If you have ever cooked meatballs and discovered that they are still a little pink on the inside, you might be feeling disturbed and unsure about whether you can safely eat them. Should meatballs ever be pink in the centers?
Can meatballs be a little pink? It’s generally not considered safe to eat meatballs that are still pink in the center, although a tiny hint of pink should not be too concerning. According to the USDA, meatballs do sometimes stay slightly pink inside, even once fully cooked, because of a reaction between the myoglobin and the meat. Pink meat may also sometimes be a sign that the pH value is high.
Are Pink Meatballs Safe To Eat?
In general, you cannot safely eat pink meatballs; the pinkness indicates that the meat is still a little raw in the center, and food borne bacteria could therefore remain in the meat. However, there are occasions when a fully cooked meatball will still be slightly pink inside. This is quite unusual, but does sometimes happen.
In general, the meat should turn brown when it is cooked, and many people use this as a way of judging if meat is fully cooked and ready to eat or not. However, it isn’t a reliable way to check, because the USDA states that sometimes fully cooked meat will remain pink in the center, despite being safe to eat.
It’s also worth noting that some herbs and spices may react with certain kinds of meat, and could make them look pinker than normal even when they are completely cooked.
What matters more in food safety is the temperature that the meat is cooked to, and it’s always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when you are cooking meatballs.
How Can You Tell If Meatballs are Cooked?
You should use a meat thermometer to check if the meatballs are cooked; this is the most reliable method. Insert the probe right into the center of the largest meatball, and this will tell you accurately whether the meatballs are ready or not.
Always choose the largest meatball and take a temperature reading from its very center to check how cooked meatballs are. This will give you the most accurate sense of whether the meatballs are done. If you choose a small meatball or take a reading from the outer edge, you risk eating under-cooked meat.
Some people use other indicators, such as the texture of the meat, to determine whether the meat is safe. Large meatballs can take around 20 to 30 minutes to cook properly in the oven, so don’t rush them.
It’s best not to use any indicators beyond the time and a thermometer to determine the safety of meat, but if you don’t have a thermometer, make sure you are following the recipe instructions and erring on the side of caution. It’s better to over-cook the meatballs, even if this makes them a little tough, than to cook them too little.
What Happens If You Eat Under-Cooked Meat?
Under-cooked meat can be very dangerous; it is likely to contain bacteria that will make you seriously ill if you consume it. Things like salmonella and E. coli could lead to hospitalization in some situations, so don’t risk eating meatballs unless you are sure that they are fully cooked and safe for consumption.
Eating uncooked meatballs could lead to diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, a fever, dehydration, and more. In some rare cases, people even die from food poisoning, so it is important to be careful and only eat meat that you know is safe.
Meatballs can be made from various kinds of meats, but no matter which you are using, you can still get sick from eating them if they haven’t reached a safe temperature to consume. In general, meatballs need to be heated to 165 degrees F in the center to ensure they are safe to eat.
How Should You Cook Meatballs?
You can cook meatballs in a skillet or bake them in the oven, and there are many different recipes that will show you how to do either. If you are cooking them in a skillet, make sure you don’t have the temperature so high that the outsides burn before the insides have cooked.
Either recipe should be fine for cooking the meatballs as long as you get the centers to the correct temperature. With both methods, you should use a meat thermometer to check that the meatballs are cooked through before you serve them.
Can You Cook Meatballs in Sauce?
Some people are unsure about dropping raw meatballs into a sauce to cook, but this method is safe as long as you simmer the meat thoroughly and check that it has reached 165 degrees F in the center before you serve it.
You don’t need to cook the meatballs before you add them to the sauce; some people prefer to do so, but it is perfectly safe to add the meatballs directly to the sauce when it begins to simmer.
It is important to cook the meatballs in the sauce for at least 20 minutes, possibly longer, depending on the size of the meatballs. When you think that they are ready, remove a meatball from the sauce and use a meat thermometer to ensure it is hot enough to consume.
Don’t just measure the temperature of the sauce, as this may not have penetrated all the way to the center of the meatball, and it could still be unsafe to eat if it hasn’t done so.
If you don’t brown the meatballs before you put them in the sauce, you will probably find that they remain paler in color than usual – which is why it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer so you can reassure yourself that meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
If you aren’t comfortable with cooking the meatballs in a sauce, simply cook them as you normally would and stir them into the sauce later.
Meatballs that are a little pink may still be safe to eat, as long as they have reached a high enough internal temperature to kill any bacteria in the meat. Check that they have reached 165 degrees F in the center, and you shouldn’t need to worry about the color.