Choosing Your Meats
Meatloaf has got to be the epitome of comfort food. Versatile, flavorful, easy to build, and it makes the best leftovers in the world for sandwiches.
The first decision is what meats to use. You read that right; meats with an ‘s’. Groceries today stock ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken, ground turkey, ground lamb, and many offer ground Bison or ‘beefalo’ meat. Your best bet is to pick three. Be aware that chicken is often ground too fine, almost pasty in many cases, which can be worked with but will make our meatloaf slightly more dense. Lamb has incredible flavor, although a fair number of people are not fans of its distinctive, slightly stronger flavor, so you may want to be judicious when using it.
Many restaurant recipes like this are a ratio based to offer more flexibility in batch sizing. For the meat you’ll get consistent results with two parts beef to one part of two other meats. So, for example, a great mix is two pounds 80/20 ground beef (20% fat) with one pound ground pork and one pound ground turkey. This also keeps meatloaf as the value meal that was its origin.
You’ll get solid results with broad appeal following the KISS rule; Keep It Simple… well you know the rest. Adding some bread will retain the juices and the flavorings. Sweet or yellow onion will blend with the meat flavors and add a slight amount of texture from the ground meats.
Choose a more neutral bread, whole wheat actually works quite well. Sourdough, ryes, or pumpernickel and such can add unplanned flavors to the end result. For this recipe use one slice of bread per pound of meat, cut into small cubes. Dice one quarter onion per pound of meat.
First off, we’re going to add one egg per pound of meat. Not for flavor but to bind everything together. Per pound we’ll flavor with one-half teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon soy sauce, one half ounce each red wine and dark beer, and a dash or two of your favorite hot sauce. We’re going to dress it with some ketchup before baking.
Remember, we have those little bread cubes that will suck up some of this moisture then release it back into the meatloaf as it cooks, so don’t be afraid of the liquid. It will be a moister loaf at the start. But the pro tip is to cook it on a sheet pan, or flat pan with edges, that is larger than the loaf. This allows the oil to break out of the meat for a less greasy product.
Lastly, we need some dry seasoning. Per pound;
- one half teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
- one half teaspoon granulated garlic
- one quarter teaspoon celery salt will fill out the flavor profile.
Now we’re ready to look at the recipe form.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Based on four pounds of meat. In a large bowl whisk together:
- 4 eggs
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- ¼ cup red wine (2 ounces)
- ¼ cup dark beer (2 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 4 slices whole wheat bread in cubes
- 1 onion diced
Spray your pan with a light coat of oil or line it with parchment. This might be the time to don some gloves. Mix the ingredients with your hands until they are all well incorporated.
Transfer to your pan and shape into a loaf. Because it is moist you may not get it to stand much more than 3-4” tall, just scale the rest of the shape accordingly.
Make a shallow trough down the middle of the loaf and pour a thick ribbon of ketchup all the way along it.
Bake until a thermometer reads 165 degrees in the center.
Serve with ketchup or mushroom gravy, or the sauce of your choice. And be certain to save some for sandwiches the next day!