A chef-approved tip for better meatballs, inspired by a soup dumpling technique

Gelatin and stock are all you need

Published February 26, 2023 6:59PM (EST)

Meatballs  (James Ransom )
Meatballs (James Ransom )

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

Thanks to Los Angeles-based chef David Kuo, a brilliant new hack for making meatballs has come to our attention: Enter, stock jelly.

Taking inspiration from classic xiao long bao (or soup dumpling) techniques, Chef Kuo incorporates coagulated stock into his meatball mixture so that—when cooked—warm, umami-rich liquid flows through each ball.

The technique

The process is simple. Begin by dissolving gelatin mix into heated store-bought stock (about 130 to 180°F) or by making a bone-heavy, gelatinous homemade stock. Next, chill the stock in the refrigerator until it becomes fully congealed. Finally, remove the stock jelly from the refrigerator and push it through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth so that it forms uniform, grain-sized pieces, then combine with your raw meatball mixture. As the meatballs cook, either in the oven or on the stove, the embedded pieces of jelly will transform into the moisture meatballs lack.

How it works 

The crux of this technique lies in creating stock jelly, a process that relies on your stock having ample collagen, which is what allows it to firm up. Since most store-bought stocks are relatively low in collagen, using an inexpensive gelatin packet to increase collagen makes this technique convenient enough that it could actually become part of anyone's meatball making process. Of course, if you have homemade, collagen-rich stock on hand—or enough bones in your refrigerator to make some—you absolutely can forgo the gelatin mix and enjoy even richer flavored-liquid coursing through your meatballs.

When to use stock jelly

Stock jelly works for any meatball situation you may find yourself in. As Chef Kuo established, Italian American style meatballs work great. But incorporating beef stock into Swedish meatballs or these gochujang meatballs would also make sense. If you're more interested in applying this to large-format meat, this technique is also perfect for your standard meatloaf.

By Paul Hagopian

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Chef Meatballs Soup Dumplings