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Fire up your grill and get ready for some serious smoke.

Grilling: MOINK Balls

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[Photographs: Joshua Bousel]

As I start to write this post, I wonder if I'm doing something inherently wrong here. If you're a barbecue blog reader, chances are you've already encountered 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 a frozen meatballs actually inhibits the MOINK ball from 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.

The Meatballs

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Even though I made the decision to go fully homemade here, I didn't want to mess with the MOINK ball's signature simplicity. I forged ahead intent on producing a meatball that's minimal on ingredients, with a great semi-soft, juicy consistency.

I while back, I took a shot at barbecue meatballs, to mixed results. At the time, I went with a half pork, half beef mixture seasoned with onion, garlic, and chili, with an egg tossed in as a binder. While those had a nice underlying barbecue flavor, they were also too dense and a tad on the dry side for my liking.

To address those shortcomings, I started these meatballs out a little differently. First, I went all-beef—a MOINK requirement—with a ground chuck that had at least 20% fat, for better flavor and moisture retention. Then I added breadcrumbs, a common ingredient that gives meatballs a lighter texture and binds with the egg to help them keep their shape. 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 adding in a couple cloves of garlic, as well.

The MOINK Ball

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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.

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MOINKs are often smoked over low heat, but there's not much advantage to going low and slow here, so 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, covered, and let them cook until the bacon was browned and slightly crisped, which took around twenty minutes. I finished them off with a brushing of a standard barbecue sauce, let that set on the grill for five minutes more, and they were ready for eating.

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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 are 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.

About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment every other Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every other Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.

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