This French trick is the key to the most tender meatballs ever.

Ask any nonna you know the secret to her tender meatballs, and it's likely a panade. I would go so far as to say that this is the most important ingredient when it comes to improving the texture of meatballs. Let's dive into what breaded is and how you can use it to make the most spoonable meatballs.

What is Panid?

Pinaud is a French word that translates to “bread mash,” which is an apt description of what it is: a mushy mixture of bread soaked in a liquid, usually milk. In the case of meatballs, this involves nothing more than soaking the bread in liquid for about five minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Then add the bread to your meatball mixture.

What originally became a means for Italian-American chefs to stretch expensive meats with soggy stale bread a little further, turned out to be crucial to the texture of meatballs.

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Why adding breaded results in more tender meatballs?

If you've ever cooked a burger or steak, you've probably noticed that the meat immediately begins to shrink when it hits the hot pan. This happens regardless of how the meat is cooked—grilled, boiled, baked, etc. This is because when muscle fibers are exposed to heat, they harden, and eventually moisture begins to escape, causing the piece of meat to shrink. .

When you add breaded to ground meat, it physically interferes with the proteins in the meat to bind together and harden. Unlike meat proteins, the starches in bread absorb liquids, swell and stay moist while cooking—just like when you cook pasta and rice. So the panaid absorbs and retains moisture as the meatballs cook. The result is melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs.

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How to add breaded to your meatball recipe.

When I'm making the meatballs, I put the bread in a mixing bowl, add enough milk to cover it, mash the mixture with a potato masher, and while I gather the rest of the ingredients for the meatballs. I let him sit. The five minutes it takes to do this pays off big time!

A pound of ground beef is a good starting point. 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh bread crumbs and 1/4 cup milk. If the bread crumbs seem dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the bread is moistened. It doesn't matter if I'm using beef, veal, pork, or a combination—I still use this loose recipe for panadi.

While milk is the classic wetting liquid, any liquid will do. I've used stock, wine, ricotta, and even a little marinara to add extra flavor to my meatballs. And when it comes to breadcrumbs, fresh is what I usually use, but you can use dry breadcrumbs. It is also traditional to break good quality white sandwich bread into small pieces. You may need to add a little more or less liquid to get it completely soaked.

The key is to make sure any liquid you use is completely absorbed by the breadcrumbs before you add the breaded to the meatball mixture. If any liquid is not absorbed after about five minutes, discard it before use. Panid is an insurance policy for your meatballs. It doesn't necessarily affect the taste, but it's absolutely critical to the texture.

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