A Basic Meatloaf
Forq believes everyone should have a go-to meatloaf recipe for a no-fuss dinner.
Serves: 6 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: 75 mins
Forq’s Basic Meatloaf Recipe
The perfect meatloaf is comforting, nutritious, inexpensive, and should still be easy to make. Forq believes every home should have a meatloaf recipe (or three) tucked away for those days when there’s many mouths to feed and a budget to manage, or when kitchen inspiration is lacking but decent dinners must be served.
Apart from minced meat being relatively inexpensive, it’s also easy when making meatloaf to use an extra slice of bread or to increase the vegetable content in order to make the meat stretch. As a cash-strapped student, meatloaf was a regular dish at my dinner table — and I have rarely seen children turn up their noses at its savoury deliciousness! As well as increasing the vegetable count to make the meat stretch further, meatloaf provides a handy way of getting vegetables into people who might be reluctant to eat them. While this meatloaf recipe doesn’t use anything other than an onion, don’t be shy of grating carrots or zucchini in to even your most basic meatloaf, chopping up some celery, or throwing in some mushrooms — all great additions because meatloaf is incredibly forgiving.
Over the years, as I’ve tweaked and fiddled with meatloaf recipes, adapting them to cravings, whims, and fancies, I keep coming back to this recipe as an absolutely solid place to start.
When you’re busy, it doesn’t take very long to pull together a meatloaf. Yes, meatloaf takes over an hour to cook, but that’s time in the oven when you can be doing something altogether different. I can have a meatloaf prepared and tucked into the oven in about 20 minutes, and so can you!
This is the simplest and most basic meatloaf recipe around. Barring the ground beef, which you might have in the freezer anyway, it can be made using ingredients that you almost certainly have in your pantry or larder. It’s a perfect store cupboard stalwart and a delicious meatloaf just as it is. However, as this meatloaf is so basic, it’s also easy to adapt it, taking account of changing tastes or your growing confidence in the kitchen. If you ever feel like expanding on your meatloaf repertoire, start with this meatloaf recipe and use it as your base.
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Over the years, as I’ve tweaked and fiddled with meatloaf to adapt it to cravings, whims, and fancies, I keep coming back to this meatloaf recipe as an absolutely solid place to start. I’ve changed the meat, the bulking ingredient, added more vegetables, switched from herby to spicy, tried different gravies and sauces, or scaled the meatloaf up or down in size, but this meatloaf recipe has always served as the platform I find the most universally successful, and it has served me well. To tell you the truth: I come back to this meatloaf recipe just like this, in its simple state, as often as I cook a fancier version.
A two-pound meatloaf such as this is sufficient for four hungry people or six slightly less hungry people (or, a dinner that includes some other side dishes to lighten the load). You really can’t make too much meatloaf; left-over meatloaf lends itself to inventive sandwiches when it’s cold and the flavors are enriched next day.
There’s no need to get complicated with the accompaniments for meatloaf. Serve it with mashed potatoes, a beefy gravy, and your favourite vegetables.
Here’s how to make this delicious meatloaf recipe
Heat your oven to 180º Celsius (350º Fahrenheit).
Begin by lightly toasting the bread and then crumbling it with the help of a food processor. Lots of recipes call for you to soak your slices of bread in milk or water to make the bulking ingredient, but I find this works just as well, especially as I regularly turn left-over bread into breadcrumbs and keep them in an airtight container.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a large mixing bowl together with all of the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. If you don’t find raw meat and egg unpleasant to the touch, it really is best to do this with your hands. You’ll accomplish a much more evenly combined mixture. Don’t forget to take off your rings, should you wear any, when you do this. Apart from not wanting to risk a ring in someone’s dinner, the mixture is sticky and hard to get out of rings, too!
Turn the mixture out into a greased two pound loaf tin and press it into shape. Cover the top of the meatloaf with a sheet of oiled greaseproof paper, which helps to prevent it from burning.
Place the meatloaf in the oven for about 75 minutes, although do check on it after an hour. When it’s cooked, the meatloaf should be pulling away from the sides of the tin.
Let the meatloaf stand for about ten minutes before you turn it out onto a serving plate and enjoy it!
If you need a good gravy recipe to accompany your meatloaf, this is my favourite. It’s rich and flavourful and you can make it ahead of time if necessary.
You will need:
2 onions, thinly sliced in half-moons
2 tablespoons of oil or dripping
A pinch of salt
A pinch of sugar
A slug of Madeira, Marsala, or Brandy
2-3 teaspoons of flour
500ml (1 pint) beef stock
You will need to:
Slowly cook the onion in the fat, together with the salt, in a saucepan until the onion is soft and golden.
When the onion is ready, add a splash of your fortified wine and sprinkle in the sugar. Let this mixture begin to caramelise on a slow flame for about ten minutes. Do keep an eye on it, though, to ensure it doesn’t catch.
Next add the flour and cook for a further two or three minutes. It will turn into a sticky, stodgy mass, but don’t be alarmed. This is what will thicken the gravy. When you have a lumpy mess of flour and onions, pour over the beef stock and stir well. Bring this to the boil and then reduce it to simmer for about 20 minutes. It should thicken into a smooth gravy.
If you like the onion-y bits, you can leave them in. If you’d rather strain them, you can. Or you can pass it through a food processor and zap them into the gravy! You can serve it straight away, or reheat it when you’re ready. And this gravy isn’t just for meatloaf!
- 750g (26oz) ground steak or minced beef – the highest quality that you can afford is preferable, and a higher rather than lower fat content is better, too
- 2 slices of bread – in the interests of economy, you can always use the crust slices of a loaf or any bread that has gone stale
- 1 good-sized onion, minced – either chop it finely by hand or blitz it in a food processor
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons of tomato purée
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- Salt and pepper
A large mixing bowl and a two pound loaf tin
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Why not make a giant one to have as meatloaf?
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Who’s Cooking Today
Daniela Bowker allegedly lives in the UK and supposedly writes for a living. She definitely travels and eats food for fun. She’s tried a sweet bean stew in a backstreet eatery Hong Kong, pad thai on a street corner in Bangkok, and had meroavi Yerushelami at the market in Jerusalem, not to mention reindeer in Norway, caponata in Sicily, and tagine in Morocco.
She often manages to work food analogies into her everyday writing, so do be on the look out for likening selfportraits to lasagne and multiplicitous images to cakes over on Photocritic. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram, and on Flickr, too.
Forq Test Kitchen: Meatloaf Recipes
The full FORQ meatloaf recipe archive, straight from our FORQ Enthusiasts.
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