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Does using a stand mixer to mix meatloaf negatively affect the texture?

I always had the impression that most people felt that using a stand mixer and a paddle to mix meatloaf would negatively affect the texture.

Recently, I saw an article in Cook's Illustrated about using a food processor to ensure the panade got thoroughly mixed.

I figured if they could do that then I could use a stand mixer so I did. Unfortunately, I had to leave for work about 15 minutes before the loaf was done (a miscalculation). Anyway, the only thing I got was a meatloaf sandwich the next day so it was too difficult to judge the texture.

Have any of you actually tried it?

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  1. I like the texture that happens when the cook mixes with their actual clean, ungloved hands. I would be interested to know if using a mixer changes that texture, too. Dare you to do it again...

    2 Replies
    1. re: EWSflash

      I have to admit it was nice. No freezing your hands and it got uniformly mixed.

      1. re: EWSflash

        I always mix meatloaf with my bare hands (just mixed some meatballs this way too, actually). Never even thought to throw them in my stand mixer.

      2. I have actually done this, many years ago. It made a solid, meatloaf--too solid. I would not mix a meatloaf in a KA mixer.

        1. my mother always told me to mix meatloaf by hand...not even a hand mixer..

          1. The military (and other folks who make it in large quantities) uses commercial stand mixers to prepare large amounts of meat loaf. What it does for the texture would depend largely on how long and at what speed it was mixed. But because meat loaf doesn't need to be mixed as thoroughly as a dough or batter I wouldn't use my stand mixer for the task. It's faster and less complicated to simply use your hands to get the job done.

            1. My grandmother made the best lightest meatloaf ever.No panade, ice water and grated potato. The recipe, in her handwriting says at the top: Handle this meat mixture as little as you possibly can. Or less.

              8 Replies
              1. re: magiesmom

                I know this is a big request, but would you post that recipe?

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Sure. it is very simple: Written for me when I married in 1974
                  Nanny's Meat Loaf
                  Handle this mixture as little as you possibly can. Or less.

                  11/2 lbs chopped meat, not too lean
                  1 large potato, raw,peeled, grated on small holes of box grater
                  1 large onion, grated on the large side of a box grater
                  1/2 cup ice water
                  salt, pepper, paprika,a little oregano, a little worchestershire if you like it
                  Mix gently with your hands. Let stand in bowl 2 hours in ice box. then preheat oven to 400.
                  Shape into loaf in a very shallow pan
                  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, pour off fat. Reduce heat to 350.
                  Mix one can tomato paste with one can water, pour over loaf ( she means a small can)
                  Bake 1 hour. let sit 10 minutes before slicing.

                  I sometimes use ground pork for 1/4 of the mix; she would roll over in her grave.
                  I never make any other changes.

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    That looks good...I've never seen a recipe with potato - only ever breadcrumbs or oatmeal.

                    I'll have to try it -- Thanks!

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I hope you like it. The potato makes it much lighter than breadcrumbs or oatmeal.

                      1. re: magiesmom

                        Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe. I, too, have never heard of grating potato, but I'm going to try this. I'm really curious!

                        1. re: monavano

                          I hope you like it. It really needs the time in the fridge. I think the potato must absorb the water.

                    2. re: magiesmom

                      My grandmother said you HAVE to mix it by hand, because the heat from your hands is what melds it perfectly.

                    3. I can't tell you about meatloaf, but I will tell you that it does make a difference for dumpling fillings.

                      At least for dumplings, always always always (did I say, "always"?) use your hands to mix the filling, never a mixer unless you enjoy meatballs wrapped in dumpling skin.

                      1. Funny...I avoid using the stand mixer at all costs. Somehow, it's just so bulky getting out of the cabinet, don't like cleaning it, etc. So...I'd definitely use my hands. Plus, I would think the mixer would compact (for lack of a better word) the meat too much. I know that when making burgers, it's important to try not to manhandle the meat too much.

                        As an aside - I'll mix things by hand, use a hand mixer, ANYTHING rather than get that darned mixer out! I actually sometimes avoid recipes that require me to use it!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jbsiegel

                          I *love* my stand mixer...I'm not big on hauling it off its shelf, but it's my fave kitchen toy.

                        2. I wish I could link to the video, but since I'm not in the US, I can't get to it.

                          Alton Brown did an episode of "Good Eats" about ground meat and meatloaf, and I remember him talking about mixing it and not overworking the meat..but I can't give any details because I can't view it, dangit!

                          So do a YouTube search for "Alton Brown Meatloaf" -- and watch that one - I think it's posted by Like The Hat Productions, or something similar.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I just watched the video. He used the food processor to mix the 2-3 kinds of meat. He used the food processor to chop and mix the vegetables and the croutons but then he mixed the veggies and the already food processed meat with his hands. He even made a point of saying not to overwork the meat with your hands by making it squish between your fingers.

                            Cook's Illustrated recommended using a food processor to incorporate the panade (white bread and milk) into the meat.

                            We know that cafeterias and institutions routinely use a mixer for their meatloaves.

                            I wish we could get a definitive answer on this. It would also be nice to have an explanation. I have looked on the web but haven't found anything.

                            Any of you culinary school trained moderators know?

                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                              thanks for being the eyes and ears, Hank.

                              (don't get me started on all the regional copyright issues!)

                          2. I do it all the time. In fact, the original reason I purchased a KA stand mixer 15 years ago was that I have osteoarthritis in my hands, and mixing cold ground meat for meatballs or meatloaf often left my knuckles burning.

                            I believe that my mixture is more thoroughly mixed than if I had used my hands exclusively, but I don't over do the mixing either. It is possible to mix it for minutes and minutes and get something that has a really pasty texture when you are done, so just enough to get all of the ingredients thoroughly combined is what I am looking for. No adverse affects that I have noticed.

                            I usually do a beef, pork and veal mixture for both meatballs and meatloaf, with eggs, breadcrumb or bread, spices, and either ketchup for a meatloaf, or tomato sauce (straight from the saucepot) when making meatballs. I have gotten lots of compliments on both dishes over the years, so I wouldn't hesitate if you want to use your mixer. A food processer, I think, depending on the blade, might just mince the meat really finely, more so than the texture of the ground meat before it went into the food processor. The stand mixer paddle doesn't grind the meat down to smaller bits, it just mixes.

                            1. I used to work for a grocery that had an extensive carry out selection, including meatloaf in the cold and hot case. They always mixed the meatloaf (and the meatballs, btw) by hand in huge tubs. It took a long time, and near to froze the cook's fingers, but they were convinced it made a difference in the texture. The meatloaf was very popular, too. I've always mixed by hand.

                              The only time I've seen recipes calling for mixing meat with a machine was in the recipe for lahmajun in Ana Sortun's Spice. I believe she was trying to replicate a fluffy texture with a food processor, because it's traditionally chopped with large cleavers over and over and over. But, I'd think that a KA or other stand mixture would only make the meat mixture more dense. Maybe not? I've never done it, as I like my recipe, and mixed by hand.

                              1. Anybody ever use the dough hook for that, or the whisk? Just curious. i expect the whisk would be difficult to clean, to say the least

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  Yeah the whisk would turn into a club. :-) A mangled club at that.

                                2. Think about how you like your meatloaf, dense slices like a cold pate' or looser like a casserole. The more it's mixed the more like the former it will be.

                                  1. I think I may have to settle it with an experiment. 1 meatloaf hand mixed. 1 meatloaf mixed in a mixer until just incorporated and 1 meatloaf mixed in a mixer for good while.

                                    Then bake all 3 and evaluate when hot and when cold.

                                    1. Step away from the mixer, and no one gets hurt.

                                      (Btw, if you want to lighten the loaf, be sure to use a panade that uses fresh rather than dry crumbs, and use egg yolk not the white - the white makes it gummier and heavier.)

                                      1. I'm going to have to do that experiment as described earlier. I would love it if a few chowhounders did it. We could make it definitive. Much more definitive than if just one person did it.

                                        There is very little data on the web about this.

                                        1. my first meatlof ever i used my kitchenaid stand mixer...it tasted too tight and rubbery..never again..

                                          i like my meatloaf loose.

                                          its all preference, though.

                                          1. With proper technique the mixer works just fine. You just have to be careful not to over mix it. It is done with great success in many restaurants all the time.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: chefj

                                              That may explain why restaurant meatloaf is rarely as good as the one I make at home.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Go to better restaurants. As stated above with careful technique the results are as good as hand mixed.

                                                1. re: chefj

                                                  I"m with Karl on this. I think meatloaf is the rare dish that is done much better at home than in restaurants. If it's the mixing process, then so be it.

                                                  I like meatloaf and I don't like pate, so I mix my meatloaf by hand. Using a mixer breaks up the meat into smaller particles and produces a denser loaf than what I prefer.

                                                  1. re: 512window

                                                    You do not need to end up with "pate" and would not unless you weighted it while it chilled.
                                                    If you know what your doing you won't destroy the texture of the meat or end up with a dense loaf.

                                            2. Ooo, no. Too dense. Of course, I like large onion and garlic chunks in my meatloaf so it crumbles lightly when I serve it hot, and I have to cool it a little for it to hold together.

                                              1. Experimentation has to be done to get to the bottom of this. I was trained to only use my hands, too.

                                                It appears that all the info we have seen on this thread and on the web is anecdotal. Most of the people that recommend against it have been doing it by hand for years and so have I.

                                                It just makes me suspicious when very little factual info is out there and there are large institutions that mix meatloaf with a mixer routinely.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  there's a significant difference between making a few pounds of meatloaf for family and friends and making enough meatloaf to feed a school/corporation/etc.

                                                  With institutions, you have the risk of contamination from all the hands you'd have to have to mix enough meatloaf to feed 300 people, combined with the elevated temperatures brought on by having it in bowls/on worktops and the heat from all those hands.

                                                  With a machine you have better control of contamination, quicker mixing which means less thermal risk of entering the danger zone temperature-wise, and better control over consistency (both textural and sameness)...and it's faster and cheaper to flip on the Hobart than it is to pay all those hands and to deal with the increased chances of contamination.

                                                  It's all money on this one.

                                                2. If I mixed up a meatloaf with the paddled KA,
                                                  the ghost of my Daddy would straddle me.

                                                  He'd grin of those times over shared mixing bowl
                                                  where we had four fun hands in there together.

                                                  There was "plop" of ground beef as it dropped in the bowl,
                                                  followed by ketchup and mustard and oaties.

                                                  It was such a fun dance... a father-son dance
                                                  as we laughed with a twist
                                                  and sank down to our wrists
                                                  and wriggled our digits to make good the loaf.

                                                  These days, without Dad,
                                                  I surely remember
                                                  the feel of his fingers
                                                  as he danced through the beef and the oats.

                                                  To heck with the structure of oats v, panade....

                                                  I got to make meatloaf with Daddy.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. The experimentalist in me has tried it three ways: with my hands, KA mixer and food pro. I must say I prefer using my hands as I prefer a looser meatloaf. However, if you mix it VERY briefly with a dough hook it is still successful. Pulsing it briefly in my food pro yielded the same result as my KA mixer. The key is to mix just until everything is incorporated, sort of like quick breads.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: chefathome

                                                        But it is not easier or better so why do it ?

                                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                                          Simply because I like to experiment and enjoy food science. My culinary students always ask those questions, too, so I like to be proactive and speak from personal experience. I will continue to make it as I always have, with my hands.