Dear Home Ec 101 Ladies,
I was talking to my sweetie yesterday about my inability to make a meatloaf. I have tried everything. I once bought a pan with holes in the bottom that would drain the grease into another pan – this was to make my meatloaf grease free but delicious. It was nasty. I’ve tried my Mom’s recipe, my stepmom’s recipe, Betty Crocker’s recipe, and some church lady’s recipe. Nasty. I once made a meatloaf so dense that it tasted like a gigantic, flavorless hamburger patty. My family nicknamed it ‘Meat Brick”…this is not good! I’ve tried different grades of beef, swapping breadcrumbs for crushed captain crunch cereal (not too bad), tomatoey loaf, barbecue loafs, I’ve tried it all.
Can you please provide me with a perfect meatloaf recipe and step-by-step instructions on exactly how to make and bake it? I would be forever grateful and my family would be giddy.
~Loafless in Louisville
This is a question I can really sink my teeth into. Memorable meatloaves are less about individual recipes than they are about technique and ratios.
This is a great recipe that lends itself to many variations.
- 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
- 2/3 cup bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup finely minced onion
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (or sage, basil, oregano, or my favorite Cajun!*)
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
*reduce the salt if using a premixed spice that contains sodium
Preaheat the oven to 350°F.
Gently crumble the meat into a large bowl. The key to a tender meatloaf is to handle the meat as little as possible. To ensure easy mixing, gently seperate the ground bits and make a well (depression) in the center.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, you can substitute crushed crackers or stuffing mix if desired, evenly over the contents in the bowl.
In a second bowl, stir together the milk, beaten eggs, and seasoning. Mix well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the well you created in the meat. With clean hands fold the meat toward the center. Do this by grasping the side of the bowl with one hand, to hold it steady. Slide the other under the meat and fold it toward the middle. Rotate the bowl and repeat. Only repeat this step until the meat is just mixed.
I prefer to cook my loaves free form. Gently pat the meat into a loaf shape on a clean baking sheet.
Bake at 350° for approximately an hour, but check the temperature after 45 minutes and spread with the glaze, if desired. Cook for 10 – 15 more minutes. The meatloaf is done when it reaches 160° in the center.
- If using pre-seasoned bread crumbs, reduce the salt in the recipe.
- Try using 1/2 bulk Italian sausage and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning.
- Some swear by a 50:50 mixture of ground pork and ground beef.
- I like to add grated vegetables such as carrot or zucchini into the mix.
- Finely diced bell pepper is a nice touch.
- When making variations that call for cheese or wet ingredients like BBQ sauce, reduce the milk.
Finally, I love leftover meatloaf even more than the original meal. It makes a great sandwich or an excellent addition crumbled into vegetable soup.