I love to grill meatballs. However, I do not love wrangling loose meatballs as I place, flip, and remove them from the grill. In this recipe, I deploy flat metal skewers to simplify the process. They are the ideal grill tool for these garlic and oregano-forward meat delights.
Building a Better Meatball
Most of the proteins I grill are traditional cuts with aggressive seasoning on the outside of the meat, so it’s a fun fork in the road to consider grilling with seasoning in the meat. Enter these grilled meatballs. Based on the highly seasoned Turkish köfte meatballs, mine follow the same approach, leaning less on spice and more heavily on the savory notes of oregano and garlic for a Greek-inspired flavor. A little bit of cinnamon adds a lip-tingling finish.
Baking Soda in Meatballs? Give It as Try
To keep the meatballs as moist as possible, I start with a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice. Baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, appears often in köfte recipes. It raises the PH level of the meat, making it harder for the meat’s protein molecules to bond. This in turn allows the meat to retain water as it cooks. And more water means a moist meatball. One more added benefit of baking soda? It helps increase browning.
Grilling Meatballs the Easy Way
The biggest challenge when grilling a meatball is the aforementioned “chase.” Not only does an erratically flying meat sphere cause chaos on the cooking grate, it adds extra time to a relatively short cook. Flipping a few steaks is easy. A dozen round meat saucers poses some problems. To alleviate the meat shuffle, the best solution is to skewer. With four meatballs mounted to a skewer, we reduce the flips to three and our grilled dinner is effortlessly back on track.
Meatball Skewering 101
At the onset, sliding a meatball onto a skewer presents some issues. To avoid the skewer pulling through the ground meat, there is a two-prong approach. First, the formed meatballs need time to set up in the fridge, thus the rest. When they are chilled, they more readily hold their shape and more importantly, their grasp on the skewer.
Second, it’s important that the meatballs do not stick to the grill grates. Any resistance will most certainly result in the meatball-less skewer. Clean grill grates and brushing olive oil on the meatballs prior to grilling are two key strategies to prevent these.
The third leg of our grilling stool is to remember a grill grate will release the protein when it’s ready. If you feel a little bit of resistance when lifting the skewer, it’s not ready. Give it a minute more and try again. Adhering to these three steps ensures perfect skewer movement every time.
Easy Sides for Casual Cookouts
- Cedar Plank Grilled Brie
- Dad’s Potato Salad
- Grilled Okra
- Smoked Whole Cauliflower
- Three Bean Salad
Season the meat:
In a medium bowl, combine the baking soda and lemon juice. Add the meat to the bowl and mix with your hands.
In a small bowl, combine the salt, oregano, dill, pepper, and cinnamon.
Add the seasonings to the bowl with the meat, along with the garlic, egg, and panko. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
Form the meatballs:
Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal balls, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on a sheet pan, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Prepare the grill:
Prepare the grill for direct medium heat, 375 to 425°F.
Skewer the meatballs:
Using flat grilling skewers, hold a meatball in the palm of your hand while inserting the skewer through the center. Load each skewer with 3 meatballs, being sure to leave space between. With a basting brush, lightly brush both sides of the meatballs skewers with the olive oil.
Grill the meatballs:
With a grill brush, brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the meatball skewers over direct heat with the lid closed as much as possible, flipping once, until their internal temperature reaches 155ºF with an instant-read thermometer (about 8 to 14 minutes).
Serve the meatballs:
Remove the meatballs from the skewers, garnish with the parsley, and serve.
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