It’s not meatloaf; it’s steakloaf!

One item the Co-op is very well supplied with is ground meat. We have ground beef, lamb, pork and bison. There is also a variety of sausages such as breakfast (hot, medium and mild!), German, Italian and of course, bratwurst. There are lots of tasty meals you can make with ground meat, but today I want to talk about…

meatloaf

. . . meatloaf! Look at this tasty two-pound meatloaf, hot out of the oven, cooked in my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. Look how little fat or other liquid has cooked out of that meatloaf. Before the Co-op, I remember the typical meatloaf came out of the oven swimming in grease and water. That’s not a problem with ground meat from free-ranging herds you can buy from Oklahoma Food Co-op farmers.

This meatloaf is no joking matter. Pastured herds produce meat that is waaay too tasty to joke about. Really, you’re not making meatloaf…this is a “steakloaf.”

That’s why this kind of meatloaf doesn’t need a fancy glaze or other touches designed to cover up the essentially low quality of the meat.

Speaking of low-quality meat, most conventional meatloaf recipes have additives like bread or oatmeal. I think that started out as a way to stretch a pound of meat to feed more, and it wasn’t unusual to find ground beef recipes that were 1/2 to 2/3 ground meat and 1/3 to 1/2 bread crumbs, rice or oatmeal. If you need to make one pound do the work of two or three, this is still a good way to do it. But if you don’t need to do that, ditch the bread and milk or oatmeal or whatever your mother used to add, and let the meat be the star.

For ingredients, all we need are:

  • Ground meat. Use any kind you want — ground beef, or pork, bison or lamb. A traditional mix is typically 2/3 ground beef and 1/3 ground pork. You could use two pounds ground beef and one pound ground pork and make a big meatloaf with enough for two meals. I often use one pound ground beef and one pound ground pork for a two-pound “50/50” loaf. If you’re feeling bold, try the “three-fer” — one pound each of ground beef (or bison), lamb and pork. My household votes this blend as the best, and they don’t even like lamb! Haha!
  • Ground onion. Use one small onion per two pound meatloaf and a medium onion for a three pounder — ground, not chopped. I usually use the fine side of a hand grater. You can use finely chopped onion if you’d like, but I think the flavor and texture is best when finely ground. You can skip this if you aren’t fond of onion. Sometimes I add shredded carrots, one big or two medium per meatloaf. There’s a nine-year-old in my house who won’t eat carrots, but he doesn’t notice the shredded carrots in the meatloaf. Let’s not tell him about that detail, OK?
  • Ketchup. Use 1/3 cup for a two-pound loaf or 1/2 cup for a three-pound loaf. I would say this is essential. I’ve never made a meatloaf without ketchup. I’ve even made meatloaf with homemade ketchup. I suppose a meatloaf could exist without ketchup, but I have no data on that issue.
  • One egg for a two-pound loaf or two eggs for a three-pound loaf. Lightly beat the egg(s) in a cup before adding. I’d argue that this step is also essential because it gives the meatloaf a nice texture.
  • Three shakes with the salt shaker. I know this isn’t a very precise measurement, but that’s what I do. It’s probably what my mother and grandmother did. Don’t omit salt. It’s important. Do add salt to your liking, just make sure not to overdo it.

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Wash your hands, then mix the meatloaf by hand. Don’t use a mixer! Only mix it until it is nicely blended together. Yes, the egg and the ketchup makes for an interesting texture on the hands, but hand mixing is the best method for meatloaf. Be sure to wash your hands after. You could also use food prep gloves, which makes cleanup easier.

Line a bread pan with aluminum foil (or use a cast iron skillet), spread the mixture into the pan and form it into a loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the interior is at 160 degrees before taking out of the oven. If it’s not ready, bake a few minutes more.

Voila! Slice and serve with your favorite side dishes. Always make extra meatloaf because it’s just as good the next day sliced on sandwiches. Or crumble it into small pieces, add some dill relish and mayo, a dab of mustard and you have a majorly tasty sandwich filling.

Since your gearing up to make a meatloaf, why not make two or three? Cook one, freeze two! You can freeze them baked or unbaked, but my experience is that it’s best to freeze the meatloaf mixed and uncooked. To freeze, line a bread pan with aluminum foil, fill with the meatloaf mixture, fold the aluminum foil over the top and place in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the frozen meatloaf from the bread pan, wrap again and label with the date and what it is. Use within two to three months. It takes about 24 hours to thaw in your refrigerator; put it back in a pan when thawing. Bake as usual.

Y’all bon appetit, you hear!

Bob Waldrop