How to Defrost Meatballs

Homemade meatballs can be frozen and then thawed to give you a quick meal that requires almost no prep.

You can defrost meatballs in the refrigerator by leaving them overnight, or you can use the thaw setting on a microwave. If you want to speed up the defrosting process without a microwave, you can put bagged meatballs in a bowl of cold water.

Meatballs should never be defrosted on the countertop at room temperature, as the USDA explains that this can cause bacteria to multiply.

Can Meatballs be Frozen?

Yes, meatballs freeze really well and they are great for a stress-free midweek meal. You can freeze your meatballs in their raw state, and then cook them through after they have been thawed. Alternatively, if you really want to save time you can cook your meatballs first and then freeze them, so when it’s time for dinner you can just heat them back through in a microwave or in a simmering sauce.

If you have leftover meatballs which are already in tomato sauce, you can pour the whole thing into a freezer bag and freeze it ready for a super quick and tasty supper.

How to Freeze Raw Meatballs

To freeze raw meatballs you first need to prepare them according to your chosen recipe. Meatballs are typically made from ground meats such as beef, pork, or turkey, along with a binder such as eggs, and breadcrumbs or panko to fill them out. Dried or fresh herbs such as oregano or rosemary are also a delicious addition to homemade meatballs.

  1. Once the meatballs have been formed into small ball shapes, you will need to prepare a baking tray that is large enough to fit all of the meatballs on without them touching each other, yet it needs to be small enough to fit in your freezer.
  2. Lay out a layer of parchment paper on the tray, and then set the raw meatballs on the parchment paper, not allowing them to touch one another to avoid sticking.
  3. Now the meatballs need to be flash frozen. Do this by putting your baking tray of meatballs into the freezer for 2 hours. This will freeze them just enough so that they won’t stick together when they do touch.
  4. Move all of the flash-frozen meatballs into an airtight freezer-safe container or a freezer bag, and put them in the freezer. They can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. Be sure to put a label on your freezer bag with the date, so you know when the meatballs need to be used by then.

How to Freeze Cooked Meatballs

Cooking your meatballs after you’ve made them can save you a lot of time when it comes to preparing your meal, and they freeze just as well as raw meatballs. Follow your meatball recipe and then cook them in your preferred way, for example in the oven, in the air fryer, or on the stovetop.

  1. Allow the meatballs to cool down to room temperature.
  2. Prepare a baking tray or cookie tray with a sheet of parchment paper, and lay the meatballs out on the paper so that they don’t touch each other.
  3. Flash-freeze the meatballs by putting the baking tray into the freezer for two hours.
  4. After the meatballs have been flash frozen, they can be bagged into a freezer bag or airtight container and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.

How Long to Defrost Meatballs?

How Long to Defrost Meatballs

The length of time frozen meatballs need to defrost will depend on the method you choose. The most recommended and safest way to defrost meatballs is in the refrigerator, though this is also the most lengthy option. You can defrost meatballs in the microwave if you use the defrost or thaw setting, and this typically takes around 10 minutes.

How to Defrost Meatballs

Meatballs can be defrosted in various ways. The option you choose may depend on whether your meatballs were frozen raw or cooked, or on how quickly you need your meatballs to be ready to eat.

Defrost Meatballs in the Refrigerator

Defrosting meatballs in the refrigerator is the easiest and most fool-proof method. Since meats which have been defrosted improperly can be dangerous to eat, you should use this method if you have any concerns about defrosting meatballs.

Move your meatballs from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow them to defrost overnight. Typically they will require 24 hours to defrost, so if you want them for dinner on a Wednesday, you should get them out of the freezer on Tuesday afternoon.

Defrost Meatballs in Cold Water

If you need your meatballs quickly then you can defrost them in cold water. Empty the meatballs from their airtight container into an airtight bag, expelling as much air as you can. Fill a large bowl up with cool tap water and put the bag of meatballs in it. Never use warm water as this can cause the meatballs to reach an unsafe temperature where bacteria can multiply.

The water will need to be changed every 30 minutes for fresh cool water. This method can thaw meatballs in as little as an hour, depending on how many meatballs you have. You should allow 30 minutes of defrosting time for every pound of meatballs.

Defrost Meatballs in the Microwave

Frozen meatballs can be defrosted in the microwave on the thaw setting. Check your microwave manual for advice, but typically meatballs will need around 10 minutes to defrost in the microwave. You can then cook them immediately using your chosen method.

Can Meatballs be Cooked from Frozen?

Can Meatballs be Cooked from Frozen

If you cook your meatballs before you freeze them, then they won’t necessarily need to be defrosted and you can cook them straight out of the freezer. You could warm them in the microwave and eat them right away, or you could add them to a pot of simmering tomato sauce which will warm them through.

You could also add frozen cooked meatballs to a casserole dish of sauce in the oven, or cook them naked on a baking tray to warm them through. Cooked meatballs that have been frozen can also be thawed in the same way as raw meatballs if you’d prefer to defrost them before warming them through.

If you have frozen your cooked meatballs in a bag of sauce, then you’ll want to defrost the bag before warming it through on the stovetop, or you could defrost the bag in the microwave and then heat it through in the microwave for a super quick meal.

If your frozen meatballs are raw, then you can cook them from frozen in a pinch. This won’t achieve the best results, but it will be safe to eat. You can put your frozen raw meatballs right into an air fryer, oven, or pan on the stovetop.

They will usually take twice as long to cook compared to defrosted meatballs, and they won’t get their golden crispy outer edges from cooking. This is because the frozen water content in the meatballs will melt and seep out during the cooking process, which will give the meatballs a consistency closer to having been boiled.

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