An approach to creating a really tasty meatloaf.


Meatloaf has a bad reputation.  I think it’s because many people are familiar with school lunch meatloaf.  There’s more to it than that. My experience is that people don’t know how to make sure that their meatloaf has flavor.

First of all, I don’t use beef.  Lately I’ve been making my meatloaf with a pound of ground turkey and a pound of ground Italian sausage.  Beef is fine, but I find it easier to get really good flavor out of ground turkey, and Italian sausage needs no help.

I make my meatloaf in a bread pan.  I’ve already said I use two pounds of meat, but I also make two meatloaves.  I freeze one of them for emergencies when I’d rather go sky diving than put a meal together.  I’ve never gone sky diving, but I do get tired of cooking sometimes, usually about 4 in the afternoon.

For my method, you’ll need an onion,(red, yellow or white onion will do), and some celery.  Finely chop the two in and with a bit of olive oil sweat the two ingredients in a frying pan.  Start your seasoning right away. I use garlic powder, parsley, basil and oregano.  Salt and pepper are also good, but avoid using too much salt.  The seasonings have a better chance to meld and flavor the meatloaf if you can limit salt.  In fact, I tend to use a minimum of salt when cooking most everything. None of these herbs need to be fresh.  Combined with the onion and celery, and later the meat, egg and bread crumbs, they will take on a life of their own.

While the onion and celery are sweating, mix the meat with a couple of eggs, about a cup of Italian flavored bread crumbs, and more of the same herbs used with the onion and celery combination.  I also add about a quarter cup of barbeque sauce into the meat mixture.  This will help avoid a dry meatloaf.  Once the meat and other ingredients are combined, add the onion and celery.  I use a potato masher to mix these into the meat mixture.  They will be somewhat hot since they have been sweating in a skillet.

Take your bread pan and lightly spray the bottom and sides with cooking spray.  Press the meatloaf into the bread pan, filling almost to the top.  Some of the liquid will come to the top, so you might want to bake the meatloaf on a tray to avoid spilling the liquid on the floor of your oven.  Bake at 350 for about an hour.  Cover your meatloaf with tin foil for at least 45 minutes.

Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let it cool a bit.  After running a knife around the sides of the loaf, turn the bread pan upside down into a glass casserole dish.  Your meatloaf will be perfectly shaped.  There will be some excess liquid, but it will cook off in the last step of the preparation.  I mix barbeque sauce and catsup in equal parts to make a topping for the meatloaf.  Slather the sauce on the top and sides of the meatloaf.  About a half hour before serving, put the meatloaf back into the oven with the sauce on top.  The flavors will have had a chance to mingle and the sauce will enhance it.

If you’ve put half of your meatloaf in a small pan to freeze, save the final half hour in the oven and wait until you’re ready to serve it.  Then you make your sauce and bake after thawing and dinner will take only a half hour to prepare.

You can kick this whole recipe up another notch by using ground ham and ground pork instead of turkey and sausage.  I’m a big fan of ham loaf, and for that I make a pineapple and brown sugar topping.  Otherwise, the recipe is the same.

Institutional meatloaf is rarely very good.  Herbs and spices are not used, so there’s not a great deal of flavor.  Usually the loaf is dry as well.  Most often, the sauce is just catsup. Surely you can think of ways to make a better sauce.  Honey, brown sugar or crushed pineapple are a few options to make your sauce more interesting. You can also use various herbs in the sauce as well.  

You can also add a diced apple to your onion and celery mixture.  You can also try something I haven’t mentioned.  It’s food, and lots of things go together.  I think I used water chestnuts once, mostly for texture.  If you like nuts, add some to your meatloaf. It can make a nice crunchy texture that some people enjoy.

The kitchen is a great place to be creative.  If you cook something that is a complete failure, that’s when to go out for dinner.  Just say that your oven didn’t work right, or the eggs smelled funny. If you’re using foods that you enjoy to add flavor to your meatloaf, your really can’t go wrong.

Serve with a salad and roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes or green beans or…, if you have any leftover after washing your windows.