Frozen meatballs -- either raw or precooked -- are a handy way to pull together a fast supper or cocktail finger food. Heating the meatballs in the oven, microwave or slow-cooker requires the least amount of work, while you can also simmer them on the stovetop to reheat them quickly. Broiling the meatballs gives them a crispy exterior, but demands a bit more attention.
Precooked or Raw?
Meatballs that are precooked then frozen need only to be reheated before eating. Raw homemade meatballs must be thoroughly cooked before they can be consumed. All meatballs, whether precooked or raw, must be heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety. Add the meatballs to pasta sauces for a fast meal, or serve them with toothpicks as a substantial snack. Add sauce and serve them in a hot dog bun for a sandwich.
Pan or Slow-Cooker
On the stove or in a slow-cooker, heat meatballs in a sauce to keep them moist, while ensuring that they cook evenly. Add at least 1/4 cup of liquid -- such as stock, tomato sauce or barbecue sauce -- to a pan for every 1 1/2 cups of meatballs. Cover and simmer on the stove at a medium-low setting for 15 minutes for precooked meatballs and for 25 minutes for raw meatballs. For slow-cooker meatballs, use a 1-to-2 ratio of liquid to frozen meatballs -- raw or precooked -- and cook on the low setting for eight hours. Add chopped fresh vegetables to make your dish more substantial.
Both raw and cooked meatballs can be heated from frozen in the microwave. To cook them evenly, however, turn the meatballs frequently while reheating. Place frozen meatballs in a microwave-safe dish and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open for steam to escape during cooking. Cook them on high for three minutes, then stir the meatballs so the ones on the edge of the plate are in the center. Cook them on high for another three minutes before stirring them again, then cook at one-minute intervals until the internal temperature reads 160 F.
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Baking Frozen Meatballs in Oven
Baking or broiling gives meatballs a crispy, browned exterior that you don’t get with other methods. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a baking sheet. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer. Place the tray in a center rack and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 160 F. To broil the meatballs, preheat the oven to 500 F, and place the tray 3 inches from the top of the oven. Pay close attention when cooking frozen meatballs, turning them every five minutes to prevent charring. Broil them for 20 minutes until the internal temperature reads 160 F.
Summertime Grill Meatball Meals
Give your meatballs a fresh summer taste by threading them on skewers and cooking them on an outdoor grill. Thaw the meatballs in the refrigerator overnight for easier handling. Prep your additional ingredients ahead of time, then create the mixed skewers in batches. Your creativity is the only limit when it comes to flavor varieties. Thread the meatballs on the sticks, alternating them with fruits or vegetables to create an attractive mixed grill. If your meatballs were raw, cook them to the side over low heat until the internal temp reads 165 degrees. Cooked meatballs are quicker, and only need to be heated and browned by the flames. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, give your skewers a final touch by brushing on a tasty sauce such as teriyaki, sweet and sour, barbecue, or steak sauce.
David Grimes has worked professionally as a chef since 2002, in settings as wide-ranging as a corporate caterer and as a sous chef in a Michelin-starred French restaurant. He has been writing about food since 2009 and published in "Time Out New York" and "Food and Wine" magazine.