For the love of meat loaf

Houston ChronicleFebruary 23, 2011 

  • Meat loaf is similar to a French country pate with a simpler name. A good meat loaf has several key parts:

    GROUND MEAT: It can just be ground beef, but the best meat loaf is usually made from more than one type. Meat departments used to commonly sell "meat loaf mix," which was ground beef, ground pork and ground veal. Turkey meat loaf is common, and some recipes include ground sausage in the mixture. Be careful not to press the ground meat together too firmly when mixing or the final meat loaf will be tough and dry.

    BINDER: To lighten the mixture and to save money, use a binder, such as bread, bread crumbs, dry oatmeal or even cooked rice. Egg also is used in many recipes. To keep the loaf moist, soak bread or grains with the liquid, usually milk, before adding to the meat.

    FLAVORING: Meat loaf is a great vehicle for smuggling vegetables into kids, especially carrots, celery and onion, or even chopped spinach or mushrooms. For the best texture, cook vegetables until soft in a little butter or oil before adding.

    BAKING PAN: Meat loaf can be baked in a loaf pan, but it also can be shaped freehand and baked on a rimmed baking sheet, which lets some of the fat drain away. You also can shape it into individual, single-serving loaves. Meat loaf can be frozen, before or after baking. To bake after freezing, don't thaw. Just add about 15 minutes to the baking time.

    Kathleen Purvis

There is nothing new or hip about meat loaf. It isn't fancy. It isn't showy. It can be considered downright dowdy.

And yet, many of us crave meat loaf. Why? Because a good meat loaf is invested with nostalgia and a love for Mom's cooking, one of the most crave-inducing meals in a home cook's repertoire.

In our quest for the best meatloaf recipe, we received 150 submissions and tested nearly a dozen. The recipes that caught our eye were those with unusual or assertive seasonings and good glazes or toppings. The meat loaves we liked best were those draped in bacon or coated with a thick, tomato glaze, both of which kept the loaf moist and provided additional flavor. Our favorite, Meat Loaf With Tomato Relish, was a delicious loaf larded with ground pork and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce and bacon. Any meat loaf lover would love to sit down with a big slice of that.

Note: Recipe links are to the right under Related Content.

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