Food Safety Issues/precooked meatballs


We purchased a brand name bag of precooked meatballs that used beef and pork in the recipe. I used them  today for a recipe in the slowcooker to make swedish meatballs which required they be cooked on low for 6 hours.

When we cut them open they were very hot. Had been bubbling in cooker, but yet they were all slightly pink.

Why would fully precooked meatballs be pink even after being heated for hours in a slowcooker? I looked at the ingredients and it did say there was some tomato sauce in them. It also said there was sodium phosphate. Could either of these things cause the slight pink color?

Hi Kat,

It can be rather alarming to cut open precooked meatballs which are pink -- a color normally associated with undercooked meat.  But I assure you, in this case the meatballs are completely cooked and the pink color is probably from naturally occurring nitrites in the meat.

During slow cooking of meat, conditions are right for the interaction of natural meat pigments and nitrogen containing constituents of meat which can produce a pink tinge. While it doesn't occur everytime you slow cook meats, it is not an unusual occurrence.


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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