Monday, July 8, 2013

The Best Meatloaf

I'll be the first to say that this is not your momma's meatloaf. It's a bit more involved but at the same time only uses ground beef. Nothing fancy. No veal. No pork. So you don't have to spend the time or money messing with different meats, but I swear, it's the best meatloaf I've ever had, and I love me some meatloaf.

The recipe is from Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen but I've slightly adapted it.

The Best Meatloaf

3 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup chicken broth (homemade is really good here)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup crushed saltines
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds 85/15 ground beef (you can use half sirloin, half chuck here but the regular old beef ends up really good)

1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like tapatio or cholula or the like)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar


Start by weighing out and freezing the Jack cheese on a plate. This may sound weird, but it helps to suspend the cheese bits in the final mix.

Just pop it on a plate and stick it in the freezer while you make the rest of the meatloaf.

Toss a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan. I like my 10 inch cast iron pan for this. 

Dice your onion and rib of celery. I used a sweet onion this time and really liked it. You can use a white onion, but I'd stick to a yellow or sweet for this application.

Toss them into the pan (always season your vegetables with a shake of salt and pepper) and cook on medium until the start to JUST caramelize or brown around the edges, 6-8 minutes. You're going to want to stir fairly constantly.

Add the 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons thyme and teaspoon of paprika.

Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.

Add the 1/4 cup of tomato juice and continue to stir, scraping up anything that stuck.

Kill the heat after you get it to thicken just a bit. Shouldn't take more than a minute or two but do ensure it's not runny. Your meatloaf will be too moist if this step has too much liquid.


Toss 2 eggs into a large bowl.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Again, homemade is really a cut above here.

Whisk well to combine.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin onto the mix.

Let sit for 5 minutes.

This will lend a GREAT body to the meatloaf and help it to retain it's shape.

It won't look that much different after 5 minutes:

Add the remainder of the ingredients plus the onion/celery/tomato juice mixture from before:

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup crushed saltines
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Crumble the frozen Jack cheese over everything:

Stir well to combine.

Add your 2 pounds of ground beef and stir with your hands for a minute. Try to be gentle, but do get everything combined well.

I forgot to get pictures of the loaf making process, but you basically want to make a 10" loaf.

This actually works really well once the meatloaf mixture has chilled a bit. I usually make this in the morning and form it before dinner so it's nice and cold.

The instructions are to put the loaf on a piece of folded aluminium foil, 10"x6", then poke holes in the foil over a rack in a sheet pan, thusly:

Cook at 375 for 55-65 minutes or until the loaf measures 135-140, tested in the center.


While the loaf cooks, get the glaze together.

Just combine:

1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like tapatio or cholula or the like)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Place over medium heat on a small sauce pan until it reaches a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir every so often.


When your meatloaf has reached 135-140, pull it and turn on the broiler to high.

Glaze with half the glaze.

Spread as evenly as you can:

Broil for 5 minutes, rotating if it's browning unevenly.

I rotated probably 3 times in 5 minutes because I obsess.


Add the rest of the glaze and cover evenly.

Again, broil for 5 minutes, rotating as needed to maintain even browning.

Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10-20 minutes, depending on how much time you have.

I know. It's going to be tough.

If you cut into it now it'll run juices all over your cutting board.

Learn from my mistakes.

While we wait we can just make some green beans real quick.


Green Beans with Shallots

1 pound frozen or fresh green beans
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon bacon grease (optional but delicious)
Splash of vinegar (sherry, cider, white wine, red wine, etc)
Salt and pepper to taste


Just mince your shallot and toss in the fat. Give it a little salt and pepper.

Cook for 2 minutes, no more, over medium heat.

Toss in the green beans and cook until just heated through. Try not to overcook them.

This makes a simple, fast side for a bunch of things.

You can add a splash of vinegar (sherry, cider, white wine, red wine, whatever) to give it a nice pop of acid if you want.

Taste for salt and kill the heat.


When your meatloaf has finished resting, just slice and serve.


This meatloaf is amazing.

The texture is moist but not too crumbly and not tough at all. I can only describe it as succulent. 

I love this meatloaf because it's not a fussy weird version of meatloaf some high-end restaurant tries to pass for meatloaf. It's just like your favorite recipe or diner but it's just incredibly better. Every aspect is turned up. The glaze is sweet but complex and sticky and a perfect compliment to the meat. The meat's saltiness and umaminess are perfectly balanced and totally complimented by the mashed potatoes and crunch of the green beans. It tastes very "high end" without being pretentious, and believe me, I'd pay good money to eat this at a restaurant.

This is great meal for company or just for you and the kids. Leftovers (if there are any) make for a killer meatloaf sandwich the next day.

I know it's a bit more involved, but you'll love this meatloaf, I promise.



  1. That looks fantastic. I've always been looking for a moist meatload recipe that doesn't involve breadcrumbs. Win! And looking fwd to seeing more posts when you can!

  2. This meatloaf delivers, I promise.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...