Undercooked Meatballs: Causes, Fixes, and Prevention Tips

Every product is independently reviewed and selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Undercooked meatballs can be a common kitchen mishap, but fear not – there are ways to salvage the situation and ensure your meatballs are safe and delicious.

In this article, we’ll explore how to fix undercooked meatballs and share tips on preventing this culinary predicament in the first place.

Is it OK to eat slightly undercooked meatballs?

No, It is not okay to eat slightly undercooked meatballs because eating undercooked meatballs can pose health risks, and you can get sick from undercooked meatballs as it may contain harmful bacteria, parasites, or other pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.

Cooking meatballs thoroughly is important to ensure that they reach a safe internal temperature, typically 160°F (71°C) for ground meat, according to food safety guidelines.

Eating slightly undercooked meatballs increases the risk of ingesting harmful microorganisms that may be present in the raw or undercooked meat.

These microorganisms can cause food poisoning, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

How can you tell if meatballs are undercooked?

There are several visual and tactile cues that can help you determine if meatballs are undercooked:


Cooked meat typically changes color as it cooks. Ground meat, such as that used in meatballs, will turn from pink to brown when fully cooked.

If the meatballs are still pink or have a significant amount of pinkness inside, they may be undercooked.


Fully cooked meatballs should have a firm and springy texture. If they are mushy or overly soft, they might be undercooked. When pressed with a fork or spatula, they should hold their shape well.

Internal Appearance:

Cut a meatball open to inspect the inside. It should have a uniform color with no traces of pink or rawness. The interior should be cooked through, not raw or translucent.


When you cut into a well-cooked meatball, you should not see any pink juices. If there are pink or bloody juices, the meatballs may need more cooking.


As mentioned earlier, using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine if meatballs are cooked.

The internal temperature should reach at least 160°F (71°C) for ground meat, including meatballs.

It’s important to note that visual cues alone may not always be reliable, especially with larger or thicker meatballs.

Using a meat thermometer is the safest way to ensure that meatballs are cooked to a safe and appropriate temperature, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

How do you fix undercooked meatballs?

Undercooked meatballs can be a frustrating setback, but fear not! There are several ways to fix this problem and ensure your meatballs are cooked to perfection.

In this section, we will explore three different methods to fix undercooked meatballs, including returning them to the oven, finishing them on the stove, or breaking them apart and cooking them again.

Let’s dive in!

Returning To The Oven

If you find that your meatballs are undercooked in the center, returning them to the oven is a simple solution.

  • First, preheat your oven to the same temperature used when initially cooking the meatballs.
  • Place the undercooked meatballs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, ensuring they are evenly spaced apart. This allows them to cook more evenly.
  • Once the oven is preheated, carefully transfer the meatballs back into the oven and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Keep a close eye on them to avoid overcooking. This method should help ensure your meatballs are thoroughly cooked throughout.

Finishing On The Stove

If you prefer a quicker method, finishing undercooked meatballs on the stove is another option.

  • Start by heating a large skillet over medium heat and adding a small amount of cooking oil.
  • Place the undercooked meatballs into the skillet, ensuring they are evenly spaced.
  • Cook the meatballs for a few minutes on each side until they are browned and cooked through.
  • To ensure they are fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should read 165°F (74°C) for ground meat.
  • Once cooked, remove the meatballs from the skillet and drain any excess oil.

This method provides a fast and effective way to salvage your undercooked meatballs.

Breaking Apart And Cooking Again

If your meatballs are severely undercooked, breaking them apart and cooking them again is an alternative fix.

  • Begin by breaking the undercooked meatballs into smaller pieces with your hands or a fork.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of cooking oil.
  • Once heated, add the broken-up meatball pieces to the skillet and cook until they are thoroughly browned and cooked through.

This method ensures that every piece of the meatball is cooked properly, even if the initial cooking time was insufficient.

Regularly stir the meatball pieces and check their doneness with a meat thermometer to ensure they are properly cooked.

How to Prevent Meatballs From Being Undercooked?

Undercooked meatballs can pose a serious health risk, causing potential foodborne illnesses.

Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that meatballs are cooked properly to a safe internal temperature.

Here are some important factors to consider in preventing undercooked meatballs:

Cooking Time And Temperature

Cooking time and temperature play a vital role in ensuring that meatballs are thoroughly cooked.

It is recommended to:

  • Cook meatballs at a temperature of at least 165°F (74°C), which is the minimum safe internal temperature for ground meats according to the USDA.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature and avoid relying solely on visual cues.
  • Follow the recommended cooking time according to the size and type of meatballs. Larger meatballs may require a longer cooking duration.

Proper Handling And Storage Of Ingredients

The proper handling and storage of ingredients are essential to ensure the safety and quality of meatballs.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Keep all ingredients refrigerated before preparation to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Thaw frozen ingredients like ground meatballs in the refrigerator, not at room temperature, to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and other ingredients.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat to avoid spreading bacteria.

Pre-cooking The Ingredients

Pre-cooking the ingredients before forming the meatballs can serve as an additional step to ensure the meatballs are fully cooked. Here’s how:

  1. Cook ground meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to eliminate any potential bacteria.
  2. Cool the cooked meat completely before combining it with other ingredients to form the meatballs.
  3. Continue cooking the meatballs until they reach the recommended internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

By following these measures and guidelines, you can significantly minimize the risk of undercooked meatballs and enjoy a safe and delicious culinary experience.

Tips For Ensuring Meatballs Are Cooked Thoroughly

When it comes to cooking meatballs, ensuring they are cooked thoroughly is crucial for food safety.

Here are 3 tips for ensuring meatballs are cooked thoroughly to perfection.

Using A Meat Thermometer

Utilize a meat thermometer to accurately gauge the internal temperature of the meatballs.

The recommended safe internal temperature for ground meat products, including meatballs, is 160°F.

Insert the thermometer into the center of the meatball to ensure it has reached the safe temperature.

Checking For Consistent Color And Texture

Inspect the meatballs for a consistent color and texture throughout. Fully cooked meatballs should have no signs of pinkness inside and should be firm to the touch. Cut into a meatball to check for any visual signs of rawness or undercooking.

Opting For Smaller Sized Meatballs

Consider making smaller-sized meatballs to ensure thorough cooking. Smaller meatballs cook more quickly and evenly, reducing the risk of undercooking.

Aim for uniformity in size to promote even cooking.

Alternative Cooking Methods to Avoid Undercooked Meatballs

When it comes to cooking meatballs, there’s no denying that the traditional method is to cook them on the stovetop in a sauce.

However, there are alternative cooking methods that can yield delicious and perfectly cooked meatballs.

Whether you’re looking for a healthier option or simply want to switch things up, these methods offer unique flavors and textures that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

Baking The Meatballs

If you’re looking for a hands-off approach to cooking meatballs, baking is the way to go.

This method allows the meatballs to cook evenly through and ensures a crispy exterior with a tender interior.

To bake the meatballs, simply follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it to prevent sticking.
  3. Roll the meat mixture into evenly sized balls and place them on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

By baking the meatballs, you not only avoid the risk of undercooking them but also reduce the amount of added fats typically used during stovetop cooking.

The result? Healthier and equally delicious meatballs that are perfect for any occasion.

Boiling The Meatballs

Another alternative cooking method for meatballs is boiling, which can be a great option when you’re short on time.

Boiling the meatballs ensures that they cook quickly and thoroughly, while also infusing them with flavor from the broth.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Bring a pot of water or broth to a boil.
  2. Season the liquid with your desired spices, such as garlic powder, onion powder, or Italian herbs.
  3. Gently drop the meatballs into the boiling liquid and let them cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once cooked through, remove the meatballs from the liquid and serve as desired.

Boiling the meatballs is a quick and easy method that results in moist and flavorful meatballs.

Plus, the broth can be used as a base for a delicious sauce or soup, adding extra depth of flavor to your dish.

Grilling The Meatballs

Grilling is often associated with burgers and steaks, but it can also be a fantastic way to cook meatballs.

Not only does grilling impart a smoky and charred flavor, but it also creates a unique texture that you won’t get with other cooking methods.

To grill your meatballs, follow these simple steps:

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Thread the meatballs onto skewers to prevent them from falling through the grill grates.
  3. Brush the meatballs with a little oil or marinade to prevent sticking and enhance flavor.
  4. Grill the meatballs for approximately 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are cooked through.

Grilling the meatballs adds a delightful smokiness and a bit of char that enhances their taste.

The aroma wafting from the grill is sure to entice everyone around and make your mealtime a memorable experience.

How long does take it to fully cooked meatballs?

The cooking time for meatballs can vary based on factors such as their size, the cooking method, and the oven temperature.

Oven-Baking Meatballs:

  • Preheat the oven to around 375°F (190°C).
  • Small to medium-sized meatballs may take approximately 20-25 minutes to cook through.
  • Larger meatballs or those made with denser meats might require a longer cooking time, up to 30 minutes or more.
  • Always use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature reaches at least 160°F (71°C).

Pan-Frying Meatballs:

If pan-frying, the cooking time is generally shorter, usually around 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and heat level.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and the actual cooking time may vary. It’s crucial to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature for doneness.


While undercooked meatballs can present challenges, knowing how to identify and address the issue is key to turning things around in the kitchen. By following the tips provided in this article, you’ll not only learn how to fix undercooked meatballs but also gain valuable insights into preventing this situation in the future.

Happy cooking!

Leave a Comment