I cooked meatballs in 4 different appliances, and I won’t use my air fryer again

I cooked meatballs in 4 different appliances, and I won’t use my air fryer again

bag of premade frozen meatballs

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I used the same frozen meatballs in all four appliances.

Steven John



  • I cooked frozen meatballs using my air fryer, microwave, oven, and stovetop to see which is best.
  • The microwaved meatballs were too rubbery and overly hot, but they were ready in one minute
  • My classic stovetop approach was predictably good, but the oven was the clear winner
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If there’s a more comforting meal than pasta and meatballs, I’m not sure what it is. Give me a good homemade marinara sauce, a fistful of linguini, and seven or eight meatballs, and I’m a happy man.

And with grocery prices still high due to years of rising inflation, it’s also an affordable meal that helps my family stick to our budget.

I’ve traditionally prepared premade frozen meatballs by plopping them into a pot of pasta sauce and letting it simmer on the stove while I boil the noodles.

But I wanted to see once and for all if that’s really the best method. As an experiment, I made frozen meatballs with my stovetop, oven, air fryer, and microwave.

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Here’s how the appliances stacked up.

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Microwaving the meatballs was incredibly quick.

plate of meatballs in a microwave

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I only had to microwave the premade meatballs for one minute.

Steven John



If you’re in a rush and only have a few minutes to spare, you can still make meatballs in a microwave.

I placed six frozen, precooked meatballs on a small plate, making sure none of them were touching. Then I put the plate in the microwave for one minute.

That was that. The meatballs were heated through — in fact, they were so hot I had to wait a minute before taking a bite.

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Regardless of the results, it was so efficient that I’m sure I’ll do it again.

plate of microwaved meatballs

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The texture wasn’t great, but it was certainly an easy method.

Steven John



Frankly, the microwaved meatballs weren’t all that good.

They had a slightly rubbery, springy texture. But I also ate them with no sauce or other accouterments — they probably would’ve been much more pleasant drenched in marinara.

Regardless, going from frozen solid to ready-to-eat in one minute was pretty impressive. I’d do it again in a pinch.

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I had high hopes for my air fryer.

three meatballs inside an air fryer

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I spaced the meatballs out on my air-fryer shelves.

Steven John



I’m a fan of air fryers and often use ours for fries, sliced sweet potatoes, veggie burgers, and more. Naturally, I thought meatballs would be great, too.

I set the air fryer to 375 degrees and cooked the meatballs for about four minutes. Then, I shook the shelves a little before cooking them for another four minutes.

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The air fryer dried the meatballs out too much.

plate of five meatballs

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I thought the air-fried meatballs could’ve had a better texture.

Steven John



The resulting meatballs had a pleasantly browned exterior. But the interiors were a bit too dried out for my liking.

I don’t think I’ll make meatballs in the air fryer again. But if I did, I’d coat them in olive oil first and maybe shave a minute off the cooking time.

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The stovetop meatballs had a bit of a leg up because they simmered in sauce.

meatballs cooking in a pot of tomato sauce

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I typically cook my meatballs on the stove.

Steven John



Simmering frozen meatballs in red sauce has long been my go-to; it’s arguably the most classic cooking method.

After only 10 minutes of simmering the meatballs in my wife’s homemade marinara sauce (a family recipe passed down from three generations), they were cooked through.

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The stovetop meatballs were the most flavorful.

meatballs in tomato sauce on the stove

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Simmering the meatballs in the sauce adds so much flavor.

Steven John



Before this experiment, I would’ve said the stovetop is the best way to cook meatballs.

These were so flavorful that I’m still tempted to say that. But I’m now realizing that the texture could be better.

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I knew cooking meatballs in the oven would take the longest.

meatballs spread out on a baking sheet

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I can make a lot of meatballs at once on a baking tray.

Steven John



For the final cooking method, I preheated our oven to 375 degrees. Then I spread nine meatballs out on a baking sheet — I probably could’ve cooked three dozen at the same time had I needed to.

The package recommended cooking the meatballs for 20 or 25 minutes. I baked them for about 22 minutes before pulling them from the oven.

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The oven-cooked meatballs were definitely my favorite.

plate of cooked meatballs out of the oven

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The oven meatballs had the best texture, hands down.

Steven John



The meatballs glistened, clearly still moist, but they were also slightly browned and crispy. Inside, they were moist and flavorful.

In other words, the texture was perfect.

I ate several oven-baked meatballs right off the baking sheet, but I saved a few to coat in marinara sauce for dinner.

The oven may have been the slowest method, but the results were well worth the patience.

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This post was originally published on Insider

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