Barbecue Meatball Recipe

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barbecue meatball recipe imageBarbecue Meatballs

Warning! This barbecue meatball recipe may not be like any you've seen before. Once you've made this barbecue meatball recipe, you may never make barbecue meatballs any other way...

When you look at most barbecue meatball recipes, there's usually a crock-pot involved. As well as barbecue sauce, sometimes grape jelly and God forbid, frozen meatballs.

Frozen Italian meatballs in barbecue sauce?

I don't think so. I wasn't raised that way.

When I hear the word barbecue, I envision some kind of fire being involved.

So, I came up with an idea. Why not make barbecue meatballs in your...?


I know, crazy right?

Barbecue Meatballs That Are Barbecued!

I've been to lots of parties and potlucks, and more often than not, there's a crock-pot full of meatballs and something that resembles barbecue sauce.

They're not bad; they're okay but not great. I thought that by smoking the meatballs, they'd have a real barbecue flavor.

Turns out I was right.

Real Barbecue Flavor

Unlike traditional Italian meatballs, these have a little southwestern twist to them;

Instead of Parmesan cheese we use sharp cheddar cheese. We're going to swap out the parsley for cilantro and add some barbecue rub for a little sweet and spicy kick. 

Add some real smoke flavor and you've got a tasty treat.

How to Make Great Barbecue Meatballs

There are a few things to keep in mind when making meatballs;

  • Use an 80/20 mixture of meat; 80 percent lean 20 percent fat. This keeps the meat moist.
  • Keep all the ingredients and equipment cold until you make the meatballs. This keeps the fat from melting and gives your meatballs a better texture.
  • Don't overwork the meat when forming your meatballs. This makes them dense and tough. 
Smoked meatballs in barbecue sauceSea of Barbecue Meatballs

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Barbecue Meatball Recipe

Recipe Tip: You need to put your meatballs into a baking pan that is deep enough to hold them while allowing you to cover them with aluminum foil. I like to use disposable aluminum pans that are about 2 1/2 inches deep. 

Cleaning pans that have been in your smoker can be a pain. There's no cleanup with disposable pans; just toss them out when you're done.

This recipe makes about 40 meatballs so you'll need one large rectangular baking pan or 2 small square pans.

Important Safety Tip: Remember to support the bottom of disposable aluminum pans with a large sheet pan. They're a little flimsy and can fold on you causing serious burns and the loss of perfectly good barbecue.

  • 1-pound 80/20 ground chuck
  • 1-pound 80/20 ground pork
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, plus some for garnish if desired
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp. barbecue rub
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce of your choice. I recommend my easy barbecue sauce or Kansas City barbecue sauce.
  1. Place your mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons into your refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat your smoker to a temperature of 275° Fahrenheit.
  3. Put all ingredients, except barbecue sauce, into your chilled mixing bowl. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix!
  4. Using your hands, gently form 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Place the meatballs into the pan as you make them.
  5. Put the pans with the meatballs into your smoker and cook at 275° Fahrenheit for 45-55 minutes. If using wood chips or wood chunks, use them for only the first half hour of cooking.
  6. After 45-55 minutes, remove the meatballs from your cooker. Add the barbecue sauce, cover with aluminum, place them back into your smoker and cook for another 45-55 minutes. Because of the eggs in the meat mixture, you should cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 160° Fahrenheit. 
  7. Remove the meatballs from your cooker. There will be some fat on top of the sauce. Pour this off by tilting the pan and pouring most of the grease off. Be careful, don't lose any meatballs!
  8. You can place these in a crock-pot to keep warm or put them on a warmed serving platter. Garnish with some chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

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