melo_annechen: (ooh)
melo_annechen ([personal profile] melo_annechen) wrote2016-01-17 01:48 pm

Meat Loaf Basic Theory


The dish, not the singer.

There are thousands of recipes out there for meatloaf, as it is one of the staples of an American cookbook. Nearly every family I know makes it differently. Except the vegetarians, who usually have something with tofu or lentils that takes its place, which is another thing we’ll get into after Fat Tuesday.

There is a very basic recipe by Zoe Coulson, in the The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, that is a good start.

Meat Loaf

2 pounds lean ground beef

2 cups fresh white or whole-wheat bread crumbs (about four bread slices)

½ cup milk

½ cup minced onions

2 eggs

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well.

  2. Spoon mixture into a 9” x 5” loaf pan, leveling the top.

  3. Bake at 350°F for 1 ½ hours.

  4. Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes at room temperature, then pour off and discard the drippings.

  5. With a spatula, loosen the meat loaf from the pan. Invert onto a warm platter and remove loaf pan.

This is just the most basic of recipes. Coulson follows it with several variations with various additions. However, there’s one version that was not included - blended meat types.

My first change was adding southern breakfast sausage to the mix, and using seasoned croutons instead of breadcrumbs. When you change a recipe, you need to understand what you are both taking out and putting in - for instance, both the sausage and the croutons add salt, so reducing the salt to one teaspoon was almost enough. The sausage added a little more fat and spice, as well. The end result was a flavorful main dish.

1 pound lean ground beef (80/20 meat to fat ratio is good, 90/10 is as high as I go for meatloaf)

1 pound sausage (Southern-style breakfast sausage, mild or sage)

1 cup seasoned croutons

½ cup milk

½ cup minced onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients gently, but well.

  3. Spoon mixture into a 9” x 5” loaf pan, leveling the top, then pulling the meat away from the sides, sliding your fingers or a spatula down the sides to shape the loaf.

  4. Bake at 350°F for 1 ½ hours.

  5. Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes, then pour off and discard the drippings.

  6. With a spatula, loosen the meatloaf from the pan. Invert onto a warm platter and remove loaf pan.

If someone in the house is on a restricted diet, lightening the mix by adding ground chicken or turkey is also an option.

You must keep in mind the basics in substitution; taste, texture and function.

This is why ground turkey, by itself, is not a good choice for a one-to-one substitution in most recipes. I found out the hard way, when I substituted ground turkey for the ground beef in one meatloaf. Do not do this. The flavor profile is all wrong, as well as the consistency. Part of the issue is you need some fat in your meatloaf. That is because fat tastes good, and is the reason why a good meatloaf does not dry out when baked.

Poultry also has a milder flavor than beef, and can carry some subtle flavors. When you reduce fat and salt, you will need those herbs to keep the overall flavor from falling flat.

1 pound lean ground beef (this is when you really want the 90/10 ground beef)

1 pound ground chicken

1 cup bread crumbs

¼ cup buttermilk

½ cup minced onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 eggs

1 teaspoon parsley

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon thyme

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon rosemary

Follow the directions as the same for the sausage meatloaf.

Then there will be times when you have to alter a recipe because you haven’t got everything it calls for, and you really don’t want to go out, or you have to wait until payday for a grocery run. Maybe it’s after the holidays and you have a little bit of this or that, leftover ingredients that you really ought to use before they go stale/off/bad. As long as you keep in mind the basics in substitution (taste, texture and function) you can manage to pull off delicious meal.

This is one of those recipes, culminating from a series of “whatchagot in the fridge” episodes over the past Winterfaire.

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 cup herb seasoned stuffing

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 eggs

½ teaspoon garlic salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Again, the technique is similar to the poultry and sausage blend meatloaves.

With any of these starting points, there are options to add along the way. Filled meatloaf is an option, with a layer of spinach or mushrooms in the middle, or in some of the older recipes, hard boiled eggs, peeled and whole, for a surprise. Other paths can be taken by skewing the flavor profile to Italian by replacing the Southern breakfast sausage with sweet sausage, ¼ cup parmesan cheese and a teaspoon of oregano, to Tex-Mex by going with hot chorizo and chili powder, German by using rye breadcrumbs, a layer of sauerkraut (please make it yourself, it is worth it) and ½ teaspoon caraway seeds or to Indian with chicken and adding one cup frozen green peas or cooked lentils and switching out the herb blend for 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

You might have noticed I have not provided a recipe for a catsup-and-brown-sugar glaze. There is an excellent reason for this. Anyone who has cooked or dined with me knows my abhorrence for ketchup or catsup, in any form. Until my son began to demand it on everything, I never even bought the stuff. Before I even moved out of my parent’s house, I was substituting steak sauce or mustard for ketchup where I could, opting for tomato paste where the flavor of tomato was needed. Generally speaking, if the if you are careful to maintain the fat and moisture content, meatloaf does not need the extra glaze. But if you really like it, go ahead.

To wrap up; play around with your ingredients, but be mindful of what each one does for the recipe as a whole, keep the catsup for your fries, and I have not yet been satisfied with a meatloaf made entirely of ground poultry, though it can make lovely meatballs. But that, after all, is another recipe.

Coulson, Z. (1980). The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. New York: Hearst Books.

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