Meatloaf is a great meal for anyone watching their food budget. It can be made with simple and relatively cheap ingredients, and it’s filling.
I think meatloaf has a bum rap, though. It’s certainly not everyone’s favorite meal, and some even cringe when they hear the word.
Now, my mama made some tasty meatloaf when I was growing up. The perfect meatloaf, if she may so so herself. Of course, I’ve heard a lot of people say they made the perfect meatloaf, and while some were decent, none could compare to ma’s.
A lot of the negative feelings surrounding meatloaf – one of my favorite foods, I might add – is in the way it’s prepared, I believe. So many people think that making a meatloaf just involves mixing some meat, breadcrumbs, and eggs and tossing it into a loaf pan to bake. Although making a meatloaf is pretty simple, making the perfect meatloaf is something of an art.
Here are some of mama’s secrets for the perfect meatloaf…
Start With the Right Meat
Lean ground beef can result in a meatloaf that’s too dry, while super fatty ground beef can make your meatloaf too greasy. Choose ground beef that’s 80% lean meat and 20% fat for the perfect meatloaf.
Saute Your Veggies
For the perfect meatloaf, don’t simply chop your veggies and toss them into the mix. Saute your diced onions, celery, peppers, mushrooms, or whatever veggies you’re using, before you add it to your meatloaf. This brings out the flavor of the veggies and helps make the meatloaf more moist. Or is it moister…?
Don’t Add Dry Bread
Stale bread or crackers is a must for meatloaf fillers. However, don’t add completely dry bread as a filler, since this can result in a dry meatloaf. Instead, soak chunks of stale bread in milk for a moist, perfect meatloaf.
Add an Extra Egg
This is my mama’s answer to pretty much everything cooking related. That and butter. She’s like a Yankee Paula Deen. On a more serious note, though, it really does seem to help. When I was going through a phase trying to turn out a perfect meatloaf, and this was her suggestion. If you’re having trouble with your meatloaf falling apart, try adding an extra egg.
If you want a perfect meatloaf, don’t overmix it. Instead of smooshing and squeezing and generally pulverizing your meatloaf mixture, mix it just enough to incorporate all of the ingredients. If you mix it too much, you could end up with a meatloaf that’s too dense and compacted.
Nix the Loaf Pan
For the perfect meatloaf, you don’t need one o’ them there fancy loaf pans. Just free-loaf it! Form the mixture into a loaf-like shape and place it in a casserole dish or in a baking sheet with high sides. This will give you a nice crust or glaze on top.
Meatloaf is one of the best foods to experiment with. There are so many variations, so don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your meatloaf. Add different veggies, like grated carrot, olives, or zucchini. Try adding some cheese inside the meatloaf. Use spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, gravy, or even teriyaki sauce instead of ketchup. Use what you and your family like. Who knows – you may even end up with your very own version of the perfect meatloaf.