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If you're short on time for party prep, your crock-pot can do much of the work for you -- even while you're at work. For about the same amount of effort as it takes to assemble a platter of chips and dip, you can make hearty barbecue meatballs. Prepare the ingredients the night before or use pre-prepared ingredients; throw them together before work; and when you come home, you'll have a savory crowd-pleasing appetizer that doesn't leave you scrambling for time.

Easy DIY Meatballs

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Don't put raw, uncooked meatballs into a crock-pot; they release so much grease, and they tend to fall apart. Making your own meatballs isn't hard, but it does take more time, since you need to bake them before you add them to the slow cooker.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, for every 24 meatballs you wish to prepare, add 2 pounds of ground beef or a mixture of beef, pork and turkey to a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, one teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Combine the ingredients thoroughly; then roll out your meatballs, pacing them on a baking sheet. Bake until the center reaches 160 degrees F; then add them to the crock-pot.

Quick Homemade BBQ Sauce

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If you don't have or you don't like prepared barbecue sauce, you can whip up a batch of homemade with a few common pantry items. Whisk together 2 cups of ketchup, 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. For a little heat, add a few drops of your favorite hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper. Leave out the soy sauce if you don't have it; instead, add a pinch of salt.

Keeping Warm in the Crock-Pot

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You don't need to use a crock-pot to prepare your meatballs. Toss them in the barbecue sauce of your choice, and bake them for about 5 to 10 minutes to warm the sauce.

Once you've finished preparing your barbecue meatballs, add them to your crock-pot and turn the cooker to the "keep warm" or lowest heat setting. If you notice the sauce bubbling, turn the cooker off to prevent the meatballs from burning. Keep in mind that, according to WebMD, it's only safe for foods to sit out between 40 and 140 degrees F for two hours. At that point, you'll need to increase the temperature or store the meatballs in the refrigerator.

Frozen Meatballs

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If you have minimal prep time, the easiest way to make barbecue meatballs is to take advantage of pre-prepared products. Use one 32-ounce bag of frozen meatballs and one 18-ounce bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce. Add them to the crock-pot and stir until all the meatballs have been covered in sauce. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website.

Double or triple the recipe for larger crock-pots.