For years, every time my mother made meatloaf, her favorite comfort food, I would stand by her side and write down each step she took to make it.
The problem for this recipe writer was she made it differently every time. Like for many experienced home cooks, Mom would grab various amounts of ketchup, mustard, eggs, and meat from the fridge, random amounts of stale bread from the bread bowl, a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar from the cupboard. She would mix the ingredients together, add liquid until it felt right, and bake it for an hour in the oven. It consistently came out moist and delicious.
She used a package of soup mix for her seasoning because she needed a reliable way to know the salt and spice amounts were correct without taste-testing it beforehand. The brown sugar balanced out the spiciness from the mustards.
Many years later, when I started cooking dinner at The Nashville Food Project, I reworked the recipe to feed 50 people. That number grew to 100, and then to 150. You can find the scaled-up recipe by clicking on this link: Cook for a Crowd.
When we make meatloaf at The Nashville Food Project, we figure 25 servings per hotel pan. For 100 servings we portion out 24 pounds of meat and 24 cups of breadcrumbs between four pans and then add the rest of the ingredients.
A few words about ingredients…
“Meatloaf Mix” is a pre-packaged mixture of beef, veal, and pork. I use it to make meatballs, too. For the moistest meatloaf, be sure to use meat that has 15% fat, any leaner will cause meatloaf to be dry. The meatloaf mix I use comes from Doris’s Italian Meat and Bakery in Florida.
I use a range of 2-3 pounds of meat without changing the other amounts of ingredients in this recipe. I always use 1 egg per pound of meat, so if the package of meat weighs over 2.5 pounds, I would go up to 3 large eggs.
To make bread cubes or crumbs
Cut a stack of five slices of bread into small cubes to yield 2 cups of bread. Or, make breadcrumbs by pulsing stale bread in the food processor. Freeze extras to use later.
Yield: 8 servings (¼ pound per serving)
2-3 pounds ground sirloin. If you can find it, use a Meatloaf Mix,
2 cups plain breadcrumbs or cubes
2 large eggs (1 egg per pound of meat)
¾ cup milk or water
1 envelope onion soup mix
¾ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard (try Dijon or spicy brown)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350º.
Mix eggs, milk, soup mix, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Add meat and bread crumbs and mix slowly for about 15 seconds. I use a mixer because I don’t like to get my hands greasy from the cold meat.
The less you handle meat, the more tender your meatloaf will be. It should look like this when it is sufficiently mixed.
If using 2 pounds of meat, cook in a large loaf pan or an 8-inch square pan. If using 3 pounds, place in a larger pan. Top lightly with ketchup. [I skip this step now.] Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes.
The USDA recommends all ground beef, lamb, pork, and veal mixtures be cooked to 160º, and ground turkey or chicken to 165º. For meatloaf, you can take the meat out of the oven when the meat thermometer says 155º and rely on carryover heat to finish cooking it.
Heat Transfer, aka “carryover heat”, aka “allow meat to rest” — what do all these terms mean?
While meat is cooking in an oven, the meat’s surface temperature is hotter than its interior temperature. When the meatloaf comes out of the oven, a meat thermometer showed an interior meat temperature of 168º. We can assume the meat’s surface temperature was the same as the oven’s, which was 350º. The room temperature was 70º. According to the laws of heat transfer, when meat is taken out of an oven, its surface heat (350º) has to go somewhere to equilibrate with the temperature of the atmosphere (70º). Some of that heat will go into the room, and the rest will transfer into the interior of the meat, causing its internal temperature to rise slightly. In this case, the temperature rose from 168º to 176º in five minutes. That was an eight-degree difference. Not too noticeable in meatloaf, but the difference between medium and rare in a resting steak.
Yummy, traditional SIDES!!
If you are going to make a meatloaf, you are going to need some sides. These are kid-friendly.
More comfort food:
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Sheet Pan Supper: Chicken, Artichoke, and Lemon
Sheet Pan Supper: Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella
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