Meatloaf and mashed potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese. The Depression era entree was an answer to meat shortages faced by our grandparents. By mixing ground beef with fillers like bread, crackers, or oats the housewife was able to stretch her food dollars. Even today, the old family favorite and lunch counter staple remains an American classic and takes may forms.
Just this week my hairdresser said a customer was making meatloaf and that inspired her to do the same. I laughed. I had done that very thing after hearing a friend talk about one she had baked. Meatloaf may be going viral. Why not? It’s that time of the year. With the weather getting nippier, it’s good to pull a warm, comforting meal from the oven.
We all have our favorites when it comes to this meaty mixture. Fortunately, the recipe can be customized to suit our tastes. Ina Garten and Betty Crocker use bread crumbs in their mixture, while Pioneer Woman goes for a panache of bread soaked in milk and the addition of Parmesan cheese.
Paula Deen throws in quick cooking oats and a packet of Hidden Valley Original Ranch salad dressing mix. And Chef Kenji at the Food Lab stuns with a recipe of 27 ingredients, including the sauce. He offers a virtual thesis on meatloaf making with wonderful pictures. But one version I saw on line was a bridge too far; it called for bananas! Agghh!!
My meatloaf recipe is in the Recipe Gallery and is printable. Below are a few quick tips I’ve gleaned over the years.
Tips for a Better Meatloaf
- You can use a variety of meats: beef, pork, veal, turkey, venison. But make sure you include meat with enough fat content for flavor and moisture. I prefer a blend of 1-1/2 pounds beef to 1/2 pound pork.
- If using carrots, onions, green pepper, and/or celery, chop the vegetables in a food processor and saute in butter, adding a touch of garlic and Spanish paprika.
- For a perfectly shaped loaf, Chef Kenji starts his meatloaf in an inverted loaf pan and then after 30 minutes in the oven removes the plan to glaze the loaf exterior and continues baking. (Check out the procedure here.)
- Don’t over mix the ingredients or the cooked loaf will be tough, dry, and crumbly.
- Want to test seasoning before cooking? Fry up a tiny patty and taste. Season loaf, as needed.
- Cook a free form loaf on a broiler grid with the bottom pan lined with foil. The loaf will brown faster, more evenly and excess fat drains away. Baking in a loaf pan can cause steaming.
- Let the loaf rest before cutting, so juices distribute rather than run out.