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How To Make a Killer Meatloaf (It’s Easier Than You Think)

meatloaf
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A favorite of family meals and diners, a well-made meatloaf is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The best part about this versatile dish is that it’s a blank canvas for seasoning, allowing adventurous cooks to experiment with sweet or spicy flavors. As a bonus, meatloaf is also great for leftovers. Our advice? Crisp up some slices in a pan and throw between bread for a killer sandwich.

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Choosing the Meat

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When it comes to ground meat, fat equals flavor. Typically, ground beef with a meat to fat ratio of 80/20 is the best choice. Lean ground beef (90/10) will make the meatloaf mixture dry and crumbly. Ideally, get ground beef from your local butcher shop — this will ensure the freshest and best quality ground beef. If buying from a supermarket, pay attention to the labeling on the package (80/20, 90/10, etc.).

While most meatloaf recipes calls for beef, any type of ground meat can be great for meatloaf. A popular alternative is turkey. Remember — use dark meat turkey rather than breast meat due to the higher fat content. If you insist on using white meat, you can mix other meats like ground pork (even bacon) to make the turkey blend juicer and fattier.

The Glaze

Besides the seasoning for the meatloaf mixture, a good sauce or glaze will take your meatloaf to the next level. A meatloaf glaze will typically include sweetness, creating a sticky and rich sauce that lathers the meatloaf. The key to a good sweet glaze is to balance it with acidity, usually in the form of vinegar or mustard. For creative spins, try using ingredients like Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses or sharp English mustard for a unique glaze.

Joy’s Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Crispy Onion Straws

Meatloaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Crispy Onion Straws from Joy's Cafe in Atlanta
Image used with permission by copyright holder

(By Executive Chef Joy Beber of Joy Cafe)

Opened in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Joy and Jon Beber, Joy Cafe incorporates both international inspiration and family recipes, some of which have been handed down for generations. Born and raised in South Georgia and heavily influenced by the traditional southern cooking of the women in her family, Executive Chef Joy combines traditional southern and rural European recipes with inventive techniques and modern presentation.

For Meatloaf:

Ingredients:

  • .25 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1.5 lb. ground beef (they house grind brisket, top sirloin and short rib)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 egg, beaten

For Tomato Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp canned chipotle in adobo, chopped fine (optional)
  • .25 cup brown sugar
  • Garnish: fresh arugula

For Crispy Onion Straws

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • .5 tsp dried oregano
  • .5 tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 to 3 tsp hot sauce (preferably Joy’s house-made roasted red pepper and habanero hot sauce, available for purchase at Joy Cafe)
  • Salt
  • Canola oil for frying

For Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • .5 lb. cold butter, cut into small cubes + another .5 lb. (Slightly more or less to taste and preference)
  • Whole head of garlic
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For the meatloaf, combine the breadcrumbs and milk, and set aside.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground beef, onion, bell pepper, egg, breadcrumb mix and ½ of the sauce. Grease a loaf pan and place loaf in pan. Pour remaining sauce on top of the meatloaf.
  4. Bake at 350 F for about an hour or until you reach an internal temperature of 165 F and the meatloaf has browned.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the crispy onion straws. Mix flour and dry ingredients, set aside. Mix buttermilk and hot sauce (use more hot sauce if desired) and set aside.
  6. Thinly slice yellow onions in rounds and dredge in flour mixture, then in buttermilk mixture, then back in dry mixture.
  7. Fill a shallow pot 1/3 full with canola oil. Fry at 350 F for two minutes or until golden brown. Place on paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt immediately and set aside until ready to serve.
  8. While the meatloaf continues to cook, prepare the mashed potatoes. Cut the top of the head of garlic, wrap in tinfoil and roast in a 350 F oven until fragrant, about 30 minutes. When finished squeeze garlic pulp out of head and set aside in a separate bowl (note: for extra flavor reserve garlic shell/paper and add to cream and herb mixture below).
  9. Place heavy cream in a saucepan with herbs, peppercorns and garlic shell/paper. Simmer over low heat. Do not boil. Keep warm until potatoes are ready.
  10. To cook the potatoes, add potatoes to a pot and cover with water. Add 2-3 tbsp of salt and taste the water for seasoning; it should taste reminiscent of light seawater. Bring to a light boil and cook until just tender. Drain potatoes and put back in the still hot pot to get rid of the last of the water.
  11. Add the .5 lb. cold butter and garlic pulp into a mixing bowl. Working as fast as possible, push the hot potatoes through a potato ricer in small batches and into the mixing bowl. The ricer helps create a wonderfully fluffy, soft texture, but a potato masher will work just fine.
  12. Strain cream through a fine mesh strainer into another mixing bowl, discarding the herbs and garlic shell. Pour one fourth to half of the mixture over potato mixture. Fold potatoes, butter, cream and garlic until combined. Add more butter and/or cream to reach preferred consistency and flavor. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
  13. Plate mashed potatoes and top with sliced meatloaf and crispy onions. Enjoy!

Read more: Best Potato Recipes

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Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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