after.
posted by jon1270 at 3:28 AM on February 1, 2009

If I wanted to heat frozen meatballs with no sauce, I would steam them. Put a steamer in the crockpot to hold them out of the water, add some water, put the lid on, and let them heat in the steam. They'll stay moist and heat through pretty well, but you won't have boiled the flavour out of them in water.

I heat sauceless meat this way in my rice cooker (in the steamer basket) and it works great to keep the meet from drying out and going all rubbery like it would in the micrwave or over-cooking and drying out like it would in a pan or the oven.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:45 AM on February 1, 2009

Um. I just microwave them. Put a pile o'balls in ceramic dish, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke for 4-5 minutes. Check them, stir around a little, microwave another minute or two if not warm enough. Done. I didn't know I was doing it wrong all these years.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:23 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Okay, you guys have convinced me. I'm putting them in the oven early and then I'll keep them warm with the crockpot.

I forgot to mention in my question that my microwave really, really sucks, but if I get a new one I'll keep that in mind, too.

Thanks, all!
posted by sugarfish at 10:47 AM on February 1, 2009

Requested update :)

I made them in the oven and put them in my crockpot that has a warming function. They stayed nice and toasty the whole time.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by sugarfish at 11:15 AM on February 6, 2009

Ikea meatball success. Excellent!
posted by Orinda at 2:31 PM on February 6, 2009

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