The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Sun Oct 14, 2007

National Meatloaf Appreciation Day or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Loaf

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Meatloaf

It was bound to come to this. The warm summer days have finally relinquished their hold and we're left with a cooling trend that finds me more indoors than out. That means less grilling, less barbecue, but not less meat. As we shift gears from summer to fall eats, there aren't many other dishes I can think of that can signal the seasonal change more than meatloaf. Considering this, I think back to a day when, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I did not like meatloaf. I was, and at times still tend to be, a finicky eater, and meatloaf was just one of those absurd food idiosyncrasies I clung onto until sometime after college. As I continue to conquer my aversions one at a time (I'm currently on mushrooms), meatloaf proudly stands not only as an early testament to my personal quest as an eater, but also as a food that defines a welcomed time of change.

Meatloaf

How did I ever not like a dish so closely akin to a large hamburger, and incorporates three types of meat?!??! Stupidity has given way to enlightenment as I've made a long journey, many years long, in search of the perfect loaf. For this post, I spent some time perusing the internet for a crafty new recipe that might redefine or build upon our preconceptions of meatloaf, but then I stopped for a minute and thought, why would I ever want to redefine meatloaf? When I want meatloaf, I want meatloaf, nothing more, nothing less. When I want meatloaf, I undoubtedly want great meatloaf, and my road to great meatloaf started with equal part of three meats: veal, beef, and pork, 2/3lb of each to be exact.

Meatloaf

After I had three meats trimmed cut into cubes, it was time for grinding. I ground them in the same manner I do for a hamburger. I first sent the cubes through using the large grinder plate, alternating the three different varieties of meat. Once all ground, I sent it through again, this time using the small grinder plate. This process not only produces meat the right consistency for a meatloaf, but also makes sure the different types of meats and the fat are well distributed throughout.

Meatloaf

I placed the ground meat in the fridge temporarily while I turned my attention to the other meatloaf innards. First up was one onion that I diced and then softened and lightly browned in a pan with a little vegetable oil. At the very end of sautéing the onion, I threw in two minced cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of fresh thyme and the whole house started to smell deeply delicious.

Meatloaf

While the onion cooled, it was time to prep the binders. I started by whisking two eggs with milk, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and a little Tabasco. Then I crushed up saltine crackers to make 2/3 of a cup. You can use breadcrumbs, but saltines do double duty as a binder and seasoner, plus they're an impossible snack to ignore while cooking.

Meatloaf

Next I mixed the meats, onions, egg mixture, and crackers together with my hands until it was evenly blended. I formed the loaf in a bread pan lined with wax paper. Then I turned it out onto a baking sheet and removed the waxed paper to uncover a perfectly formed meatloaf.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf is nothing to me without a glaze, but that doesn't mean the glaze has to be anything fancy. To make one, I simply just mixed ketchup, brown sugar, and cider vinegar. Then I brushed half of the glaze all over the loaf, which went into a 350 degree oven for 45 min. After that I brushed on the remaining glaze and sprinkled on some bacon bits, then continued too cook the loaf until it reached 160 degrees.

Meatloaf

After a 20 minute cool down, it was time to dig in. This is meatloaf the only way I can imagine it. It's moist and meaty, with a thick sweet glaze that adds just the right amount of extra flavor. In each bite I relish in the thought that fall is upon us, with winter just around the corner, and time is starting to slow down, letting me throughly enjoy each piece of meaty goodness that carries me happily through this change. This is what right now is supposed to taste like, and I can't imagine how I ever lived without it.

Meatloaf
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2/3 lb beef chuck
2/3 lb veal
2/3 lb pork butt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup bacon bits (optional)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Trim and cube the 3 meats. Pass through a meat grinder using the large grinding plate. Pass through the grinder again using the small grinder plate. Set meat in the refrigerator until needed.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add in the onions and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 mins. Add the minced garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar and set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and Tabasco.

In a large bowl, mix the meat, crackers, parsley, sautéed onion mixture, and egg mixture until evenly blended.

Line a loaf pan with wax or parchment paper. Pour out the meatloaf mixture into the pan and press down, forming the loaf. Turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet and remove the loaf pan and paper. Brush 1/2 of the glaze all over the meatloaf. Place meatloaf in the over and cook for 45 mins.

Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle top with bacon bits. Place back into the oven and continue to cook until the loaf measures 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes more. Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Comments

  • 01
  • Adam says
    Drooling. On. Keyboard.
    Posted Mon, Oct 15 2007 4:40pm
  • 02
  • missb says
    Oh. Yeah. Baby. That is a very serious loaf of meat! I usually just bake the sucker in the loaf pan (I lost my special draining double meatloaf pan years ago. Can't find a replacement.) but I think doing it this way would help drain off a lot of grease. Excellent!

    Glaze? I'm all over that for my next loaf.
    Posted Tue, Oct 16 2007 5:33pm
  • 03
  • Josh says
    @missb: This method does drain off a lot of grease. If you notice, there is no in tact loaf photo after it was done cooking, because it was surrounded by a pool of grease, and I figured that wasn't the most flattering pose for my dear meatloaf.

    You must try a glaze! I can't imagine a meatloaf without one.
    Posted Tue, Oct 16 2007 7:45pm
  • 05
  • Tea says
    MMmmmmm meatloaf.

    I did the aversion to mushrooms thing a few years ago. I think the ones that finally did it for me and made me give mushrooms a second chance were morels. OMG those things are like heaven.

    I think a big part of the mushroom thing is that there are so many BAD mushrooms, and when we were kids, most mushrooms were those little white mushrooms that are at best bland and at worst skunky. I still avoid white mushrooms but there are so many other kinds I love so much.
    Posted Fri, Oct 19 2007 3:54am
  • 06
  • chef ledarney says
    This has to be one of the best loaf recipes I've ever seen.

    www.nolanledarney.com
    Posted Wed, Oct 24 2007 9:55pm
  • 07
  • BrooklynQ says
    Is this blog dead?
    Posted Thu, Apr 10 2008 11:48am
  • 08
  • Josh says
    @BoorklynQ: This blog isn't dead, just hibernating for the winter. I had high hopes to keep the meat alive during the winter, and although I did indeed partake in many meaty adventures, they weren't grilling or bbq, so didn't make it into the blog.

    I plan on starting it back up in May.
    Posted Thu, Apr 10 2008 11:56am

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