Oil splatters, burns, even some charred edges are par for the course when frying meatballs in a greasy frying pan. But browning meatballs doesn’t have to be such a messy chore. Achieve the same browned goodness by baking the meatballs in the oven instead. While baking instead of frying may take some getting used to, the outcome is the same -- if not better. The only thing lacking is the lengthy cleanup.
Lightly coat a baking tray with olive oil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the uncooked meatballs on the baking tray so that they are not touching. Pop the tray in the oven and brown the meatballs for about 25 minutes, flipping them over with a pair of tongs halfway through the cooking time for even browning. Check for doneness before removing the meatballs from the oven.
Cooking Them Through
Although the meatballs may indeed be browned after 25 minutes in a 375 degree F oven, it doesn’t mean that they are thoroughly cooked. Thorough cooking time depends on the size of the meatballs. To protect yourself from foodborne illnesses associated with undercooked meat, heat the meatballs to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F if using ground beef, pork, veal or lamb. Heat the meatballs to 165 degrees F for ground turkey or chicken.
It’s a common misconception that a meatball is thoroughly cooked when it is no longer pink in the center. A visual check of the meatballs is not a reliable way to check for doneness. The only way to definitely know whether the center of a meatball is at the recommended temperature is to use a cooking thermometer. Press the thermometer into the center of a few meatballs to test for doneness. Bake the meatballs longer if necessary.
To minimize cleanup, covering the baking tray with heavy-duty aluminum foil before placing the meatballs in the pan. A meatball baking pan is another alternative, if you would like to skip the baking tray altogether. This special pan contains a rack that allows grease to drip from the meatballs as they brown. The meatball pan also allows air to circulate around the meatballs as they brown, so no flipping is necessary.