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Meat Loaf Lightener

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I'm making a meat loaf tonight and I wanted to see what other people use for the "filler"
Bread crumbs? Oatmeal? I have about 2 pounds of meat ( a mixture of ground beef and ground pork) How much should I use? I'd like something to keep the loaf from being like beef flavored lead.

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  1. I made meat loaf the other day without any measurements and I used panko, which turned out nice. However I grew up with the rolled oats meatloaf and I like that better. There is a good full proof recipe for meatloaf in an old mennonite cookbook, but unfortunately its at my parent's house.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bitsubeats

      I've used panko also and am going to try some flavored panko that I have seen in local stores.

    2. I've always used breadcumbs (Progresso Italian style). Never really measured though, probably around a cup a pound. My In laws use stale bread that they wet and squeeze out (never figured that one out). I also add onion flakes, mozzeralla, eggs, and marinara. Wife adds ketchup and mustard and eggs (surprisingly good, adds a little tang).

      1. I save heels of bread (Pep farm etc) in the freezer and when I make a meatloaf I pop them in the toaster to defrost and dry out and then into a min chopper for bread crumbs. I usually use one fat heel for a pound of meat. Then I adjust with Progresso Italian crumbs. I also like panko but the heels are cheaper.

        1. I like oatmeal; it lightens the loaf, has a neutral flavor so you taste the meat and seasonings, it soaks up some of the moisture so your meatloaf isn't swimming in juice, and I like to think it's sorta good for you. I don't really measure, but for 2 lb. of meat I'd estimate a bit less than a cup of oatmeal.

          1. Beliee it or not, about 2 1/2 cups of crushed corn flakes adds a nice texture and flavor. Add onion, garlic, mustard, worcestershire, and a dash of soy, a little salt and pepper, and you've got a mighty tasty meatloaf.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bear

              Oh, and a can of undiluted tomato soup and five slices of bacon on top.

              1. re: bear

                Seeing other recipes keeps reminding me what I left out. Two eggs in the mix. Bake at 350 for 1 hr. 15 min. -1 hr. 30 min.

            2. Bread soaked in milk. Helps to keep moisture in. Also, I have found that very finely chopped mushrooms, mixed thoroughly in, keep a meatloaf extremely moist because they sweat as they cook.

              1. Add me to Team Oatmeal. Oats seem to make for a moister, less dense result than plain ol' breadcrumbs.

                Depending on my mood, I sometimes add bulgur wheat to the mixture instead of standard fillers to boost the nutritional value. It works best with a well-spiced ground beef/lamb mixture, IMO, as it adds a slight nutty undertaste and a chewy texture.

                1. forgot to add that as well as oatmeal, I throw in a few squeezes of ketchup (both on top of meatloaf and inside) and a tablespoon or so of milk

                  1. Mine is very whit trash, and very high sodium, but it is what I grew up on and nothing can substitute. I use a strip of saltines per pound of meat, one chopped onion, a small can of tomato sauce and one egg. Season with pepper only. Most would find it rather dry, but I cannot suffer those meatloafs with mushrooms, peppers, or other veg; a bacon wrap; or a slather of ketchup on top.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Hoosierland

                      Mine is a hybrid of Hoosier's and the others: I use crushed saltines also, but I also put in onion, green pepper, the egg, and I also put in about 1/2 cup of cottage cheese (I know it sounds funny, but it's the way my mama taught me.) It also helps to lighten things up besides the crackers, and you really don't taste it.
                      Also parmesan cheese (both inside and on top), flavored tomato sauce (1/2 can inside, 1/2 can on top), and I've started putting a little Tabasco Chipotle sauce in as well. Gives it a little "something extra" in there.

                    2. I use heels of bread, but my real lightener is veggies. I add about 2 cups of sauteed veggies (minced carrot, onion, celery, and red bell pepper) to a pound or so of ground meat. A great way of getting the veggies in, and although the veggies are sauteed in part to get out excess moisture, more veggie juice comes out in the pan during cooking, and bastes the loaf as it bakes. It's wonderful. Never dry, never heavy.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sasha1

                        That sounds like a Ming Tsai recipe we tried recently only he used zuke instead of red pepper and had a larger dice. The secret ingredient was hoisin sauce. It made a very light loaf and was delicious cold in a sandwich the next day.

                        1. re: ginnyhw

                          I wonder if I got my inspiration from Ming subconsciously. Probably not, since I don't use the hoisin either. In addition to the meat, veg, bread, and egg, I usually throw in some ketchup and mustard for flavoring. People at home generally eat it up pretty quickly. I say generally because my 2 kids go through various stages ranging from I'll eat anything to I survive on fumes. At any given time, I can only hope that 1 of them falls into the former and can entice the other one.

                        2. re: sasha1

                          A favorite of mine used semi-cooked veggies -- eggplant, zucchini, some potato, onion, tomato, etc. The meat part was half ground lamb and half ground veal or chicken, with the usual egg and crumbs. I would say the proportions were 40-60 veg. to meat.

                          The recipe is long-lost and I've had no luck trying to google it up.

                        3. I've used regular breadcrumbs, panko and matzo meal in different circumstances. Not a huge difference between the first two, but the last brings an interesting sweetness to the party (ah, the wonders of figuring out what the heck to make for dinner during Passover after a few nights). I liked it so much I've made it with leftover matzo meal (which I ALWAYS end up with) well after the holiday.

                            1. Supposedly using oats is going to produce a meatloaf that isn't going to come out in perfect slices: they fall apart. I absolutely love oats in my meatloaf: it makes a moist and light meat loaf. Using bread crumbs would make it more loafy, that is you can slice it and use it easily on sandwiches and stuff: the result is a bit more dense but delicious as well.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: digkv

                                I am also in the Oat camp... to make my meat loaf lighter I either use Ground Turkey with Pork Sausage, or Ground Beef with Italian Turkey sausage (but never Turkey / Turkey...)

                              2. I'm late to the party...

                                I use breadcrumbs (for 2 pounds of meat, I use about 3/4 cup breadcrumbs) and freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup). I find the cheese gives good flavor and helps to bind without being heavy.

                                My recipe: 2 lbs ground beef (or use mixture of beef/pork/veal), 2 eggs, 2/3 cup ketchup, 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.

                                Mix all together until combined. Free-form make a loaf on a sheet pan (I prefer this over baking in a loaf pan, as any grease can run off). Make a 1:1 mixture of about 2-3 tablespoons each of ketchup and bbq sauce and spread that over the top of the meatloaf. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

                                1. I use cracker crumbs, my brother uses oatmeal, but aside from that we're still making Mom's meatloaf, and we're both thinking in terms of meat loaf sandwiches. The main difference is that he wants his to be a sort of almost spreadable paté, and I want mine to cut into thin slices. To that end he uses more ketchup than I do, and chops his vegetables (onion, celery and green pepper) more coarsely. I knead mine until it becomes stiff enough to form a free-standing loaf; he practically pours his into the pan. As Bat Guano mentioned, the oatmeal does soak up a lot of the juice in his loaf, while mine throws off about a cup for a 3-pound loaf, which I have to remove with the bulb baster. And we each agree that the other's meatloaf is very tasty but we prefer our own.

                                  1. I actually like a heavier/denser meatloaf. What would you guys recommend as a filler?

                                    As far as using bulgur, do you have to cook it first, or do you just throw it in its dry state?

                                    1. Last week I watched Ellie Krieger on the food Network make "Mom's Meatloaf" -- a healthy version with ground Turkey and oats as a filler. I made it over the weekend, and as a substitute for the ketchup I used some Rao's Marinara Sauce blended with rehydrated sun dried tomatoes and a little tamari. It came out quite good -- but was better on the second day! Here's the recipe:

                                      1. The old oatmeal recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law. 3/4cup of oats soaked abit in a small can of evaporated milk. Add to 1 &1/2-2 lbs. meat. I make a turkey meatloaf that you grate a cup of zucchini into. Really keeps it moist and light.

                                        1. Just a tip.....I put two slices of bread in the bottom of my loaf pan. this keeps the grease from sitting on top of the meatloaf. When you pull it out of the pan, the bread seperates from the meatloaf.

                                          1. I use Pepperidge Farm or Arnold cornbread stuffing--the kind that comes in a bag not a box. Crush and soak with a little buttermilk. I have not tried it with beef but it's good with ground chicken or turkey. 1 lb. meat to 1/2 cup stuffing, plus the usual other ingredients. Next time I am going to add some grated zucchini.

                                            1. Oats, given a spin in the chopper to make them finer, do great. I also have used cottage cheese to keep it moist and add flavor.

                                              1. When making Meat Loaf , you should use 1/3 beef (Chuck), 1/3 Pork, and 1/3 Veal. Or 2/3 Beef Chuck and 1/3 Veal if you don't want to use Pork.That will lighten it up immediately. The quality of the meat you use does make a difference.

                                                Ask your butcher to grind them together for you.

                                                I always make 4-6 lbs of meat at a time because Meat Loaf freezes so beautifully.

                                                I use at least a cup of chopped, sauteed vegetables: carrots, celery, onion, red pepper for each two pound of meat.

                                                I use Fage 5% yogurt instead of Sour Cream.

                                                I have been using a loaf of Golden Raisin Semolina Bread ( I get mine at Caputo) Cut off the crusts and cut into chunks. Pulse until fine in Cuisinart.

                                                I also use 2 eggs per pound and 1/2 cup ketchup or Chili Sauce

                                                My Meat Loaf is always different, but always,light, moist and delicious.

                                                I think mine is a variation on the Bill Blass Meat Loaf from Arthur Schwartz, and the
                                                72 Market Street Meat Loaf.