Tue Jan 6, 2015
As I start to write this post, I can't decide if it will have a negative or positive impact on my barbecue cred. Those well versed in their barbecue blogs are undoubtedly already well acquainted the MOINK ball—a food concoction attributed to Larry Gaian of Embers and Flame that consists of a frozen beef meatball wrapped in bacon and then grilled or smoked (seasoning the MOINK with a rub and finishing with a brushing of sauce is common, but not required). It's a fun, simple bite that's proliferated through the barbecue world on blogs, message boards, competitions, and backyards, so why would I want to mess with it?
I'm a total DIY guy, so in my eyes, the use of frozen meatballs actually inhibits the MOINK ball from true greatness. Why settle on a semi-dry packaged meatballs when you can make your own supremely beefy, tender, and flavorful ones from scratch? So, whether it's wrong or right in the eyes of MOINK ball purists, that's exactly what I set out to do.
Even though I made the decision to go fully homemade here, I didn't want to mess with the MOINK ball's signature simplicity. So to start it off, I went with all beef—a MOINK requirement—grinding a piece of beef chuck that had at least 20% fat for maximum flavor and moisture retention.
Next I pulsed a few slices of white bread in the food processor. Some of my past meatball endeavors have been slightly on the dense side, so I planned on using fresh breadcrumbs here to give the final product a lighter texture. The breadcrumbs have the added bonus of giving the third ingredient, eggs, something to bind to, which also helps the meatballs keep their shape.
Those three ingredients are all I really needed to make a proper MOINK meatball, but I couldn't resist adding just a little extra seasoning, and ended up throwing in a couple cloves of garlic, as well.
After rolling out the meat mixture into one-inch balls, I followed the traditional steps for MOINK ball preparation—namely, wrapping half a slice of bacon around each meatball and securing it with a toothpick, followed by a liberal dosage of my favorite barbecue rub.
MOINKs are often smoked over low heat, but there's not much advantage to going low and slow here. I opted to cook mine on the grill using medium indirect heat. I placed the configured MOINKs on the cool side of the grill, added a chunk of hickory to the coals for smokiness and covered.
After about 20 minutes, the meatballs were cooked through and the entire exterior was well browned, with the bacon having a slight crispness. I could have ended my MOINK journey here, but why not go for flavor gold?
That meant brushing the MOINKS all over with a high quality barbecue sauce, homemade if you wish, and letting them sit on the grill a while longer to let the sauce bake down.
There's a reason these things took off: They're damn delicious. It shouldn't take this article to tell you that beef and bacon are great together, and adding in barbecue seasoning and sauce only heightens the pairing. It's a little too easy to sit in front of a plate of MOINKs and just pop one after another; their simple, meaty, salty, and smoky flavor is one that's hard to resist. The homemades were definitely an improvement, beefier and more tender than anything you'd pick up in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. They're really a perfect cookout food—a crowd-pleaser well suited for backyard gatherings in the summer or game-day finger food feasts come wintertime.
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 25 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 45 Minutes
- 8 servings as an appetizer
- 1 1/2 pound ground beef chuck, at least 20% fat
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic, about 2 cloves (optional)
- 1/2 lb bacon, halved
- 1/4 cup of your favorite barbecue rub
- 1 small chunk of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory
- 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
- Place ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, and garlic in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix together until thoroughly combined.
- Roll out meat mixture into balls 1 inch in diameter. Wrap half a slice of bacon around each meatball and secure with a toothpick. Season meatballs generously with barbecue rub.
- 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. Place wood chunk directly on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place meatballs on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until cooked through and bacon has browned, about 20 minutes. Brush meatballs with barbecue sauce, cover grill, and continue to cook until sauce has set, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.