Friday, February 8, 2013

Mini Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those things that sounds so simple. After all, you're just shaping some meat into a big patty and cooking it. Easy, right? Not so much. It burns, it dries out, it ends up sitting in its own grease. Not to mention it takes forever to cook. But, after making it a time or two (dozen), I have finally figured out 3 foolproof steps for turning out perfect meatloaf every time. And this particular meatloaf will be ready in less than 30 minutes. (Let's be honest, that's the part you're really excited about.)

3 secrets to the perfect meatloaf:
  1. Soaked bread crumbs - to get the meat to stay really moist and juicy, do not skip this step. I promise, it really makes a huge difference versus just throwing the milk and bread crumbs into the bowl separately.
  2. No hands - if you have ever watched a food channel on tv, they all swear by using a kitchen's best tools (your hands) to mix up the loaf. They also tell you to make sure you don't overmix it. Chances are, if you're using your hands, you're overmixing it. You dig in and start squeezing and squishing and you kill the poor thing. Trust me on this one. Use a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon and go just until everything is incorporated.
  3. Check the temp - If you're like most people, you bake your meatloaf for an hour to an hour and a half. Why? Because that's what everyone tells you to do. And what happens? It comes out dry and lifeless and very overcooked. We are not making well-done hamburgers here. You need to pull the meat out as soon as it hits 160 degrees F. If you can swing it, get one of those fancy digital thermometers with a cord, so it stays in the meat the whole time it cooks and you can set the alarm for 160.
Ready? Let's do this.

Mini Meatloaf
Makes 4 to 6, depending on how big you want them

What I use:
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic in oil
  • 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
  • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

How I do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pour the milk into a small bowl and add the bread crumbs. Stir to combine. Set aside until the breadcrumbs have absorbed all of the milk.

3. Put the beef in a medium bowl and add the egg, garlic, onion, and Worcestershire sauce.

4. Add the bread crumbs.

5. Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, mix everything just until combined.

6. Flatten the meat mixture into the bowl and use your spatula to score the meat into even portions.

7. Grab a portion and shape it into a flat oval with your hands, the same way you make burgers, but not round.

8. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; lightly spray with cooking spray.

9. Add the patties to the skillet and cook for one to two minutes on each side, just enough to get a nice crust.

10. Transfer the patties to a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.

11. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness, until the meatloaves reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

12. Remove from the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

If you really want to go for the traditional whole loaf style, follow the directions through step 5, except set the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil and place an oven-safe wire rack (I use my cookie cooling rack) on top. Shape the meat into a loaf and lay it on the wire rack so the fat drips down away from the meatloaf. Bake until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F (start checking around 30 minutes). Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The great meatloaf debate - do you smother it in ketchup before baking, after it's on your plate, or not at all?

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