It's not your grandma's meatloaf, it's better... there, I said it! I know, some of you are thinking "them's fightin' words" and hitting unsubscribe right now. But in all seriousness, I don't go labeling recipes as being "best" willy-nilly. As a mater of fact, out of nearly 600 recipes, there have so far only been 3 that I've deemed worthy of getting the title "best"
Sure I have a page with a few dozen of my favorite dishes on this site, but in order to get "best" in the title it has to be something unparalleled. In this case, this meatloaf is the kind of delicious that has me sneaking back to the fridge to nibble on leftovers as I write this post.
While meatloaf has legitimate ancestry stretching back to various dishes from across Europe, it didn't become widely popular in the US until the Great Depression. Rationing made it necessary to find clever ways to stretch what little meat was available, and it's around that time that meatloaf became as American as apple pie (which isn't actually American at all, but that's a topic for another post). Sadly the budget friendly, belly filling qualities of meatloaf made it perfect for school cafeterias and microwave dinners, which gave it a bum rap over the years.
The thing with meatloaf is that it's not a solid piece of meat, which means you can season it right to the core, then adjust the richness and texture to suit your tastes. Personally I like my meat tender, moist and flavorful. To paraphrase Descartes: "I crave, therefore I make"
Breadcrumbs and milk not only make the meatloaf tender, the milk adds moisture, while the breadcrumbs reabsorb the juices released by the meat. As for flavor, I throw everything I have in my flavor arsenal at it; this includes onions, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and to top it all off, thick slices of bacon. A sweet tomato glaze on top not only helps disguise the rather unsightly log of meat, it brings a balancing sweetness to the savory meat underneath.
Make It Better.
Add 1 cube of caramelized onions from my perfect caramelized onions post to add a flavor boost that will take this meatloaf to another level.
The other trick to making a great meatloaf is to not take the name so literally. If you make meatloaf in a loaf pan it ends up cooking in its own grease, making it soggy. By forming it into the shape of a loaf on a sheet pan, the excess fat drains away, leaving you with a moist, tender loaf that's neither mushy nor greasy.
Serve this with mashed potatoes, and use the leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches (not that you'll have much in the way of leftovers)
As a house-keeping note, you may have also noticed that I've started adding an equipment section to each post (like the one below). The idea behind the section is to demystify what equipment you'll need to make the dish. Use the arrows to scroll through the list and mouse-over each piece of equipment to see a description of what it is. Also, if you happen to be missing a piece of equipment, I'd be much obliged if you bought it through one of these links, as the small cut of sales I get help pay for the cost of running this site.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add the ground beef, ground pork, onion, garlic, panko, Gruyere, egg, milk, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, honey, soy sauce, pimentón, salt, pepper and thyme to a bowl. Put a food-safe glove on and use your hand to knead the mixture until uniform.
- Line a broiler pan with some parchment paper. This makes cleanup much easier and it prevents the meatloaf from sticking to your pan. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf on the parchment paper. Top with the bacon, slightly overlapping each slice.
- Bake the meatloaf for 30 minutes. While the meatloaf is in the oven, make the glaze by mixing the ketchup, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard in a small bowl to combine.
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven and cover with the glaze. Return the meatloaf to the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until an instand read thermometer reads 160 degrees F.
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. Serve with mashed potatoes.