Lemme tell you about meatloaf. First of all, if you’re vegetarian, Anger Burger contributor Aaron makes a fierce Quorn meatloaf and spared the time to explain it to you. Secondly, I have the same rule for meatloaf as I do for most Americana foods: I know there are a bazillion ways to make it, and each of them are right. I’m not telling you your business. That being said, there are few things I dislike more than unseasoned, plain meatloaf. Let’s not kid ourselves: it’s just a giant hamburger patty. But there are things to be done to elevate it, and as one of Mike’s Top 5 Foods Ever, I think I run a pretty tight little meatloaf ship.
1) MORE THAN ONE SPECIES OF MEAT
I’ve made a mix I refer to as “Beast of the Field”:
3lb. high quality grass-fed ground beef
1lb. ground, unseasoned pork
1lb. ground lamb
The proportions are so large because America has a retarded habit of only selling ground meets in set amounts, so that beef is usually 1.5 pounds a pack, but pork and lamb are both always exactly 1lb. Because I want about more beef than other meat in the mix, this is what I get. Everything gets loosely mixed together in a large bowl, half is wrapped in plastic and foil and frozen, and the other half makes two loaves. From there, one loaf is eaten in a few days and the other prepared, cooked loaf is frozen and then later thawed for sandwiches.
But this is all somewhat beside the point. The mix exists because beef tends to be bland and lean and rather than go through the pain of grinding better cuts myself, I’ve found that subbing in the different flavors and textures of other meats makes for a flavorful, interesting and well-textured final product.
2) SEASON IT TO WITHIN AN INCH OF ITS LIFE
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken a bite of meatloaf and thought, yeah, that’s a wad of meat. Don’t get me wrong — if you’ve made a loaf of freshly ground Kobe beef, I don’t want anything but a pinch of salt on that mother. But this is meatloaf. It’s working class food. It’s meant to be eaten with mashed potatoes and peas on the side and a frosty glass of Coca-Cola to wash it down with, which means you had better put enough salt, onion powder (more on that later) and Worcestershire sauce in it to make itself known.
3) USE PLENTY OF FILLER
I’m sure it seems counter-intuitive since fillers are always bad, but in the case of meatloaf, it’s a large part of what keeps it from being a mere lump of meat. Bread filler makes for a softer loaf in addition to:
4) MIX GENTLY
The more you rough the meat up, the more you encourage the protein bonds to stick back together, which you don’t really want. For a light, soft meatloaf, quickly mix by hand with claw-scrunching motions until just barely incorporated. Same goes for forming the loaves: quick shaping, don’t fuss over it. Get it straight in the oven.
Make the loaf flatter than you want the cooked one to be — see below to see how much they change shape
5) MAKE A SMALLER LOAF
I do feel like this should be obvious. I see too many recipes that call for baking an entire 2 lb. wad of beef in a hot oven for an hour, a method that guarantees a dry, crusty slice of meat, particularly since most meatloaves are made with beef far too lean to be baking until fully cooked through. While my mix is probably fatty enough to endure this, we find that forming two smaller loaves makes for more of the coveted end pieces (MINE!) and a faster cooking time. It also allows more of the fat to cook off, getting the meat to almost braise itself. It really is a minor miracle.
And arguably of more importance: meatloaf sandwiches. Mike has made it clear that this is truly why he wants me to make the loaf, and I don’t mind that at all. On a slice of bread with a little bit of mayonnaise and a smear of HP Sauce, boy-o what a treat.
And that’s it! Metaloaf. <–THAT’S A HELL OF A TYPO! Holy shit!
Basic Beast of the Fields Loaf, aka Metaloaf
as I mentioned, it seems to be easier to make double the batch of raw meat, freeze half, then continue on with the recipe.
1 1/2 lbs. grain-fed ground beef
1/2 lb. unseasoned ground pork
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fine, unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp. dried onion granules (or: 1/2 fresh onion, grated fine)
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 350°. Have at hand a 9×13 casserole dish or foil-covered baking sheet with a rim. The foil just makes clean-up easier.
- In a bowl, mix everything together at once, quickly and with your hands. Don’t overwork it.
- Split the mix in half and form from each a small loaf shape.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the exterior is browned and sizzling and the interior is cooked all the way through. Serve immediately.
I’ll tell you about those peas later.
Oddly, the slices in my photo look somewhat dry, but I assure you they weren’t. They were soft and flavorful and moist enough to pick up small pieces by merely pressing the fork against them. Mike went back for “Just another little slice” and ended up clutching his swollen belly and looking sort of smugly uncomfortable for an hour after dinner. Success.