Skip to main content

This is the simple secret to making incredible meatloaf and meatballs

Upgrade your meatloaf and meatballs with this tip

Meatballs
Rachel Claire/Pexels

Suppose you make a lot of dishes with ground beef. In that case, you know that this conveniently shrinkwrapped ingredient can come with one very annoying risk – crumbly, can’t-reach-for-the-water-fast-enough, completely unappetizing dryness. Of course, many of us – thanks to knowledgable mothers and grandmothers – grew up armed, knowing this risk, prepared to tackle it head-on in our most beloved ground beef dishes. And while you, too, may know the secret to keeping your meatloaf, meatballs, or even burgers from drying out, you may not know that this technique has a name. It’s called a panade.

A panade (puh-NOD) is simply a pasted mixture of bread and liquid that’s added to ground beef recipes like meatloaf or meatballs to make them moist and tender. Most often made of humble white bread and milk, this paste is the absolute best way to guarantee your ground beef dishes stay tender and moist instead of turning to flavorless meat bricks in your marinara sauce.

How does a panade work?

The combination of starch and liquid in a panade keeps the proteins in the ground beef from tightening and shrinking during the cooking process. As the meat cooks, the panade turns into a sort of moisture-making lubricant that settles between protein fibers, keeping them from getting tough.

The method couldn’t be simpler and is made using ingredients you’re probably already putting in your recipe – bread and milk (or another liquid such as broth). Simply soak your bread in milk and wait for the milk to absorb into the bread completely. This should only take a minute or two. Once absorbed, mash the two ingredients together into a paste, and you’ve just made a panade. A humble yet powerful little super-ingredient that will give you the most deliciously moist meatballs or meatloaf you’ve ever tasted.

Raw meatballs
congerdesign/Pixabay

Panade recipe

This recipe is for one pound of ground beef and is easily scalable if your recipe calls for more or less.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Add bread and milk to a medium bowl, and let sit until the milk is absorbed about two minutes.
  2. Mash until smooth, then mix it into your recipe.
Meatloaf
Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

Panade tips and tricks

  • Adding a panade to burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs is a great way to add moisture, but keep flavors in mind, too. Depending on your dish, feel free to mix up the flavors of your bread to complement the other flavors in the recipe. Whole wheat, sourdough, rye, and pumpernickel bread will all add their own special flavor characteristics.
  • In our opinion, the added fat of milk creates a more tender panade and, therefore, dish. If you’re avoiding dairy, though, you can definitely use broth or stock instead of milk.

Editors' Recommendations

Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
Chamomile tea only gets healthier when you add lavender — here’s why
Lavender chamomile tea benefits: What you need to know
single tea bag, white background

Searching the tea aisle at your local grocery store can get overwhelming with so many different varieties and purposes for herbal teas. One of the most popular herbal teas used for a variety of health purposes is chamomile tea. Chamomile tea benefits are quite diverse, supporting important aspects of health like digestive health and heart health.

One specific variety of chamomile tea, lavender chamomile tea, pairs two medicinal plants into one tea to offer more health benefits in each cup. Lavender chamomile tea is described as having a light, floral, and earthy taste and can be enjoyed on its own or with a drop of honey, stevia, or other sweetener. While this tea is more commonly consumed as a warm herbal tea, it can also be steeped in cold water and ice to be enjoyed as a cold tea.

Read more
Why you can (and should) add bourbon right to your banana bread batter without cooking it first
Bourbon alcohol cooks out as banana bread bakes - genius!
Banana bread

Cooking with booze is one of the best ways to achieve a robust and delicious complexity of flavor. For any number of dishes, we braise, poach, deglaze, and sauce with everything in the liquor cabinet, from wine to tequila to rum, and our food is better for it. And while you may have incorporated beer into your cupcakes or poached pear in a simmering pool of red wine, you may not yet fully appreciate the flavor spirits can bring to baked goods. Banana bread is one of the most delicious, comforting, feels-like-home treats there is, and it's hard to imagine it getting any better than it already is in its mildly sweet, toasty perfection. Enter bourbon.

It turns out that splashing a bit of bourbon into banana bread batter can take Grandma's recipe and elevate it to something one might find in an upscale restaurant. Here's why.

Read more
How to make a nutritious smoothie you’ll actually want to drink
This guide will give you more insight than you ever thought you could have on smoothies
Man preparing a breakfast smoothie in the kitchen

We've all experienced it. That moment where your partner or friend hands you a glass of some sort of unidentifiable, brownish-green, lumpy goo they call a smoothie -- expecting you to guzzle it down with delight. Not to hurt their feelings, you do, holding back tears and your gag reflex.

A huge misconception out there is that you can blend up any combination of healthy ingredients and expect the result to taste like a smoothie from your favorite local juice bar. Sadly, this is not the case. Like with any food recipe, smoothies need to follow specific guidelines to get the best end product. You also need to add ingredients with complementary flavors.

Read more