So, I’ve been trying to make a meatloaf of which I can be proud, to no avail. I started with my grandmother’s recipe, which my mother makes as well. It’s always been good, but when I make it, it falls apart when I slice it, even when I use 2 eggs instead of 1 (as my grandmother and mother recommend for this specific reason). So eventually I tried this recipe from Pip & Ebby, called “Best Ever Meatloaf.” It specifically calls for lean meat (90% lean), there’s apricot preserves in the sauce, and the panade is made with Ritz crackers. Are you sold yet?
It was absolutely delicious, but it *still* fell apart, even though I was careful to let it rest 15 minutes after baking, as the recipe recommended. So I made it again, increasing the panade slightly (from 2 dozen Ritz crackers to a whole sleeve, which is just easier) and using fattier meat (85% lean, 15% fat) to help keep it together. This time, I had to drain the meatloaf at the halfway point in the baking time, before topping it with the sauce. It was delicious, but still crumbled. I mean, after spending a day in the fridge, it was fine, but who wants that? I *could* make it a day ahead, but I feel like a meatloaf recipe should be eaten the day of, warm from the oven.
I read refresher articles like how to make meatloaf (it’s not rocket science!), listened to Spilled Milk’s episode on meatloaf, guest-starring J. Kenji López-Alt, and then I read his recipe on Food Lab. I also used Google to find this detailed article on how to keep meatloaf from falling apart: knead the meat but not too much, salt properly, use panade, add an egg, pack it more tightly in the pan, let it rest after baking – I do all of that – then use gelatin and use different types of meat, like pork, which has more myosin.
So I halved the amount of milk in the panade and added gelatin to it, still using 85% lean beef and adding parchment paper in the pan. The meatloaf was better, especially after a day in the fridge, but still too crumbly (my notes include the acronym FFS, to give you an idea of how annoyed I was). Last week, I made one last try, using 90% lean pork and 90% lean beef in a 50-50 ratio. I made the mixture in the morning and let it rest in the fridge all day before baking it. Here’s the verdict:
This is how I will make my meatloaf from now on. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly good enough! The slices were a bit fragile, but held together, and I’m satisfied with it (especially considering that I had forgotten to line the pan with the gorram parchment paper, so unmolding was tricky). Without further ado, here is my recipe, adapted from Pip & Ebby.
For the meatloaf
½ cup lactose-free milk
1 packet gelatin
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers (from 1 sleeve of crackers)
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup ketchup
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
For the sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 5”x9” pan; line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides, and grease again. Set aside.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk, mix a bit, and set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, crackers, eggs, milk mixture, ½ cup ketchup, onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours.
In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup ketchup, brown sugar, apricot preserves and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Spread the mixture evenly over the meatloaf halfway through baking. Let meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.