Thu Sep 14, 2017
I keep a Google Doc of recipe ideas where I can quickly jot down thoughts during moments of inspiration, which I then organize into themed Meatwaves as the list grows. For as long as that document has existed, Buffalo chicken meatballs has been on it. It's something I've had a hankering to do for a very long time, but it's also well treaded territory around other food blogs and I've let that fact influence my decision not to make them in and effort to be somewhat innovative and not another platform for repetition. I finally just said screw it though, and during a meatball-themed Meatwave, Buffalo chicken meatballs seemed too good not to make, and the only thing I regret is not doing them sooner.
I'm usually not big on filling my meatballs with veggies, but chicken presents a uniqueness in that it doesn't have all that much flavor on its own. So I thought it would be apt in this scenario to give a little boost to the meat mixture by way of sautéed celery and onions, two vegetables that I think pair really well with Buffalo sauce.
To those initial seasonings, I added garlic, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. I then used egg and panko breadcrumbs as binders to help hold the meatballs together. I'm usually an advocate of fresh breadcrumbs for meatballs, which lead to softer and more moist results, but in the case of chicken, which is very wet and loose, the dried breadcrumbs seem to really help firm the mixture up to a point that it's workable on the grill.
If you follow the recipe here, you should come out with a great result, but I still always advise on breaking off a little bit of the meatball mixture and frying it up to taste it. When developing a recipe, this is crucial to ensure everything is seasoned well, but my ideal seasoning may not be the same yours, so if you do a test before creating the meatballs, you gain the opportunity to adjust the seasoning to your own liking.
Once I was happy with the taste, I formed the mixture into balls. Since I was serving these in slider rolls, I went a bit bigger than usual for meatballs, making spheres roughly between 1 1/2-2-inches in diameter.
Then, prior to heading to the grill, I quickly put together the Buffalo sauce. For the most classic version, you only need equal amounts of butter and Frank's Red Hot Sauce. I like building in some extra complexity though, which always seems to go over well with my guests. I add a little contrast to the harsh vinegar and heat by adding dark brown sugar and honey, extra tang from cider vinegar, and then bring things back to my ideal heat level with Texas Pete's and cayenne pepper.
On the grill, I started the meatballs over direct heat, letting each side completely sear before turning—attempting to move them too soon and you will be greeted with meat stuck to the grates that will almost surely fall apart when lifted. Since these meatballs were a bit bigger than usual, they weren't full cooked inside once the exterior was browned all over. So to finish them up, I moved them to indirect heat, covered, and continued to cook them until the centers reached 155°F when tested with an instant read thermometer.
Then I transferred the meatballs right into the Buffalo sauce and tossed to coat them thoroughly. Next, I quickly toasted the slider rolls on the hot side of the grill prior to assembly.
To make the mini-sandwiches, I nestled one meatball in each roll, drizzled on some ranch (you can use blue cheese dressing if you prefer here), and sprinkled on sliced scallions. They were certainly beautiful little creations, but it was the taste I was really interested in and I think these knocked it out of the park in that category. The chicken was nice and juicy with a robust flavor that worked well with the rich and spicy buffalo sauce. The ranch added a nice cooling contrast to the heat and the scallions lent a small touch of freshness. These wouldn't replace wings as my primary Buafflo sauce delivery method, but for an ungraceful eater like myself, these little sandwiches were a great way to get my Buffalo fix in without staining my beard and other facial areas bright orange with sauce—an all too common occurrence. Really, the only qualm I had was that I let myself wait to long to make the, and ever thought they wouldn't be worthy of sharing on the blog.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
- Prep Time:
- 25 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 35 Minutes
- 6 servings
- For the Sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Texas Pete's or other hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- For the Meatballs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup finely minced yellow onion
- 1/3 cup finely minced celery
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 slider rolls
- Ranch dressing
- 2 scallions, finely sliced
- To make the sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add in hot sauces, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, and cayenne and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- To make the meatballs: Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Place ground chicken, vegetable mixture, breadcrumbs, egg, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together until thoroughly combined. Roll out meat mixture into balls 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place meatballs on hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned all over. Move meatballs to cool side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until center of meatballs registers 155°F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer meatballs to saucepan with buffalo sauce and toss to coat.
- Place rolls, cut side down, on hot side of grill and cook until lightly toasted, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer rolls to a serving platter, place one meatball in each roll, spoon on ranch dressing, and top with scallions. Serve immediately.