Impress the family with a simple gourmet meatloaf topped with sweet and tangy glaze. No dried-out brick here. This recipe yields fork-tender and juicy slices!
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With a few enhancements, creating a gourmet dinner using ground beef is possible. A classic meatloaf is easy to prepare because once mixed, the oven does the larger part of the cooking process while you mix the sauce. My recipe uses simple pantry ingredients to amp up the flavor and juiciness of each serving.
To tackle the biggest challenge of dry and crumbly pieces, I add a panade. You’ve most likely used it before when making meatballs, but it’s so much more than just a binder. It locks in moisture and keeps each slice tender. The combination of savory beef and a thick sweet tomato-based glaze delivers flavorful results. Pile on top of creamy mashed potatoes, and you’ve got a satisfying meal and hopefully a few leftovers.
The key to tender and juicy meat
Adding a panade to the ground beef mixture will lock in more moisture while helping to retain the shape of the meatloaf. It’s a combination of breadcrumbs combined with broth or milk to create a starchy paste.
When combined with the meat, it coats the beef proteins and sets into a gel once cooked. The gel then creates spaces that prevent the beef proteins from binding together too tightly. Without a panade, you often see the meat shrink and become dried out.
Making a panade
I use flaky panko breadcrumbs, chicken broth, and eggs to make the panade. Let the breadcrumbs soak until most of the moisture gets absorbed, ensuring that the starches hydrate. The eggs add extra fat for richness, preventing the meat from drying out. Something I’m sure we’ve all tasted before!
I prefer the size of larger Japanese-style breadcrumbs because they’re more coarse and porous. These granules have more oversized air pockets to absorb the liquid for a softer meat texture. You can use traditional smaller and finer breadcrumbs. However, they’ll yield a denser texture. When I have homemade bread crumbs on hand, I use them because they tend to be larger and more similar to panko.
Saute the vegetables
Chopped vegetables add a nice variety of flavor and texture to the meat mixture. However, don’t add them raw! Pre-cooking them guarantees more flavor, even before the meatloaf is cooked. Sauteing the onions, garlic, and celery lightly browns the surface, enhancing the sweetness and taste. It also draws out the moisture, preventing soggy slices later.
Use a high-fat ratio for the ground beef because the lipids act as protective coatings to prevent the meat from drying out during prolonged bake time. My top choice is 85% lean ground beef, which is 15% fat. This type has just the right amount of beef and flavorful fat that renders and keeps the meat juicy.
You can use an 80% ratio. It will still be delicious, but the loaf will slightly shrink more. Don’t go above 90% lean. It will yield the most meat but have way more chew.
Seasonings to enhance the meat flavor
Use a mix of fresh foods and pantry ingredients to enhance the flavor of plain ground beef naturally. Tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and the anchovies in Worcestershire sauce are rich in glutamates and nucleotides, molecules that are high in umami and savory notes.
These ingredients instantly increase the beefy flavor of the ground meat. Chopped parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, and paprika are herbs and seasonings that add an earthy taste to the recipe to keep the beef from tasting bland.
Have you ever wondered why grilled burgers or meatloaf turn out tough? Often the problem is overmixing. When beef is ground down, then mixed, sticky soluble proteins are released. If overworked, this creates a tighter bond that squeezes out the juices when cooked, yielding a rubbery and tough bite. Mix just enough to combine, and no more!
I use a 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pan. This type of material cooks the bottom and sides faster because it needs less time to heat up. If using glass, you may need more bake time as it takes longer to heat, but it retains heat better, so if using, don’t let it sit in the pan too long, or it will dry out.
When adding the meatloaf mixture, lightly press it down to fill in any gaps. Create a dome shape on the surface for a more attractive presentation.
How long to cook meatloaf
Bake at a moderate temperature of 350ºF (177ºC) for about 45 minutes. The long exposure to the heat gently cooks the meat, and then when the surface temperature reaches 300°F (149°C) it will turn golden brown due to the Maillard reaction.
New flavors and aromas develop for a better-tasting meatloaf. I cook until the internal temperature reaches about 135 (57ºC). This is considered medium doneness and will continue to cook when you add the glaze to get closer to well done without getting dried out.
Add a glaze for extra flavor
One of the highlights of digging into this meatloaf is grabbing a piece along with the tangy sauce. Most recipes use a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar for a barbecue-like flavor. However, I reverse engineered a version to use many of the ingredients already in the meatloaf mixture, so you don’t have to buy extra stuff.
My recipe glaze is barbecue-style without the need to cook it down. It’s a combination of pure maple syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce that balances nicely. To set the glaze on top of the meatloaf, brush it on the surface multiple times, then briefly roast at 500-degrees to thicken the sauce. This process gets repeated a total of three times. You can also make a pan gravy if you prefer a more savory taste.
Serve this with
Covering the meatloaf will make it steam and turn mushy. Before reaching the desired internal temperature, you do not need to cover unless the surface starts to brown too quickly. Loosely tent with foil to prevent burning if needed.
The albumin in the egg whites coagulates and helps to bind the meatloaf better together. The fat in the yolks adds extra richness to the mixture for a more flavorful and moist taste.
A panade using dried bread crumbs. Make sure to hydrate the starches with broth so that they can turn into a gel-like matrix. A panade makes the meat much more tender.
Yes, the high level of fat will pool at the bottom. Drain as much as possible before adding the glaze to prevent the meat from getting soggy.
Use a spatula to release the sides and bottom of the meat from the pan. Use a spatula on one side and your hand to lift it out, or two forks poked on both ends, which works better once cooled down more.
How to successfully bind the meatloaf together
Don’t serve up dry meatloaf or one that doesn’t hold well together. Incorporating a starchy breadcrumb panade, melty cheese, and eggs, keep the meat sliceable. The egg proteins and starches in the bread will solidify as they cook, keeping the moisture from escaping while adding structure to the loaf.
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- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup unsalted chicken broth, or stock
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¾ cup minced yellow onion
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 2 pounds ground beef, 85% lean
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated, about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or dried
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Set oven rack to the middle position, preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken broth. Add breadcrumbs, whisk to combine, and allow to absorb all of the moisture.
- Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onions and celery, saute until tender and the moisture releases and evaporates, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small plate and refrigerate until cool, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, add the ground beef, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumb mixture, cooled vegetables, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, parsley, soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and thyme.Use hands to gently mix meatloaf ingredients until combined, about 1 minute, being careful not to overmix.
- Lightly grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil. Press the meatloaf mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan, then use your hands to make a smooth and slightly domed surface.Bake until the internal temperature reaches 135 to 140ºF (57 to 60ºC), about 45 to 55 minutes.
- Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, ¼ cup tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven and carefully drain off excess juices from the bottom of the pan. Increase the oven temperature to 500ºF (260ºC).
- Use a brush or spoon to spread an even layer of glaze on the top of the meatloaf, bake for 3 minutes. Brush the second layer of glaze, bake for 3 minutes. Brush a third and final layer of glaze, bake until sauce is lightly browned and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Allow meatloaf to cool before removing from the pan, at least 15 minutes on a wire rack. Cut into even-sized slices and serve with any extra glaze on the side.
- Beef selection: Use between 80% and 90% lean ground beef. The higher the percentage, the chewier the texture.
- Broth: Unsalted beef broth or stock can be substituted for a meatier taste.
- Breadcrumbs: Traditional breadcrumbs can be used. However, they will have a slightly denser texture unless using homemade breadcrumbs that are less fine.
- Storage: Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It’s easier to reheat sliced pieces.
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