Panade: The Secret to Keeping Ground Meat Tender

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One simple way to keep your ground meat-based dishes moist, tender and flavorful is to add a Panade. Learn how to make one here using the following guide.

One simple way to keep your ground meat based dishes moist, tender and flavorful is to add a Panade. Learn how to make one here.

Have you ever eaten a hamburger or meatball that tasted dry and inedible like hockey pucks? Recipes that use ground meat can be spruced up with just a few ingredient tricks to turn dull dishes into ones people crave!

Whenever you bake, grill or braise meat that needs to be cooked well done, you run the risk of losing juiciness and flavor. One simple way to keep ground meat dishes moist and flavorful is to add a Panade.

Pieces of bread on a cutting board

What is a Panade?

A panade is a mixture of starch and liquid that is added to ground beef or other types of meat. Any combination of starch (bread, panko, crackers) and liquids (milk, buttermilk, yogurt, stock, water) can be used.

Varying the combination of panade ingredients and incorporating aromatics and spices can add more or less flavor depending on your taste preference.

Pieces of bread with milk in a bowl

Basic Panade Guide

The panade mixture consists of 1 cup bread crumbs or cubes plus 1 cup liquid, soaked for 10 minutes and mashed into a paste. I recommend the following based on specific recipes:

  • Meatballs and Meatloaf: 1 pound meat + 1 large egg + 1/2 cup panade
  • Burgers: 1 pound meat + 1/4 cup panade

Experiment with the panade amount until the desired texture is achieved. You can taste how adding a panade makes a recipe more moist and tender by trying my Italian Meatball Recipe.

Fork submerging bread mixture into milk liquid to create a panade

Meat cooked without a Panade

When the muscle fibers of meat proteins are cut or ground into smaller pieces, this causes sticky soluble proteins to be released which can then affect the texture of the meat.

After meat is mixed and cooked, the proteins tighten and contract which causes significant amounts of moisture to be squeezed out. If a panade is not added, then ground meat dishes may reduce in size and become dry or tough to eat. Source: The Science of Good Cooking

Spoon holding panade mixture to use with ground meat

Recipes that could incorporate a Panade

What is the Function of a Panade?

The starch in the bread absorbs the liquid in the mixture and creates a starch paste. The paste coats the proteins and sets into a gel when cooked, preventing the proteins from linking too tightly together and squeezing out moisture. This keeps the shape of the ground meat while moisture is retained.

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How to Make a Panade

A simple panade recipe to add to ground meat-based dishes to keep it tender and flavorful.
Pin Print Review
4.55 from 22 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings 1 cup
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 cup milk, plus more as needed to cover bread

Instructions 

  • Place bread into a medium-sized bowl and then pour 1 cup of milk or more as needed to cover the bread.
  • Allow bread cubes to soak for at least 10 minutes, until most of the milk has absorbed and bread is mushy in texture.
  • Pour off any excess milk and mash the bread mixture with a fork until there are no dry spots. The mixture should look like a starchy paste.

Notes

  • Buttermilk, non-dairy milk, stock or broth can be used instead of milk.
  • Dried breadcrumbs like cubes, panko, and smaller traditional breadcrumbs can be used. It may need more time to soak if cubed or less time if smaller sized. Just make sure the liquid is absorbed and the bread is not dry.
  • This recipe is for the panade mixture only. Incorporate into meat recipes such as:
    • For Meatballs and Meatloaf: Add 1/2 cup panade to 1 pound ground meat, 1 large egg and seasoning. Mix until combined and cook according to the recipe.
    • For Burgers: Add 1/4 cup panade to 1 pound ground meat and seasoning. Mix until combined and cook according to the recipe.

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Nutrition Facts
How to Make a Panade
Amount Per Serving
Calories 418 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Sodium 874mg36%
Potassium 25mg1%
Carbohydrates 72g24%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 500IU10%
Calcium 590mg59%
Iron 4.1mg23%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Reader Interactions

92 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Dynamo of Dixie says

    This is GREAT information that I can use for my next meatloaf, and I’m glad to know about this site. Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you John, I’m glad that you find it helpful! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m here to help 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Nick- Yes, you can use bread ends, but I would use a mix of center pieces and ends as the center pieces will soak up the liquid a little better.

  2. Deborah says

    Thank you for the information! I’ve used a panade for years, but never knew the science behind the magic. I really appreciate what you are doing here.

  3. Pam says

    Now I know why I always add milk and bread to my meatloaf. Didn’t know it hada name..Thanks .☆´¯`•.¸¸. ི♥ྀ.

  4. Rick says

    My mother always used bread and milk when making burgers or meat loaf, I had asked her why and she said because her mother always did. I wish she was still here and I could tell her about this.

  5. Melissa Diaz says

    my nanna always soaked 4-5 slices of white bread in milk and added them to her meatballs. It honestly makes such a difference! Nice to have a fancy name for it now 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Absolutely Ron! I think any liquid would work, the flavor may just be slightly different, but the texture should be similar. Great question!

      • Ron Harrison says

        Great I think I will give it a try. I am new to your website but I see some other recipes I like the looks of as well. Thanks for the quick response!

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Thank you for checking out the website Ron, WELCOME! I would love to hear how it turns out for you 🙂

  6. John B says

    Panade improves the texture of my Italian meatballs. No more cannonball version. Tender and toothsome.

  7. Deanna says

    Hi! Can you freeze the hamburgers (or, whatever meat you’re using) after you put in the panade?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Absolutely Deanna! I don’t think freezing will after the texture of the hamburger. You could also cook, then freeze and reheat if you are in a hurry. Great question!

  8. Fred says

    This is how I learned to make meatballs from my parents and grandparents. I often also add a good cheese (either Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano) as well chopped herbs like parsley and basil, and crushed black pepper to the mixture.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Those additions sounds amazing Fred! That’s a great idea to add cheese, herbs and pepper to make the meatballs even more flavorful. Great suggestion!

  9. Don lang says

    I wonder if the liquid used was bacon grease if this would still work. Not healthy but would taste awesome.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      It would definitely taste yummy but I am concerned that too my added fat would prevent the meatballs, patty or meatloaf from sticking together. Perhaps just adding some chopped bacon to the mixture for the flavor?

  10. le petit gastronome says

    If you check out traditional sausage recipes (handmade, but non-commercial), they often use wine + bread to keep the sausage mix moist as it’s being made. It also functions to keep the sausage moist and not drying out when cooking. Nothing worse than a dry-crumbly sausage (!)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I couldn’t agree more! Thank you for the additional information in traditional sausage making and the use of a panade 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Loren! I like the idea of using beer for the panade for burgers. Should add a nice depth of flavors, and maybe a little bitterness depending on what kind of beer you use. Let me know how it goes!

  11. Tamie W. says

    When I make my meatballs I add canned bread crumbs & water to my mixture along with worsthire sauce. Would that be considered a parade?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, I definitely think you can make the panade the night before. That will give the bread ample time to absorb the liquid.

  12. Wendy M. says

    I understand the science behind adding a panade and have had success doing so. I’m trying to reduce/eliminate flour in my diet (per doctor’s suggestion). Do you have any ideas for making a panade that does not include ingredients made from flour?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Wendy- Great question! The starches from the bread are what helps to create the gel with the liquid to make the ground meat tender. Are you able to eat gluten-free bread so that you can have a similar result?

    • MadameK says

      Hi Wendy, I have to limit processed carbs as well and have found that making a panade from sweet potato and milk works well (sweet potato has more fibre and is a low gi carb too) only a few teaspoons of milk if you boil it though, If you steam it, you might need a teeny bit more milk though – I use it in roughly the same quantities as Jessica has above.

      I have also used finely grated or blended/pureed zucchini (courgette) and carrot as well – this works particularly well with a mix of powdered stock, mustard and BBQ sauce to flavour the patties if making burgers! I also do the above with a pork/veal mince mix but substituting the BBQ sauce for plum sauce/plum jam, add a little grated ginger and fresh chopped parsely and make little meatballs as a tasty party snack with a little more spiced orange&plum sauce to dip!

      (Jessica, I never knew what this was called only what it did to help lol …thanks for clarifying!)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Don- I think you can make and shape the meatballs and refrigerate them overnight. I may actually give the meatballs more time to create a gel with the starches and bind better. Let me know how they turn out!

  13. Isaac says

    As a liquid in panade, can be used milk, buttermilk, yogurt, stock, water. Is there a recommendation or explanation when is preferable or desirable to add milk, but not stock or water and so on?
    Also when Chefs show theirs recipes non of them do not explain why they add as a liquid stock but not milk or water. and so on. Please do not count situation when by religious believe, or allergies for some people is prohibited to use one of those liquids( milk or some other liquids).Another situation- some Chefs are adding in the ground meat oil what they achieve.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Isaac- Great question! The main goal is to create a starchy paste with the bread, so any liquid will work. Using milk or buttermilk typically adds a little more fat, flavor and enhanced browning from the milk solids. Using water is more neutral of a taste, whereas stock or broth like vegetable, chicken or beef will give the meat additional flavor depending on what kind you chose. Lot’s of versatility and options for the liquid component.

  14. Elliott Chaska says

    Hi Jessica
    I just add oat meal from the round box that I powder up in the processor, and 1 egg. I don’t even add liquid, but you can. I find the moisture in the meat and egg is preserved while it is cooked. The oat meal also adds that slip for mouth feel people like. The bread panade is classic tho. I love all the info you give us from your education that a lot will not.

    Elliott

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback Elliott! I will have to try your oatmeal panade recipe, it sounds tasty!

  15. Nick Cioci says

    Good day Jessica.

    What ratio would/should I use if substituting Italian bread crumbs (Nonna’s favourite) for bread?

    I’ve also heard of using a baking soda solution (baking soda and water) to keep ground beef moist and tender vs. a panade. Your thoughts please!

    On another note, I understand that a panade was used as an extender for ground meat during hard times, to feed prisoners, etc.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Nick! Are you making meatballs? If so, I’ve found that if you are using the fine dried breadcrumbs, you don’t have to presoak them in liquid, they will absorb the liquid from the eggs and that would be sufficient to activate the starches. I found that a ratio of 1 pound beef, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and 1 large egg is perfect. Check out my “grandma’s famous italian meatball recipe” for more info.

      As for using a baking soda solution, I have heard of that, especially in chinese cuisine to tenderize slices of meat. It helps to raise the pH on the surface of the meat, which makes it harder for the proteins to bonds tightly, preventing moisture loss. The result can be a more tender and moist product. I haven’t tried it yet for meatballs or meatloaf. I would still use a panade to give a consistent texture. You got me thinking though!

  16. Howard B Reisner says

    I never have milk in the house so I’m happy to hear that broth or water can be used. I only ever saw it made with milk.

  17. Sherry says

    How do you prevent overmixing when incorporating a panade, or does panade itself make overmixing/toughening not a concern?

  18. Sherry says

    Can i freeze leftover panade? I have a meatball recipe with breadcrumbs in it. I added milk to the bread and had seemingly too much panade. Can i freeze it?

  19. Nelson Jones says

    I use this in my cookies. I did not know it had a name and more uses.
    BUT milk is added to all meatloaf going in my oven.

  20. meann torres says

    HI jessica, thanks for sharing. can I also use Textured Vegetable Protein in making panade? thanks

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You could perhaps use 30% replacement using TVP, but since it’s made from soy flour and has a high amount of protein, the meatloaf may be tougher. You will be missing the starch component that helps will gelling and locking in the moisture. I would add in some rolled oats or something else to make up the remaining 1 cup for replacing breadcrumbs.

  21. Ken says

    Hi Jessica, i have been smoking and grilling burgers for over 40 yrs. I tried your recipe a few times now with milk one time, and yogurt another. Best burgers i have ever made. Thank you.

  22. Mike says

    I live in France and I have to make my breakfast sausage from scratch. “One cup” of bread cubes confuses me. Is that one cup poured to the line of a measuring cup, is the bread cubes pressed and by how much? Wouldn’t it be easier and more accurate to use a scale? If using a scale, how much would that weigh?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great questions Mike! The 1 cup is more based on volume since different types of bread can be more or less dense. Add the cubes of bread until it reaches 1 cup (240ml). Fill in the spaces but you don’t have to make it compact.

    • Billy says

      Mike, primarily a panada (It,Sp) or panade (Fr) is used as a binding agent for force meats. You should have to pour off excess liquid as one should measure properly to begin with. And yes, weight is more accurate as there was no size identification assigned with the “cubes”. Small dice, large dice, there is a difference in how many cubes would fit in a cup.

      A Panade also helps with to emulsify the ingredients when preparing forcemeats.

  23. Brenda says

    Always do this now with my burgers, in addition to meatloaf/meatballs. I also have started adding the 1/4 t unflavored gelatin per pound of beef to my burgers as noted in The Science of Cooking meat loaf recipe. (one of my all time favorites). Adds to the silky texture for burgers as well.

  24. Valerie says

    Any suggestions for a reluctant, but necessarily gluten free household? So far, using GF breads for cubing ie. poultry stuffing produces very unsatisfactory, bitter taste.

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