meatball and meatloaf texture

I've been looking for years for the right answer, and hoping I haven't come to this blog before. I would like to make meatballs and meatloaf with a tight but smooth texture -- almost bouncy -- like those I have had in some restaurants. I can't use pork. I think gelatin might be part of the solution? Baking soda? but maybe not. I think it has to do with how the protein in the meat acts? It's not exactly a holy grail search, but I would be so excited to find it at last! Thanks

Rosalind Paaswell
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14 Comments

Lori T. July 3, 2020
Not baking soda, but my Vietnamese friends swear by baking powder- about 1/2 teaspoon per pound of beef. They also tell me that you need to use 80/20 only - not leaner or fattier. Vietnamese meatballs are evidently judged by their bounce, and for being very smooth. Obtaining the right consistency is a matter of pride and a LOT of work. They get beaten, and dunked in cold water after cooking, for example. I'd suggest you look up recipes for Vietnamese style beef meatballs, such as used for noodle soups- and that might get you what you seek. Just be wary of recipes - because some will call for using lye or borax. They might work- but it seems kind of dangerous to me. And my friend uses baking powder and hers are to die for. But she doesn't have a specific recipe.😥
 
Rosalind P. July 3, 2020
Yes, yes. This sounds like it's on the right track. I have seen techniques for meatloaf/meatballs that call for all that beating and slapping. I'll certainly set off in that direction. Oh, and I promise to not use lye or borax. Yikes! Thanks for your kind and thoughtful answer.
 
Rosalind P. July 3, 2020
Well, I took your suggestion and looked at Vietnamese meatballs. It is truly a big undertaking, but it appears to be do-able with one problem: it requires a good amount of beef tendon, which, as far as I know, isn't a product sold at American meat counters. I looked that up too and found that beef tendon is a tasty and nutritious form of beef, and is sold -- when available -- on the internet. Very expensive, but maybe worth a try just once.
 
Lori T. July 3, 2020
If you have any oriental or Vietnamese food stores near you, or possibly even a Mexican food store- check with them, providing they sell meat, of course. It's popular in those cuisines, and they may be able to source it for you. Before plain pork belly got popular, I had to get mine there so we could have it grilled in Korean style, or make my own bacon. Just an idea, to save you ordering it special. Also, I asked my friend, and according to her, beef tendon is not necessarily required, and if she can't get it, she makes them without. The tendon adds "more taste" as she puts it, and is best for soup meatballs, but she says it's okay if you don't have it. Not my area of expertise, I'm just the messenger- and couldn't advise myself. Since it is mostly reduced to a gelatin, maybe adding some of that would work??
 
HalfPint July 3, 2020
I don't think you necessarily need beef tendon. My mother used baking powder and tapioca flour for her pork roll (cha lua, http://vietspices.blogspot.com/2012/01/cha-lua-vietnamese-ham-aka-vietnamese.html). Then she mixed it in food processor to make a paste. This made a very smooth and bouncy roll (sliced and delicious in banh mi's). I'm thinking you can do something similar for your meatballs/meatloaf, if that smooth bouncy texture is what you want.
 
Rosalind P. July 3, 2020
Really helpful. Thank you!
 
Lori T. July 3, 2020
Not baking powder, but my Vietnamese friends swear by baking powder- about 1/2 teaspoon per pound of beef. They also tell me that you need to use 80/20 only - not leaner or fattier. Vietnamese meatballs are evidently judged by their bounce, and for being very smooth. Obtaining the right consistency is a matter of pride and a LOT of work. They get beaten, and dunked in cold water after cooking, for example. I'd suggest you look up recipes for Vietnamese style beef meatballs, such as used for noodle soups- and that might get you what you seek. Just be wary of recipes - because some will call for using lye or borax. They might work- but it seems kind of dangerous to me. And my friend uses baking powder and hers are to die for. But she doesn't have a specific recipe.😥
 
Nancy July 2, 2020
Rosalind - there are loads of retro recipes if you ask your browser for something that you remember, like "school cafeteria meatloaf recipe." Good luck in maybe finding one like you used to eat.
 
Rosalind P. July 3, 2020
Retro recipes. Should be fun for other things too. Thanks!
 
Gammy July 1, 2020
Take a look at the Rao's Meatball recipe here on Food52. Although it calls for Beef, pork and veal, personally I make the basic recipe without the veal and they are STILL wonderful (no flames please..I KNOW there are people who say these can't be Rao's if I don't include veal!). They are smooth, soft and moist inside, which may not be the texture you are looking for but.... they are the BEST meatballs I have ever had. Simple to make and freeze great. https://food52.com/recipes/22467-rao-s-meatballs#comments
 
Rosalind P. July 1, 2020
Thank you so much for that fast response. I'm embarrassed to add this note too because it makes it seem as if I'm a diva, but I have a family member who won't be even in the same room with romano or parmesan cheese. But I know what I'm looking for doesn't necessarily need those cheeses (although I love them!), so my solution, if it's out there can't include them. But thanks again. (FWIW stopped trying to get into Rao's decades ago. Only for the rich and famous. Or the famous.) :-)
 
Gammy July 1, 2020
So sorry... your relative's obvious loss! Unfortunate, for with this recipe I feel the cheese is a very integral ingredient. Good luck with your search, but do try this amazing recipe sometime. It's as close as I will ever get to the real Rao's, too.
 
HalfPint July 3, 2020
Rao's meatballs, while very tender and delicious, are not what Rosalind is looking for. I'm inclined to agree with Lori T. Sounds like she wants Vietnamese/Chinese meatballs - smooth texture and bouncy (very fun to eat). So I second the use of baking powder. And my mother would beat heck out of the meat mixture :)
 
Rosalind P. July 4, 2020
Thanks! I think that Vietnamese way is the one to try.
 
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