meat loaf, was it me?
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/cooking5/messages/15307.html
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.
Do you like Italian meatballs? I have found that people who think they don't like meatloaf often love meatballs. If so just use that recipe for your meatloaf.
If you are finding your meatloaf is too mushy in the middle cut back on the liquid-y fillers (eggs, tomato products, etc) and try making smaller, less thick loaves
I love meatloaf and every one I make is different from the next as I use what ever meat I have on hand (beef, pork, veal, chicken, turkey) and any fillers I have on hand (seasoned breadcrumbs, panko, whole oats) and season it the same way (bottom of the ketchup bottle, leftover tomato paste, horseradish, onions, garlic). The joy of meatloaf is that you can season and flavor it to your liking. The best basic recipe is the one from the joy of cooking. Once you get the hang of that you can start tweaking it to your liking.
I agree that pork adds a lot to meatloaf in terms of rounding out flavor and texture. About 1/3 pork would be my recommendation. So it would be 12 oz each of pork, sirloin and chuck. (Veal seems less important for American style meatloaf; it's more useful in things like ragus, where it's higher gelatin content helps the sauce to glaze pasta properly.)
And I might experiment with upping the egg to add firmness; you might want to start with an extra yolk first.
But otherwise, Alton's got a good recipe and excellent loaf-shaping technique (that is, using a loaf pan only as a shaping mold, and turning the loaf onto a pan for baking -- much better than cooking it in the loaf pan).
One technique that he does not employ is sauteeing the veggies before mixing them in. He probably avoids this to retain their moisture, but what happens is that the veggies remain sorta blah that way. I'd saute them before mixing them in.
And you might consider mixing some (or all, if you cook the veggies first, and want a little more moisture in the loaf) of the glaze into the meatloaf. I personally find ketchup (something I don't like) adds much more to meatloaf in the loaf rather than on it.
Whatever you do, do not overhandle the mixture (which is what he means by "don't squeeze).
I don't like that recipe. I think there are way too many vegetables in it for a proper meatloaf and that's probably why you didn't like the texture. This is probably one of the only things I don't put garlic in. I'm also not a fan of tomato sauce in or on mine -- I grew up with the Campbell's tomato soup version and never really liked it. Mine is so much simpler and turns out great every time.
2 lbs of ground veal, pork and beef mixed (pork is essential)
1 cup plain bread crumbs
one small white onion chopped fine
1/4 cup minced parsley -- curley or flat
2 tsp salt
plenty of ground pepper
scant 1/2 cup water or broth
goodly amount of hot sauce
Beat the eggs and combine with everything but the meat and bread crumbs. Mix those in by hand and shape into a loaf in a large baking pan. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. While this is cooking make mashed potatoes and gravy. My cheating gravy is made using a butter/flour roux and Progresso French onion soup. Use 2-3 Tbsp flour and butter for each can of soup, depending on how much gravy you need: one can per pound of meat. It really goes well with the meat loaf. I make this for friends in the winter and they rave.
I've made the meatloaf in the linked book, "Cooking with Wine," with great success. It's called "Merlot Meat Loaf," and I don't have the book in front of me but it's from some vineyard or another. It follows the same principles lots of other posters have mentioned; must have both ground pork and ground beef (I believe it was 50/50), hand mix, and wine, lots of wine.
Also, some friends had a "meatloff" (i.e., a meatloaf off) and the winning recipe of the 5 housemates (beating the guy who'd gone to cooking school) was the one with a judicious amount of wine, by 'judicious', I mean a whole bottle, though I think that might be pushing it.
This is a terrific recipe. I've adapted it from a Paul Prudomme recipe.
2 whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cayenne, or less, to taste -- this amount makes a VERY spicy meatloaf -- I use 1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
--Finely chop in food processor:
3/4 cup onions
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/4 cup green onions or leeks
2 teaspoons garlic
1 tablespoon tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup ketchup
1 pound ground beef (I use chuck)
1 pound ground pork (not too fatty -- I use New York Sausage brand ground pork from Safeway)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh french bread crumbs -- day-old french bread whirred in the food processor (I use a good artisan bread like Acme or Metropolis) -- add crumbs until the mixture just holds together -- you may need a bit more or less bread
I bake this in a 9 x 13-in. pyrex baking dish.
Combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, Tabasco, Worcestershire and seasoning mix. Saute until mixture starts sticking excessively, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom well. Stir in the half-and-half and ketchup. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
Place the ground beef and pork in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, the cooked vegetable mixture, removing the bay leaves, and the bread crumbs. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined.
In the center of a 9 x 13-in. pyrex (metal is fine, too) baking dish, shape the mixture into a loaf that is about 1-1/2 inches high, 6 inches wide and 12 inches long.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, then raise heat to 400 degrees and continue cooking until done, about 35 minutes longer.
Mom's meatloaf: 1 lb. ground pork, 2 lbs. ground beef, one small onion chopped fine, 1-2 stalks of celery likewise, chopped green pepper (which I omit). About 1/8 lb. of soda crackers crushed fine. 1 giant egg, about 1/3 cup ketchup, Tbs. of Worcestershire, heaping Tbs. of prepared horseradish. S&P as wanted. Put the meats into a big bowl, mix together, then put in everything else and mix it WITH YOUR HANDS until it's combined and will hold its shape. Form into a rough loaf shape, drop it into a glass loaf pan, put it in a 350º oven for about an hour and a half, occasionally sucking the fat/liquid out with a bulb baster, until it's about 165º in the center. Let it rest 20 min. before removing.
This makes a very firm loaf that can be sliced thin when cold for meatloaf sandwiches, which is actually why I make meatloaf. My brother follows almost the same recipe and comes up with a soft, almost spreadable paté-like substance, which is HIS preference. Go figure...but I believe he adds more ketchup, and he uses rolled oats instead of crumbs. He also kneads it very gently - I don't.
Wendy - I've been watching this thread with some curiousity for a day or so... and I've come to this conclusion. You probably just don't like Meatloaf. And, darnit, that is ok.
The suggestions folks have given are really good, but my guess is that even if it makes an improvement, there's a darn good chance you won't like it.
I think the only reason I like it is because it was a weekly occurance in my home growing up. But mine HAS to be just like the one I had growing up, or I don't like it. If I hadn't grown up with it, I think I'd think it was pretty gross. Frankly, a "loaf" of meat sounds pretty gross to me. So, makes a lot of sense that people don't like it.
All that said, I do like meatloaf (my mom's recipe, of course), and lately, I've been smoking it on my smoker, basting with bbq sauce for the last few minutes. Sounds weird, I know, but for those who already like meatloaf, it's really good.
So, feed it to your hubby.. and maybe your dog. You can enjoy your delectible meatballs instead.. :)
I'm a fan of meat loaf in the winter - it's "comfort food" for me with mashed potatoes and peas.
Now, however, I always jazz it up a lot more than what Mom used to make......a Roasted Garlic meat loaf; or stuffed with goat cheese and roasted red peppers, various ways. Let me know if you want some additional recipes.
Wendy, your comment "The top was carmalized and good, but just for that 1/4". The rest of the loaf was yuky. " sealed the deal for me. The texture of meatloaf just isn't for some. I too love that crunchy, carmelly top but you can keep the rest. So, when your hubby gets a craving, make whatever recipe floats your boat. However, don't use a loaf pan (those are for bread!) cuz that just lets the meat stew in grease. Flatten the loaf out to about 1 inch thick and bake it for a shorter period of time. You'll get more surface area and will get that lovely crunchy top without too much mushy stuff.
Make it flatter, or just make meatballs!