meat loaf, was it me?
- Wendy Lai
Okay, I have never made meat loaf. Never wanted to eat it particularlly. I've had it in school cafeterias and such, nothing exciting really.
My husband saw someone make it on TV the other day and commented he has never had meat loaf before. So I decided to make one for him.
I did some searches and decided on using Alton Brown's recipe, which had good reviews.
I believe I'm a pretty excellent cook. I follow directions well. I know how to make very complicated fancy stuff. My meat loaf sucked.
I know I did it right, I followed the recipe to a t. But the meatloaf was just blaah. Overall the texture inside was sort of grainy and sort of soft and I don't know how do describe it, baby-food like. The top was carmalized and good, but just for that 1/4". The rest of the loaf was yuky.
It wasn't dry, which I know is a common problem with meatloaf. My was just yucky! My husband had it and declared he liked it and that it was good! He is a really picky eater!
So I'm thinking, maybe it's just me. Maybe I just don't like meat loaf.
I always take the easy way out in making meat loaf. No real recipe, and my family always loved it. I use 2 lbs. of lean ground beef, mix it with an egg, some bread crumbs or matzo meal (just a little), and a packet of onion soup mix. For fun I tuck hard boiled eggs and/or whole carrots lengthwise into the meat loaf for a pretty "surprise" in each slice. Nothing fancy, but it always tastes good, and with minimal fuss.
Lean meat is crucial. My first meatloaf ever was made with good quality halal beef. Excellent!
My second meatloaf was made with some random ground beef from a Chinese butcher. Obviously it was too fatty, because I ended up with a mushy meatloaf in a pool of oil. I threw the whole thing out.
Wendy, if it tastes too soft to you, consider using a leaner beef, less bread crumbs, and fewer eggs. But I agree with others that meatloaf might just not be for you.
I used one one egg to about 3 pounds of pretty lean beef. I had it on a rack, not too much oil dripped out.
I like Italian meatballs, which I make a really good version...but not sure what the point of a meat loaf is :P One giant meatball? I don't know...I think I'm going to forget making meatloafs, it's probably just not my thing.
re: Wendy Lai
I definitely agree that some people just don't like meatloaf. I personally have never understood why anyone gets excited about hamburgers. But before you give up entirely on the meatloaf thing (particularly because it sounds like your husband liked it), consider trying Paul Prudhomme's meatloaf from, I think, Louisiana Kitchen. I can paraphrase it for you tomorrow if you don't have the book. Basically, it's a good-quality meatloaf, but extra-spicy. Makes excellent sandwiches.
Also, good quality meat matters in a meatloaf. Another plug here for grass-fed beef! The meatloaves I've made from grass-fed beef have been amazing. And I even think the hamburgers are pretty good, you know, for hamburger.
When chowpups were growing up I made meatloaf with ground beef/pork, chopped onion and a package of Lawrys Sloppy Joe mix, topped with a can of tomato sauce with onions. Kind of gave that version up because of all the preservatives in the SJ mix. Now I like James Beard's version - good cold too.
My meatloaf recipe is at the link below.
A bit of discussion of the recipe is at http://www.chowhound.com/boards/cooki...
But what you describe (grainy and kind of soft texture) is pretty par for the course with just about every meatloaf I've had, so meatloaf might just not be your bag. Have you tried it cold, in a sandwich? You might like it better that way.
After reading the three recipes listed, I'm hesitant to offer a suggestion because maybe what I've been calling "meatloaf" all these years ought to have another name.
First, I have always used 2X ground beef (chuck instead of sirloin for the fat content) and 1X ground pork (sausage on occasion). Many recipes call for 1X ground veal as well but financial constraints put a stop to that inclusion years ago. Bread crumbs seem to be the universal extender but uncooked oats are good also. On the "Always or Must Use" list = onion, tomato product of some sort, eggs, S&P. Optionals include: sweet peppers, carrots, HB eggs, mustard and an endless list of possibilities.
Another bit of heresy: I've long thought the toppings or glazes are pretty to look at and add virtually no flavor to the final product. When the meatloaf is sliced, they disappear. If an extra "something" is a must, use a sauce made of the topping ingredients instead.
Before you give up, make a meatloaf sandwich from the cold meatloaf. Ambrosia! Comfort food of the highest order.
I was going to chime in with the pork - it makes a world of difference. I do use veal as well when making a Chicken Galantine (totally debone a whole chicken and stuff the "meatloaf" mixture in, roll the chicken around it, tie with string and bake - a classic recipe). But even for plain meatloaf the pork adds a lot of flavor and texture.
I've used maztoh meal, bread crumbs, and whole bread - soaked and squeezed/drained well. I like the bread best, but matzoh meal comes out quite good.
Seasonings can be all over the place - most meatloaves are underwhelming, but a good gravy covers up a lot of sins.
During the summer, I make "mini-loaves" and grill/roast them on the grill (grill to brown, and then roast off-fire). They do dry out a bit, but I serve with mushroom gravy and it goes over very well. In the winter, it's loaf pans in the oven.
My wife makes hers with just beef and uses tomato sauce on top, which makes it's own juice so it doesn't need any gravy.
It's all good! Comfort food, indeed!
I think you got a bum recipe. First its way too tight with only one egg, some croutons, and half a med. onion for 2#4oz of beef. Whats with 18oz of ground chuck and 18oz of ground sirloin anyway? Isnt that precious!! Then its processed until smooth. Wrong texture. Ill bet most of your correspondents mix their meat loaf by hand. This is not a delicate dish; its rough and ready. Im not a master meatloaf maker, but some of the suggestions posted are what Im familiar with. Try an envelope of Lipton onion soup for flavor. Use 2 parts ground beef to 1 part ground pork or pork sausage. Rough chop a big onion. Try bread crumbs. Or you can tear up bread and soak it in milk like making meat balls. If you use an onion soup mix, you probably dont need any salt. You can add some catsup. It will loosen and sweeten the loaf. I bake the loaf on a cookie cooling rack over a 9 x 13 baking dish. The grease all goes to the bottom and the loaf isnt swimming in it. Maybe Im not a master meat loaf maker because I never make the same meat loaf twice. Once in a while I get it right, though. You can experiment till you find the one you like.
Tips about making meatloaf: Shape it so that it is rectangular, flat and about 2" high. Do not put it in a loaf pan...just lay it on top of the oven pan with aluminum foil to catch the fat for easy clean up.
I love meatloaf. My wife makes it because she likes consistency of taste from one time to the next. I used to make it, but I like to play with my food. Some ingredient(s) was different each time I made it, and my wife is one those people who RELIGIOUSLY follows a recipe. Oy weh!
Top the meatloaf with a piquant sauce made up of catsup, mustard powder, and brown sugar about 20 minutes before it comes outta the oven.
Cold meatloaf sandwiches on good quality seeded rye bread with fresh cayenne or jalapeno peppers deep-fried in olive oil are molto gustoso.