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Nov 27, 2011 08:52 AM

Help me get back to mom's meat loaf

My mother's meat loaf was legendary and I'm certain the recipe came off a Cambell's soup can as it involves tomato soup as the sauce. Ground beef tossed w/celery, egg, onions, one wet slice of bread, parsley, smothered in tomato soup - couldn't be easier. It's best quality was it was crumbly - not hard as a rock like most meat loaf's.

I made it successfull in years past and now that I'm doing again mine is now rock hard. I've tried 3x. The only thing I can figure out is I'm using a denser slice of bread - Boudin sourdough instead of my mom's Wonder Bread style bread I was raised on. Does anyone have any ideas as to what makes meatloaf less dense? Thanks!

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  1. Are you overmixing it? Mix it until just mixed and then stop. Resist temptation to give it a couple more squishes. Also I think your idea of the bread could also be contributing to it. Remember old-timey meatloaf is a very basic recipe and use white sandwich style bread. I make bread crumbs from leftover sandwich bread and use that in my meatloaf or sometimes I use store bought bread crumbs.

    1. Don't use lean ground beef. You want at least 20% fat. Use more egg and more vegetables. I disagree that most meat loaves are hard - those that are are the result of a bad recipe or poor execution. You may also be overbaking, or your oven may be running hotter than it used to. Try mixing up your usual recipe, then sautee it in 5 ounce-ish
      patties in a nonstick pan filmed with oil, over medium-low heat. About 10 minutes per side. You now have what is known as frikadellen. If they are not hard, it's your baking time or temp that's to blame. My meat loaf and frikadellen are tender and moist, but I use a whopping amount of onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and coleslaw in the mixture.

      2 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        Both of these are great tips and I'll try next time. I think I may also be overcooking.

        1. re: mocro

          My grandma always used smushed up saltine crackers in her meatloaf and I do the same. In fact, that's what is for dinner tonight! I use a fair amount of onion and sometimes celery in mine and the mix is relatively wet when I put it in the pan. (I couldn't do my meatloaf free-form on a sheet pan, it wouldn't hold together. I do it in a loaf pan and drain the fat off part-way through.)

      2. Maybe you are not using enough water. Even though soaking the bread is a wetting agent, you need some water to make it squish when you smoosh it. Really good cooking terms I know.

        1 Reply
        1. re: vafarmwife

          It could be that the bread I use is so much more dense than my mom's good old squishy bread so it's not absorbing as much water.