Have you ever wondered where meatloaf acquired its bad reputation? Is meatloaf the victim of a vicious rumor? Did it show up to a party in a hideous outfit once and never live it down? Just like with people, I like to give foods the benefit of the doubt. I feel like they deserve a chance to earn their own reputation with me without any preconceived notions. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a couple of bad meatloafs before, but given its fair shot, I think meatloaf is a food to be loved.
My middle child loves meatloaf “more than steak” and excitedly proclaims it to be the best day ever when she hears that we are having it for dinner. Because I would hate for any of you to miss out on a potential “best day ever” I have decided to share my meatloaf recipe with you. And, by recipe, I mean the one I made last night because though my method remains the same, the recipe varies slightly from one time to the next. More about that later.
To begin with, I am not a traditionalist when it comes to meatloaf. I don’t mix meats. I know that the standard meatloaf combines different types of ground meats, and that is great, but as I’ve told you before…I like to keep things simple. Only ground chuck for me. I begin with about 3 pounds of ground chuck for my family of five. Most of the time this results in enough leftovers for a few meatloaf sandwiches (which is my favorite way to eat it!) for lunch the next day. Occasionally, when we haven’t had it in a while, we eat the WHOLE thing.
To my ground chuck, I add some type of tomato sauce-y product. Sometimes it’s a small can of plain tomato sauce. Sometimes it’s leftover canned pasta sauce or ketchup. Last night, it was Zesty Catalina salad dressing. It adds a bit of sweetness that I used to balance the chipotle peppers that were also included. I add about half a cup of whichever one I’m using to the three pounds of meat. For the heat last night, I used two heaping teaspoons of a product called Chipotle Salsa. It is the same brand as the canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but this product is even better to me because it is already made into a sauce. It’s a little harder for me to find, though, so regular canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce would work instead. Or leave it out. It’s completely up to you.
Next, it is meatloaf after all, so it needs some bread. Here, you have options again. Sometimes I use a couple of slices of sandwich bread soaked in just a bit of milk. Sometimes I have Italian breadcrumbs on hand and use those. I have also used oats and crumbled crackers. Last night I had Panko bread crumbs in the pantry, so that’s what I used. I put about half a cup of those into the mixture along with two eggs. I finished the mixture off with the seasonings. I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, seasoned salt, and pepper.
I usually use my KitchenAid mixer to mix it all up, but you can certainly use your hands if you don’t have a heavy duty mixer. Once it is all combined well, put it into a dish to bake. Again, I’m not a traditionalist here, so even though I’m calling it a meatloaf…I don’t actually make it into a loaf. Nope. I like more of a sauce to meat ratio, so I pack mine into a glass casserole dish so that it is not so thick when it finishes cooking. Put it into a 375 degree oven and cook it until it is done – usually about an hour.
Okay, get ready because you are about to find out one of my favorite time-saving ideas in the kitchen! Once your meatloaf finishes cooking, you’ll have the grease in the pan that cooked out of the meat. Gross! Nobody wants that on their plate or clogging their arteries, so you’re going to need to pour that off before adding your topping. You can’t pour that grease down your drain, though, and if you are like me, you don’t want to clean it out of a bowl later, so here’s my tip: line a bowl with aluminum foil (just stick the foil in it and leave foil hanging over the sides), pour the grease into the foil, and let it cool completely. Once it has cooled completely and hardened (I usually leave it until the next morning), you can just pull the foil up around it, twist it tight to seal it, and throw it in the trash.
Once the excess grease has been drained, you’ll want to add a topping. I mean, seriously, the topping is my favorite part. Without a topping, you’ve just created one huge hamburger patty, and that’s not exciting at all. The topping is what makes or breaks a meatloaf, in my opinion, and plain ketchup just won’t cut it! I start out with ketchup, but I add in some dijon mustard, worcestershire, more of the chipotle sauce, and either brown sugar or honey to balance the spiciness of the peppers. I have a great friend who, along with her husband and children, bottles honey from their bees. I love local products, so their honey was my choice this time. Mix it all together, spread it over the meatloaf, and put it back into the oven for about fifteen minutes.
For the sides, I made smashed potatoes and roasted fresh corn on the cob. If you’ve been a meatloaf hater all your life, give it a shot. I’m making no promises, but you just might find that you like it. At least give it a chance. I mean, come on… haven’t you ever walked out of a public restroom with your skirt tucked into your tights and wished everyone would forget about it? Wait, maybe that was me. Either way, don’t judge meatloaf by its past. Let this one make its own impression. If you give it a shot and still hate it, at least it was judged fairly. 🙂
Not Your Typical Cafeteria Meatloaf
- 3 lbs. ground chuck
- 1/2 cup Zesty Catalina salad dressing
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons chipotle salsa
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (can substitute Italian breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, oats, or slices of sandwich bread soaked in a little milk)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder (or 1/4 a chopped onion if your family doesn’t mind it in their meatloaf!)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chipotle salsa
- 1 Tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a heavy duty mixer or by hand. Pack firmly into a glass casserole dish and cook until done all the way through, about an hour. Mix the topping ingredients together. Drain excess grease and cover with topping. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.