Is it ok if meatballs are a little pink inside?

To ensure that all harmful bacteria are destroyed, cook all ground beef products to an internal temperature of 160°F at all times. Ground beef may be pink on the inside after cooking it safely. The pink color may be due to a reaction between the heat of the oven and myoglobin, which causes a red or pink color. As a rule, pink meatballs inside are not safe to eat.

Pink beef or pork generally means undercooked meat. In the case of recipes such as meatballs in sauce, pink minced meat can cause food poisoning. If you normally notice that meatballs stay pink on the inside when cooked in sauce, try cooking them before adding them to the sauce. Can the meatball be a little pink inside? Yes.

According to the USDA, meatballs (and other ground beef delicacies) can be pink on the inside and still be safe to eat after cooking. As the agency states, “cooking and safety cannot be judged by color. Always choose the biggest meatball and take a temperature reading from its center to check how the meatballs are cooked. While it's perfectly safe to eat meatballs with a little pink inside, you shouldn't eat meatballs raw.

If you don't brown the meatballs before you put them in the sauce, you'll probably find that they're paler in color than usual, so it's a good idea to use a meat thermometer to make sure the meatballs are well cooked. You don't need to cook the meatballs before adding them to the sauce; some people prefer to, but it's perfectly safe to add the meatballs directly to the sauce when it starts to simmer. Slow cooking recipes that gradually heat up the meatballs in the sauce work only with fresh, defrosted meat. Either recipe should be fine for cooking the meatballs, as long as the centers reach the right temperature.

You can cook meatballs in a pan or bake them in the oven, and there are lots of different recipes that will show you how to do both.

Paulette Grether
Paulette Grether

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