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Aug 11, 2009 10:47 AM

Difference between meatloaf and Salisbury Steak?

Or, better yet, is there a difference between meatloaf and Salisbury Steak?

Or are they essentially the same thing (with some minor variations)?

Is Salisbury Steak just a fancy name for meatloaf to trick grade school kids and Swanson's TV Dinner addicts to feel like they're eating something "haute"?

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  1. I *love* a good "Salisbury Steak." For me, SS has no breadcrumbs in it, whereas some of the meat loaf recipes I use include breadcrumbs. Good Salisbury Steak is made from good ground beef, contains minced onion and occasionally a duxelle of mushrooms -- and the gravy is very, very important.

    Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes and buttered peas make me feel good all over!

    10 Replies
    1. re: shaogo

      From one SS lover to another, I'm not quibbling with you, but shaogo, if you Google "salisbury steak recipe" you'll come up with as many iterations that use breadcrumbs (or some other filler) as those that do not.

      I used to circle the dates on my grade school cafeteria calendar when they served Salisbury Steak (usually with mashed potatoes and overcooked/boiled green beans and carrots)

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I'm sure there are many variations on Salisbury Steak, just as there are meatloaf. However, meatloaf traditionally includes ketchup or tomato sauce/paste, whereas Salisbury steak does not. And Salisbury steak is always served with a rich, brown gravy.

        I love me some Salisbury steak too. :)

        1. re: lynnlato

          Funnily, where I grew up meat loaf usually uses brown gravy (with or without mushrooms), never ketchup or tomato sauce.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          Count me in with the school-cafeteria SS lovers. There were two or maybe three dishes that our cafeteria made that I liked a whole lot, and that was one of them. Canned peas was the usual accompaniment for us, or peas & carrots. I had no idea what Salisbury steak was until then; it seems to be one of those things served only in cafeterias.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Y'know, I think I started eating those nasty Swanson TV dinners way back when because I started getting cafeteria salisbury steak withdrawals.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Swanson ain't THAT nasty, except the fried chicken, though any TVD fried chicken tastes like it came out of someone's sock drawer. TVD Salisbury steak is not that bad. I'd much prefer having it as a single frozen entree, though, since the side dishes perennially suck.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Oh, I am so disappointed with Swanson. I used to enjoy their TV dinners a few years ago, when I was working 12 hour days, and really didn't have the energy to cook when I got home. Their plates were divided into four sections - main course, potato, veg, and dessert. Some were OK (SS, turkey, sliced beef) and others not so good (the chicken as you noted).

                Then someone got the bright idea of putting the meal into a three section dish. This lumped the potato in with the main, and the result was neither was cooked properly. At the same time, some bright boy came up with the idea of replacing the fruit dessert with a brownie. Previously, you peeled back the plastic from the spuds and the dessert, threw it into the zapper, and kicked back until it was done. Now, with the friggin' brownie, you have to stop part way through cooking to fuss with the brownie, which doesn't taste very good any way. Feh.

                Luckily, the "No Name" version of TV dinners at our local supermarket continues to have the 4 section plate, with fruit, not a brownie, and at $1.99, they're a bargain. The fried chicken is still awful, though.

                1. re: FrankDrakman

                  Some things are not meant to be reheated, and fried chicken is I think irrevocably in that category. What they should do is put some nice stuffing in a well-seasoned skinless, boneless thigh (or breast for the hopelessly white-meat addicted) and let it go at that. Or use their pot pie filling and call it À La King...

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    Nothing like cold fried chicken in the morning. Mmmmm

                    1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                      Or anytime, if it's the right kind. Lightly-coated but crisp works best cold... although, to be honest, ANY fried chicken is better cold than reheated. The only good way to reheat it is frying! Nuking is next-best, baking the worst.

      2. for me salisbury steak is more akin to a hamburger patty than a meatloaf.

        1. One is shaped in a form of a loaf and baked in the oven; the other more like a steak cooked on top of the stove.

          1. I think shaogo nailed it. No crumbs or filler; onions and duxelle-yes. More like a burger and less like a meatball/meatloaf. What is anyone's fave brown gravy recipe for SS? Do you use some of the pan drippings and add flour & beef stock or is there a better method?

            1. Shaogo did nail it in terms of popular distinction.

              If you want the very original recipe from 1888, you will find it at page 97 here:



              3 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                Great link to the original, Karl. Isn't it wonderful to be on the planet as we watch the world's digitized library of classic books grow and grow?

                Dr. Salisbury wanted to get right to the issue of the easiest digested protein for his patients.

                Note that he advocates removal of all less-easily-digested connective tissue.

                For an easy way to mimic the original if you don't have a Buffalo Chopper at home, simply buy an eye of round roast, cut to 1/2" cubes, and then slowly pulse in food processor. We're not talking about loosley-grained burger meat here: we're talking a pulverized shredded matrix where the fbers are torn, and which upon cooking will form to a dense, but very chewable, patty.

                Salisbury recommended it as the first step of alimentative recovery, with later addition of more normal foods only after the urine densities were reduced.

                Today's popular Swanson's patty is a far cry from the original. And "gravy" (an anomalous mix of "whatever") has entered the required scene as a way to ameliorate the "canner-grade" beef . But if fits the requirements of "tasty". Note the filler/additive allowances now that the FDA has set percentage guidelines.

                The processor-minced eye of round is fun to try. It's right up there with the comfort of chicken soup when you're recovering from an illness.

                1. re: FoodFuser

                  Thanks. How many people have a patty thus formed, one inch thick, and broiled rather than pan-grilled? When he specifies celery as a permitted relish, I bet he is assuming people know to string it before eating it (something that is rarely done in the US anymore, but was once the normal way to prepare it, just like stringing beans).

                  1. re: Karl S

                    Mid sixties. We used to buy Swanson TV dinners when on University volleyball tournaments. Travelling by private Greyhound-like bus. City to city.
                    Three to a hotel room. To singles and a rollaway. Hot water heat. We'd put the TV dinners on the registers. When we came back from where we played the tournament we ate barely thawed TV dinners. I liked the chicken but I liked the turkey best.