Bacon Cheeseburger Meatball Skewers
When I decided to throw a cocktail party themed cookout aptly name "The Meat Ball," it felt wrong not to include at least one meatball creation on the menu. My problem with crafting the menu for this Meatwave though was that I had so many ideas, cutting them down was difficult, and in the end I made an unprecedented nine new recipes. So that left me with a need to focus on the simplicity and the speed of the recipes as primary considerations, and of the few meatball ideas I had, these bacon cheeseburger meatball skewers fit that criteria best, plus I was sure they would look pretty damn cool.
The meatball portion of this recipe couldn't have been simpler—ground chuck, salt, and pepper. I toyed with the idea of using cheese and bacon as seasonings inside the meat, but then I thought, why mess with something that already works. My everyday burgers are simply made of ground chuck that's at least 20% fat and then seasoned generously with salt and pepper, so that's exactly how I did things here, just in smaller portions.
Another driving force for picking this recipe over others was the fact that I still had a couple packages of the peppered bacon I had made over the summer, and I had yet to share it with Meatwave crowd. That bacon was also really flavorful with its smoky and salty flavors paired with a spicy, peppery crust, making it a good choice for maximum impact in the small amounts used in each skewer.
Since I was already grilling, and for production en masse, I used the grill to cook the bacon, placing it on the cool side of a two-zone fire, covering, and then letting it go until it had darkened and crisped up. As each piece of bacon was done, I transferred it to a paper-towel lined plate to let it cool and drain before breaking each strip into four to make the bite-sized pieces needed for the skewers.
I wanted to serve the meatballs while they were at their best and hot, so before putting them on the grill, I assembled each skewer that would be needed. I luckily found these perfect sized short skewers at the grocery that were a bit longer than toothpicks, although you could make tooth picks work fine here if needed. To prep them, I threaded on a grape tomato followed by some iceberg lettuce, folding over the small shreds of leaf as needed for both size and security. I then put on two pieces of bacon and moved on to the next skewer. I worried this portion of the recipe would be a bit tedious, but it actually went pretty quick, so I stand by my initial assessment that this is a fairly fast appetizer to throw together.
With the skewers ready for their meat, I took my balls of beef to the flames. I wanted to get a nice crusty sear all over, so I never left the grill side and continually flipped the meatballs as each side browned to my liking. As they were done, I moved them over to the cool side of the grill.
Once all the meatballs were there, I adorned each with a bit of American cheese before covering the grill and letting them roast until the cheese was melted. I then moved all the meatballs to a platter, placed a prepared skewer in each one, and served.
I actually got this recipe idea after seeing these meatballs in an image search for "appetizer," and my initial reaction was thinking they're totally gimmicky. After trying one though, my impression was completely changed. I thought I'd just wish I had a real hamburger on a bun, but these did end up tasting like their special thing. For one, the absence of bread made them lighter and very fitting for a day that was meant to filled with lots of small bites. The meatball form also increased the ratio of crusty exterior to juicy innards, making them more intensely flavored than a burger and giving them a different textural experience. The cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato certainly cemented them as burger-like, but they're definitely not burgers, and that's what ultimately changed per perspective and made me like them even more. If you don't have your New Years recipes all in line yet, these little guys are worthy of your consideration.
Bacon Cheeseburger Meatball Skewers
- Yield 8 servings
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 40 Minutes
- 2lbs ground beef chuck, 80% lean
- 8 slices of bacon (about 1/2 a pound)
- 32 grape tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pints), washed
- 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
- 8 slices of American cheese, cut into fourths
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup ketchup, for serving
- 32 small skewers or toothpicks
- Roll ground beef into balls roughly 1-inch in diameter and 1 ounce in weight, 32 meatballs total. Season meatballs all over with salt and pepper to taste.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on either side of the charcoal grate. Place a foil pan between the two piles of coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean grilling grate. Lay bacon slices on cool side of grill. Cover grill and cook until bacon begins to shrink in size and develop pools of fat, about 5 minutes. Flip bacon slices over, cover, and continue to cook until bacon is deeply browned and crisp, 5-8 minutes more. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Break each bacon slice into 4 equal pieces.
- Thread 1 tomato onto each skewer followed by pieces of lettuce and a couple pieces of bacon. Set aside.
- Place meatballs on hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned all over and center of meatballs register 135°F on an instant read thermometer. Move meatballs to cool side of grill and place a slice of cheese on top of each one. Cover grill and continue to cook until cheese is melted.
- Transfer meatballs to a serving platter and place a prepared skewer in each one. Serve immediately with ketchup for dipping.