Perfect beef/lamb meatballs?
September 17, 2010 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Cooking filter: I'd like to make some beef/lamb mixture meatballs for use in a slightly modified version of this recipe and I'm not sure what proportions of meat and what mix of seasonings to use.

I have 1 lb of ground lamb and 1 lb of ground round (not sure of the exact fat content). Would a straight use of 1 to 1 beef/lamb work or should I use less lamb (or more?)? I do love the taste of lamb but if there's a proportion "sweet spot" associated with beef/lamb mixtures I'd like to shoot for that.

I'd also be interested in people's favorite seasonings for meatballs or just lamb and beef in general!

posted by moxiequz to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here is what the professionals do: season and mix to your best guestimate. Under season with the salt by a touch. Heat a small pan, fry up a small patty and do a taste test. Re-season as necessary and proceed with recipe.

- I prefer sea salt (fine)

- pulverize garlic plus FRESH herbs together. Parsley by itself is ok. Use a mortar & pestle for the chopped herbs & garlic w/ touch of olive oil -or- use mini chop, food processor, or hand blender.

- DON'T OVER MIX THE MEAT. Fold with your hands, otherwise meatballs are tough

- go ahead and add an egg as a binder.

- 1:1 is fine. Maybe try different ratios in your test patties to see what you prefer?

- Mustard, black pepper, grains of paradise, cumin, mint, lemon zest, fennel, clove, sage, *rosemary*, a touch of cognac or sherry -- sky is the limit!

I do a pork/beef meatball with salt, parsley, garlic and saffron. I'm sure you could add a hint of saffron with the lamb and that would be unexpected and stunning. Lastly...

- Have fun.
posted by jbenben at 2:28 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about mixing beef and lamb. Beef and pork mix well because one is far stronger tasting than the other but both beef and lamb are strong tasting meats. I'd be more inclined to use them separately.

Lamb goes very well with Middle Eastern and Indian spices. For that I'd look up a few Pakistani kebab recipes. Beef goes well with Far Eastern spices, so maybe use the beef in the original recipe.
posted by rhymer at 2:30 PM on September 17, 2010

Round doesn't have much fat. I would substitute chuck for it instead. As for flavor profiles, I guess it will depend on what you are going to do with the meatballs- I am guessing they won't be eaten alone.

I would recommend looking at a north african flavor profile (spices include garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, coriander, cardamom).

You don't give a whole lot of information here, so if you could chime in and let us know what you are looking to do with these meatballs, that would be great. Also, are you fairly adept in the kitchen, as my suggestions for what to do can range from pretty technical to easier.

As for the "sweet spot," that's pretty subjective. Did you grind the lamb yourself, or did you buy it pre-ground (do you know what cut it is, because some cuts are more "lamby" than others).

Using some pork to round out the flavor is also sometimes a good idea.
posted by TheBones at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2010

Sorry, I didn't click through the recipe- I'd say since they are being steamed and wrapped, I would go with not seasoning them too aggressively. I think ginger and garlic would be pretty good (as well as salt and pepper of course). As for the fat, since you are steaming them, no need to add in any extra fat. If you were to braise them or saute them, I would definitely add in extra fat. Though eye of round doesn't have much flavor to it, fyi.

What sort of sauce are you making to go with it?
posted by TheBones at 2:55 PM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for answers so far!

"Did you grind the lamb yourself, or did you buy it pre-ground (do you know what cut it is, because some cuts are more "lamby" than others)."

I bought the lamb pre-ground (at a Lunardis supermarket if that's any help). Unfortunately I don't know what cut it is.

"What sort of sauce are you making to go with it?"

I don't have a separate sauce planned right now (but would love any suggestions!). For the steaming stock I was planning on using just a simple beef or kelp dashi stock.
posted by moxiequz at 3:14 PM on September 17, 2010

I make meatballs with 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 lamb all the time. They are very popular. In my opinion, when I leave out the lamb they lack flavor interest and when I leave out pork they are much less tender. The classic recipe is like 1 lb beef, 1 lb lamb and 1/2 lb pork, but I like them with more pork better, so I just go with even amounts. The lamb taste will predominate in 50/50 beef lamb blend, but I don't think that is a bad thing at all. If you wish to go slightly heavier on the beef, I think you would probably still get a very similar meatball in terms of flavor and texture to a 50/50 mix, but if your beef is very lean you may lose tenderness with a more beef heavy mixture. It is really about the strength of the "lamby" flavor you want which will vary depending on what cut of lamb was ground, the age of the lamb and random factors probably related to how the lamb was fed. I think a 50/50 mix is a good place to start. You could make a couple of taster meatballs if you are all Alton Brown like me. If you don't want to add pork, you might also consider some finely diced mushrooms to get a similar mouthfeel.

Garam Masala makes an interesting spice to add to lamb burgers or meatballs. It is my "secret" spice that I add to most every ground lamb recipe nowadays.
posted by Lame_username at 4:22 AM on September 18, 2010

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