meatballs came out really tough? Any idea what went wrong? It seemed to me that the ratio of breadcrumbs was too high, but I went with it....

  • Posted by: ATG117
  • October 23, 2014


Susan W. November 6, 2014
Something I just noticed. On this site, it calls for 2.5 lbs of lamb and 2 cups breadcrumbs. On the blog, it's 1.5 cups of breadcrumbs. That's a bit of a difference. We're going to grind the lamb ourselves and go with 1.5 cups of breadcrumbs.
Greenstuff November 6, 2014
I'm reviving this question, as I just noticed that Food52er fiveandspice (Emily Vikre) wrote about this recipe on her blog at

Emily loves these meatballs. She does not grind her own lamb. She uses 2 and a half cups of ground lamb to 1 and a half cups of breadcrumbs, which might seem a lot. But not so different from my own favorite lamb meatball recipe from Penelope Casas's book Tapas (2 pounds lamb to a cup of crumbs).
Susan W. November 6, 2014
I could have sworn the recipe spoke of fresh ground lamb. Making it next weekend. We'll follow the recipe exactly.
ATG117 November 6, 2014
They had great flavor, but were incredibly tough. I wish the recipe testers on this site would weigh in. But thanks for reviving!
ATG117 November 6, 2014
Susan W, can't wait for the report!
ChezHenry November 3, 2014
The breadcrumbs actually make the meatballs soft, not the other way around. I would pulse some white bread in the food processor and use that.
As for proportions, the famous Meatball Shop here in NYC has many of their recipes online and in a cookbook. I just made their Spicy Pork Meatballs this weekend, they use 3 1/2 cups of "fresh" breadcrumbs per 2 lbs of pork. The meatballs are soft, delicious, tender. I find baking the meatballs at a high temperature is also helpful. Seek out some of their recipes and follow their cues.
ATG117 November 2, 2014
Wondering if you ever made them and how they came out for you?
Susan W. November 2, 2014
How funny...I was just thinking today that I needed to find this thread. I did make them. Some I made with no crumbs, some I made with crumbs from homemade bread, but I kept the volume small. To be honest, both versions were tasty, but tough. I have come to the conclusion that grinding your own lamb would make a world of difference.

I had a meat grinder once upon a time. I started grinding my own burger meat using chuck, brisket and short ribs. Everyone went crazy for these burgers and the grinding was the only unique thing I did. That and homemade mayo and catsup, but was the fresh grind. It made such tender burgers.

I'm going to make them at a friend's house who has a meat grinder later this month. I'll come back and report the results. :)
Susan W. October 23, 2014
Atg, what do you think about adding some of the fresh herbs to the meatballs? I am usually very adamant about following recipes as written the first time, but fresh herbs are calling to me in these meatballs.
Susan W. October 23, 2014
Orrr...with all the flavors elsewhere, would it be best to let them simply taste like lamb?
ATG117 October 23, 2014
I would not add the herbs to the meatballs, but instead add them at the end as instructed. The flavors are good, its just the meat that was so disappointing. I was hoping for meatballs that were fluffy and light and mine were dense and really tough. Also worth mentioning, I added about half the amount of water called for because I did not want to have to puree half of it.
Susan W. October 23, 2014
That does seem like a ton of breadcrumbs. Typically, I use 1/2 cup and one egg to 2 lbs of meat. Also, when I mix meatballs, I mix until just barely mixed with my hands. As in there are still portions of unmixed ground meat distributed throughout. I don't know why yogurt sometimes does that and sometimes doesn't.

I am getting close to making this. I'll let you know if cutting the breadcrumbs back helps. I may try no breadcrumbs in half of the meat.
ATG117 October 23, 2014
If you add the yogurt, I would do it after the eggs have cooked, because as mentioned, the whites take a lot longer to set than you think they will .

I don't think I over mixed the meat. It is something I am cognizant of. I would really be careful with the breadcrumbs. I used panko, but if her book specifies crumbs you make from stale bread, the recipe should prob be edited.
Susan W. October 23, 2014
I was going to use panko because I never have bread in the house. I may swipe some baguette from a friend's house though. I will add the yogurt at the very end.
ATG117 October 23, 2014
I did not grind my own lamb, and so maybe given that...I would cut down a whole lot on the breadcrumbs, if not eliminate them completely. That was my intuition, but I wanted to make it the first time as written. I eyed the salt as I always do. She calls for flaky maldon, so that may be the reason the quantity looks higher. I did salt the meat rather generously...The only other issues I ran into: the greek yogurt made the sauce look curdled once you dug in and things started swishing around (even though I used full fat and added it at the end), the eggs also took longer than expected to cook. The flavor was otherwise good. The meatballs, though...sorely disappointing.
aargersi October 23, 2014
Hi there - two things come to mind - in the recipe itself she states that overworking the meat makes for tough meatballs - perhaps that is the problem? I also checked the actual cookbook - her note on breadcrumbs: she means stale bread that you have pulsed in a processor, not store bought ones. Maybe denser bread crumbs caused an issue?
aargersi October 23, 2014
One other thought - I always soak my breadcrumbs in a little milk or buttermilk before mixing them in. I do NOT grind my own lamb when I make this and I do soak the bread, and mine have come out nice and tender. April would likely smack me upside the head for that but there you go ...
EmilyC October 23, 2014
I agree with Abbie's ideas here. What type of lamb did you use? If it was too lean, maybe that contributed as well? Curious, because I've had my eyes on this recipe. Also, did you use the 2.5 T of salt called for in the recipe or did you season to taste? That seems like a lot of salt, but then again, I balked at the amount of salt in her porridge recipe but then I tried it and saw the light!
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