Easy Smoked Meatballs Recipe

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I don’t know about you but sometimes, actually more often than not, I crave simple food like easy smoked meatballs. Those smoked meatballs deliver just that. Hearty and flavorful blend of ground beef and pork mixed with aromatic herbs and spices. 

Smoking meatballs can be a rewarding cooking method, especially for those who enjoy the rich, smoky flavors associated with barbecue. If you’ve never tried a smoked meatball before, I hope you will give it a try. I promise, you don’t even need BBQ sauce to love this recipe.

Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around

Those Easy Meatballs come together quickly. Pretzel breadcrumbs are giving them a unique texture and taste. Grated onion adds moisture and depth of flavor, while mustard adds a subtle tang that elevates the overall taste. Seasoned with thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper, these meatballs are a savory delight perfect for any occasion.

Customization is the best part of these smoked meatballs

Yes, this is the best part. You can customize the this smoked meatball recipe to your liking. Scroll down and read more about substitutions and variations you can use to make smoked meatballs fit your taste. 

Experiment with different kinds of breadcrumbs or options to use instead of eggs. All those suggestions sound great and I hope you will try different combinations. Click HERE to read more.

If you don’t have a smoker to smoke meatballs, don’t worry. Click HERE to read more about alternative cooking methods for juicy meatballs. 

Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around, close up
Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around

Why you will love these Smoked Meatballs:

Versatility – they can be made with various types of meat, seasonings, and sauces, allowing for endless flavor combinations. You can easily adapt them to your dietary preferences, vegetarian, vegan no problem.

Meal time – they can be served as appetizers, main courses, or added to soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and more.

Comfort Food – they are hearty, satisfying, and reminiscent of home-cooked meals, making them a beloved comfort food for many.

Ease of Preparation – they come together quickly, can be made in advance and frozen for later use. 

Texture – by using a variety of meats, veggies and experimenting with breadcrumbs you can very easily enhance the texture of the meatballs. If you decide to fry or bake them you are elevating it even more by creating a crispy exterior. 

Portability – as weird as this sounds, meatballs are portable 🙂 they are convenient finger food, making them a popular choice for parties, picnics, and gatherings. They can be served on skewers or toothpicks for easy snacking.

Family-Friendly – kids, picky eaters and everybody else loves meatballs.

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions  

Ground beef – provides a rich and meaty flavor to the meatballs and is the foundation for this meatball recipe. It adds juiciness and contributes to the overall texture. Look for a lean-to-medium fat content for a balance between flavor and tenderness. If you don’t have both ground beef and pork, you can use all ground beef or a combination of beef and veal for a similar flavor profile

Ground pork – adds moisture and tenderness to the smoked meatballs. It has a slightly sweeter flavor compared to beef, enhancing the overall taste. Choose ground pork with a bit of fat for juicier meatballs.

Eggs – act as a binder, holding the meatball mixture together. They provide structure and help prevent the meatballs from falling apart during cooking. Additionally, eggs add richness and contribute to a tender texture. Alternatively you can use breadcrumbs, yogurt or tomato sauce instead of eggs. Start with ¼ cup. 

Pretzel buns breadcrumbs – add a unique texture and flavor to the meatballs. They are slightly coarser and denser than regular breadcrumbs, providing a chewier consistency. The pretzel flavor adds a hint of saltiness and depth to the meatball mixture. You can use regular breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs as a substitute. You can also crush pretzels finely to make your own breadcrumbs.

Parmesan cheese – adds flavor and contributes to the texture and binding of the meatballs. It’s a versatile ingredient that enhances the overall taste of the dish.

Mustard – subtle tangy flavor to the meatballs, enhancing their overall taste profile. It also helps to balance the richness of the meat and adds a hint of complexity to the dish. You can use mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, horseradish, and tomato paste as a substitute for mustard. Keep in mind the flavor profile may be different. Adjust quantities accordingly. 

Onion – Grated onion adds moisture and flavor to the meatball mixture. It imparts a sweet and savory taste while also providing a subtle onion aroma. Grating the onion ensures it blends evenly throughout the meatballs. Alternatively, you can use onion powder for convenience.

Thyme – fragrant herb that adds earthy and floral notes to the meatballs. It complements the richness of the meat and enhances its savory flavor profile. You can experiment with other herbs such as parsley, oregano, or sage to suit your taste preferences. You can even swap in Italian seasoning instead.

Marjoram – slightly sweeter and milder flavor than oregano. It adds a subtle herbal and citrusy taste to the meatballs, enhancing their overall aroma and flavor.

Salt, pepper – Salt and pepper are essential seasonings that enhance the flavor of the meatballs. They help to balance the other flavors and bring out the natural taste of the ingredients. Adjust the amount according to your taste preferences.

Equipment you will need 

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Chefs knife
  • Vegetable grater
  • Cutting board
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Wood pellet smoker
meatballs served with barley and mushroom sauce

Top Tips before you start

Use a Mix of Ground Meats – this will add flavor and moisture to the meatballs. Aim for a mix of lean and fatty meats for the best texture and flavor balance.

Add Moisture – incorporate ingredients that add moisture to the meatball mixture, such as grated onion, minced garlic, or even a splash of broth or milk. This helps keep the meatballs juicy and prevents them from becoming dry.

Season Generously – don’t skimp on the seasoning. Use a generous amount of salt, pepper, and herbs/spices to flavor the meatball mixture. Taste the mixture before shaping the meatballs to ensure it’s well-seasoned.

Don’t Overmix  – mix the meatball ingredients until just combined. Overmixing can lead to dense and tough meatballs. Use a light touch and avoid compacting the mixture too much.

Use Binders Wisely – eggs, breadcrumbs, or oats help hold the meatball mixture together. Use them in moderation to prevent the meatballs from becoming too dense. Click HERE to read more about alternative binders.

Chill the Mixture – let the meatball mixture rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before shaping. Chilling helps the flavors meld together and makes the mixture easier to handle.

Shape Uniformly: Aim for uniform-sized meatballs to ensure even cooking. Use a cookie scoop or your hands to portion out the mixture and roll it into balls of consistent size. I actually weighted my meatballs, made them 30g each

Preheat the Pan – if frying meatballs, preheat the pan before adding them. This helps create a nice sear on the outside and prevents sticking.

Choose the Right Cooking Method: Consider the cooking method that best suits your recipe and preferences, whether it’s baking, frying, or simmering in sauce. Each method offers different flavors and textures. Click HERE to read more about different cooking methods. 

Test for Doneness – use a meat thermometer to ensure the meatballs are cooked through. They should reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) for beef, pork, or lamb, and 165°F (74°C) for poultry.

What you get when you smoke Meatballs?

  • Unique Flavor – Smoking imparts a distinct smoky flavor to the meatballs, adding depth and complexity to their taste profile.
  • Tender Texture – low and slow smoking process helps keep the meatballs moist and tender, resulting in juicy and succulent bites.
  • Hands-off Cooking – smoking meatballs requires minimal attention
  • Versatility – experiment with different flavors of wood pellets to infuse the meatballs with additional flavor notes

How To Smoke Meatballs (step by step instructions)

  • Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 225-250°F (107-121°C). Use your preferred type of wood chips or chunks for smoking, such as hickory, apple, or cherry.
  • Prepare the meat mixture: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork. Add the eggs, pretzel breadcrumbs, mustard, grated onion, parmesan cheese, thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper.

  • Gently mix the ingredients until well combined. Avoid overmixing, as this can result in dense meatballs.
  • Using your hands, shape the meat mixture into uniform size meatballs. Typically around 1 to 2 inches in diameter or 30 grams. Place meatballs on a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Place the baking sheet with the meatballs directly on the smoker rack

  • Close the lid of the smoker and smoke the meatballs for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, inserting it into the center of a meatball.
  • The meatballs should be firm to the touch and have a slightly crispy exterior from the smoking process. They should also be fully cooked through with no pink in the center.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy the smoked meatballs on their own as a flavorful snack or appetizer, or serve them with your favorite side dishes or BBQ sauce.
cooked meatballs on a baking sheet

Can I make Meatballs without breadcrumbs?

Yes, you can! Here are a few great options on what you can use instead of breadcrumbs.

Rolled Oats – they provide texture and help bind the ingredients together. Use them in the same quantity as you would breadcrumbs in the recipe.

Crushed Crackers – any kind should work, plain or flavored ones (savory type). They add a slightly different texture and flavor to the meatballs. Crush the crackers into fine or more coarse crumbs and use them in the same quantity as breadcrumbs.

Grated Parmesan Cheese – will add savory, cheesy flavor to meatballs.

Cooked Rice – whether white or brown, can be used as a binder. It adds moisture and texture to the meatball mixture. Use about the same amount of cooked rice as you would breadcrumbs.

Mashed Potatoes – use leftovers or prepare a small batch specifically for the meatballs. Adjust the quantity based on the desired texture of the meatballs.

Cornmeal or Polenta – will add slightly grainy consistency to meatballs. They also help absorb moisture and bind the ingredients together. 

Almond Meal or Ground Nuts – great gluten-free alternative to breadcrumbs. They add a nutty flavor and slightly different texture to the meatballs. Use them in the same quantity as breadcrumbs in the recipe.

meatballs on a plate with noodles and sauce

Can I make Meatballs without eggs?

Eggs are commonly used in meatball recipes as a binder to hold the ingredients together and provide structure. However, if you need to avoid eggs due to allergies or dietary preferences, there are alternative binders you can use:

Breadcrumbs – help absorb moisture and hold the meatball mixture together. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs for every pound of meat. You can adjust the amount based on the desired texture of the meatballs. Click HERE to read more about breadcrumbs alternatives

Mashed Potatoes – use about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes for every pound of meat. Be sure to let the potatoes cool before mixing them with the meat.

Mashed Beans – such as black beans or chickpeas, can serve as a binder and add additional flavor and nutrition to the meatballs. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mashed beans for every pound of meat. Drain and rinse canned beans before mashing them.

Yogurt or Sour Cream– use about 1/4 cup of yogurt or sour cream for every pound of meat. Mix it into the meatball mixture until well combined.

Tomato Sauce– will add flavor to the meatballs. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sauce for every pound of meat. Mix it into the meatball mixture until well combined.

When substituting for eggs, it’s important to adjust the other ingredients as needed to achieve the desired texture and flavor of the meatballs. Experiment with different binders to find the one that works best for your recipe and dietary needs.

Ways to enjoy Smoked Meatballs

  • Add to spaghetti  
  • Make a Subs or Sliders
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Make a Pizza
  • Meatball Appetizers with a dipping sauce (ex: barbecue sauce)
  • Meatball Soup
  • Make a Stir-Fry
  • With a side of baked beans
  • With Mushroom Sauce
Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around

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How to store and reheat smoked meatballs

  • Refrigeration:
    • Allow the cooked meatballs to cool completely,
    • Transfer them to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
    • Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • Freezing:
    • Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer until firm
    • Once frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag
    • Label with the date and store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months for the best quality and taste.  
  • Reheating:
    • From Refrigerator: Remove the desired number of meatballs from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for about 10-15 minutes.
      • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil. Heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.
      • Stovetop: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of oil or sauce. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5-7 minutes.
    • From Freezer:
      • Thawing: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Alternatively, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw them more quickly.
      • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the thawed meatballs on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil. Heat in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.
      • Stovetop: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of oil or sauce. Add the thawed meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 7-10 minutes.
      • Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can reheat individual servings of meatballs in the microwave. Place the meatballs in a microwave-safe dish, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat on high for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through.

Be sure to check the internal temperature of the meatballs with a meat thermometer to ensure they reach a safe temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving. Enjoy your delicious reheated meatballs!

Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around
Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around

Easy Smoked Meatballs

Sylwia Vaclavek
This recipe is your ticket to turning simple ingredients into something special. Smoking meatballs will give them flavor-packed makeover you did not know you needed.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 272 kcal

Equipment

  • large mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • chef's knife
  • vegetable grater
  • cutting board
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • wood pellet smoker

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup pretzel breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 medium onion grated
  • 1 tsp thyme and marjoram
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 225-250°F (107-121°C). Use your preferred type of wood chips or chunks for smoking, such as hickory, apple, or cherry.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork. Add the eggs, pretzel breadcrumbs, mustard, grated onion, parmesan cheese, thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper.
  • Gently mix the ingredients until well combined. Avoid overmixing, as this can result in dense meatballs.
  • Using your hands, shape the meat mixture into uniform size meatballs. Typically around 1 to 2 inches in diameter or 30 grams. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Place the baking sheet with the meatballs directly on the smoker rack
  • Close the lid of the smoker and smoke the meatballs for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, inserting it into the center of a meatball.
  • The meatballs should be firm to the touch and have a slightly crispy exterior from the smoking process. They should also be fully cooked through with no pink in the center.

Nutrition

Serving: 4pieceCalories: 272kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 18gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 99mgSodium: 134mgPotassium: 290mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 80IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 2mg
Keyword beef bone broth, from the smoker, meatballs, pork
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Did you make this recipe?

Smoked Meatballs Conclusion

Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Smoking meatballs isn’t just about cooking; it’s about giving these little guys a flavor-packed makeover. This recipe is your ticket to turning simple ingredients into something special. Ground beef, pork, a bunch of seasonings, and yeah, those unique pretzel breadcrumbs—mix them together and smoke them. What you get is far from ordinary.

Why bother with this smoked meatball recipe? First off, it’s easy. You mix, you roll, you smoke. Second, it’s customizable. Don’t like mustard? Swap it. No smoker? There are workarounds. (read more HERE). And the best part, it’s not just about the taste. It’s the texture, the juiciness, and that smoky vibe that turns a regular meal into a feast.

Meal prep-friendly, party-perfect, and yes, even portable—if that’s a thing you need. And if you’re a fan of that classic barbecue taste, don’t forget to pair these meatballs with some BBQ sauce for that extra zing. Whether it’s a casual dinner or something to impress the guests, these juicy meatballs have got you covered.

So, give it a go. Experiment with it. Make it your own. And most importantly, enjoy the heck out of these smoked meatballs.

Meatball Recipe FAQ

How do I prevent meatballs from falling apart?

To prevent meatballs from falling apart, make sure to use a combination of binders such as eggs, breadcrumbs, or oats to hold the ingredients together. Avoid overmixing the meatball mixture, as this can make it dense and tough. Additionally, be gentle when shaping the meatballs to avoid compacting the mixture too much.

Can I make meatballs ahead of time?

Yes, you can make meatballs ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. Allow cooked meatballs to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

Can I freeze uncooked meatballs?

Yes, you can freeze uncooked meatballs for future use. Arrange the shaped meatballs on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer until firm. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe container or resealable bag, separating layers with parchment paper, and store them in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

How do I reheat meatballs?

To reheat meatballs, you can place them in a saucepan with marinara sauce or broth and simmer gently until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat meatballs in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes or in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes.

Can I use different types of meat in meatballs?

Yes, you can use a variety of ground meats in meatballs, such as beef, pork, veal, turkey, chicken, or a combination of these. Each type of ground meat will impart its own unique flavor and texture to the meatballs.

What can I use instead of breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Great substitutions for breadcrumbs are rolled oats, crushed crackers or grated Parmesan cheese. Click HERE to read more about other alternatives.

How do I know when meatballs are cooked through?

The best way to determine if meatballs are cooked through is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the center of a meatball; it should register at least 160°F (71°C) for beef, pork, or lamb meatballs, and 165°F (74°C) for poultry meatballs.

Can I cook meatballs in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can cook meatballs in a slow cooker. Brown the meatballs first in a skillet, then transfer them to the slow cooker with your favorite BBQ sauce and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 2-3 hours, until tender and cooked through.

Can meatballs be made without eggs

Yes, there are multiple substitutes you can use instead. You can use breadcrumbs, yogurt or tomato sauce instead of eggs. Start with ¼ cup. Click HERE to read more.

Can meatballs be cooked in sauce

Yes, this is one of the methods of cooking meatballs. It may take a little longer than cooking them separately but it sure is worth the flavor infusion.

Are meatballs gluten-free?

It depends on the recipe and ingredients used. Traditional meatball recipes often include breadcrumbs, which contain gluten. However, you can make gluten-free meatballs by using gluten-free breadcrumbs or other binders like oats, rice, or almond meal.

Are meatballs good for you?

Meatballs can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet, especially if made with lean meats and wholesome ingredients. They provide protein, essential nutrients, and can be a versatile and satisfying meal option. However, the nutritional content can vary depending on the recipe and cooking method used.

Can meatballs be cooked from frozen?

Yes, meatballs can be cooked from frozen. Depending on the cooking method, you may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure they cook through evenly. Methods like baking, simmering in sauce, or using an air fryer are suitable for cooking frozen meatballs.  

Can meatballs be cooked in the oven?

Yes, meatballs can be cooked in the oven. Baking is a popular method for cooking meatballs, as it allows for even cooking and produces a nicely browned exterior. Simply arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven until cooked through.  

Can meatballs be pink inside?

No, meatballs should not be pink inside when fully cooked. The internal temperature of cooked meatballs should reach at least 160°F (71°C) for beef, pork, or lamb meatballs, and 165°F (74°C) for poultry meatballs to ensure they are safe to eat.

How many meatballs per person?

The number of meatballs per person can vary depending on factors such as the size of the meatballs, appetites, and whether they are served as a main dish or appetizer. As a general guideline, you can plan for about 4-6 meatballs per person as a main course.

What can meatballs go with?

Meatballs can be served in various ways and pair well with a variety of side dishes. They can be served over pasta with marinara sauce, in a sandwich or sub, on a salad, with rice or quinoa, or as part of a party platter with dipping sauces like BBQ sauce.

How can I add smoky flavor to the meatballs?

  • Use smoked salt or seasoning blends that include smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or smoked garlic.
  • Using a smoker box when cooking on your grill or even smoker. Fill it with wood chips, and place it directly on the grill grates. As the chips heat up, they will release smoke, infusing the meatballs.
  • Have you heard about smoking gun. This device allows you to infuse smoke directly into your dish.
  • Grill your meatballs over wood or charcoal for an authentic smoky flavor.

What are other ways of cooking meatballs?

  • Simmering in Sauce:
    • It infuses them with flavor and helps keep them moist and tender.
  • Baking in the Oven:
    • Hands-off method that allows for easy batch cooking. Evenly cooked meatballs with a nicely browned exterior. 
  • Frying in a Pan:
    • Crispy exterior while keeping the interior tender and juicy. It’s a quick cooking method that adds a rich flavor from the caramelization of the meatballs.
  • Instant Pot:
    • Time-Saving – it can reduce the cooking time. One-Pot Meal – you can brown the meatballs and cook them in the sauce all in one pot. Moist and Tender – pressure cooking helps lock in moisture. This can be particularly beneficial for leaner cuts of meat. 
  • Air Fryer:
    • Quick Cooking – air fryers cook food rapidly due to their high-powered convection heating. Crispy Texture – air fryers produce meatballs with a crispy exterior and tender interior. Healthier Option – air fryers require little to no oil for cooking, resulting in lower fat content compared to fried meatballs.
Meatballs on a serving platter; small side dishes around

Check out more easy smoker recipes from My Omni Kitchen

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