I'm Ben Gruber

2013 / 3 May

Plank BBQ Meatballs



On my first day off of real work, I decided to take a break from the computer and start engaging in one my favorite hobbies – eating. But before getting into that, I partook in something that I enjoy equally as much as consuming the food… cooking it. So, I went to the grocery store with my mind as an open slate. Whether open or not, my mind tends to wander toward BBQ, so that is what I ended up creating – Plank BBQ Meatball sub (hoggie for New Yorkers) with a creamy coleslaw topping. I’ll walk you through the basic steps and list the simple recipe below.


Walking The Plank

Before starting the process, I soaked the cedar plank (bought from WholeFoods) in a bourbon-worcestershire mix for about a day.  The idea was to give the plank a sweeter taste to go along with the smokey flavor it usually brings. Even though I have worked with cedar planks plenty of times in the past, I have never tried using them in an oven (or tried this bourbon soaking). This made me nervous, so I soaked the board for longer than I normally wood (to avoid over smoking indoors). Next I put the plank in the oven before starting to put together my meatballs. I turned up the oven all the way to start to activate the smoke from the plank. I left the plank by itself for about 15-20 minutes.


BBQ Balls


I went with a pretty simple meatball so that I could tell how much taste the bourbon plank added. I bought 99% lean beef (I like to be healthy) and cut up an onion and garlic and added them to the beef. I then added an egg, a solid touch of worcestershire sauce, basic seasonings and a good amount of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. I mixed it all up and turned the beef into little balls and placed them on the already hot plank. I then bbq glazed the balls and placed them back in the oven at 400 degrees.



After about 10 minutes I pulled the meatballs out. They already looked great, but I wanted to glaze the other side and to let the top side get some plank love. So I carefully turned them over and re-applied the BBQ sauce.




10 minutes later I had myself some delicious meatballs.


The Taste Difference Test

I then whipped out the skillet and began to cook a couple of extra meatballs that I had set aside. They cooked in a little olive oil with the stove on medium-high. I was curious if this cooking method would yield significantly different taste. I cooked the meat for 10-12 minutes flipping the balls ever so often waiting for each side to get a nice toasty brown.





Eating Food

After finishing both kinds of meatballs, I mixed up some simple coleslaw. I cut up a single green cabbage, used the rest of my onions, added mayonaise, a little mustard, simple seasonings and touch of wine vinegar. Then I toasted two subs and added the two different meatballs to them – topping each with coleslaw. What I found was that I had two – completely different tasting – great sandwiches. With the incredible difference in taste, it would be difficult to even call these the same name even though they contained exactly the same ingredients. The plank balls were smokey with an unmistakable plank taste. The consistency was what you would expect from oven baked meatballs. The skillet balls were tangy-er with a great char taste from the skillet heat. Both mixed perfectly with the creamy coleslaw.


If forced to choose, my pick would actually be the skillet based balls, but I was over-ruled 3 to 4 by my guests that night.


The Recipe


1.5 lbs 99% Lean Ground Beef
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup Worcester Sauce
1 Egg
1 Tbsp – Cumin
4 Cloves Garlic
3/4 Medium Red Onion
1 Cup Bourbon

1 Green Cabbage
3/4 Medium Red Onion
1/2 cup Mayonaise
3 Little Pours Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to Taste



Soak a cedar plank in bourbon for 1 day. Make sure to keep it fully covered.

Place the cedar plank in the oven on as high as it can go.

While the plank is heating up, place the beef in a bowl and mix all of the seasonings, worcester sauce, egg and diced onions and garlic. Roll into balls and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then paint the outside the balls with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Pull out the cedar plank (there may be a decent amount of smoke, so beware) and place the meatballs on the plank. Place the plank back in the oven at 400 with a drip pan underneath.

After about 10 minutes, pull out the balls, flip them over and reglaze.

Let sit in the oven for another 10 minutes, pull them out and let cool for minute.

Next, cut up the green cabbage. Add the rest of the onion, mayo, mustard and other seasonings to the cabbage. Mix well.

Toast a sub bun and place meatballs inside the bun. Grab the coleslaw and add generously on top.

Finally… Enjoy!



No comments so far.