Meatloaf is a dish of ground meat formed into a loaf shape and baked or smoked. The loaf shape is formed by either cooking it in a loaf pan, or forming it by hand on a flat baking pan. Meatloaf is usually made from ground beef, although lamb, pork, veal, venison, and poultry or a combination are also used.
History of Meatloaf
The meatloaf has European origins; meatloaf of minced meat was mentioned in the famous Roman cookery collection Apicius as early as the 5th century. Meatloaf is a traditional German and Belgian dish, and it is a cousin to the Dutch meatball. American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania since Colonial times. However, meatloaf in the contemporary American sense did not appear in cookbooks until the late 19th century.
Making a Meatloaf
Many meatloaf recipes are interchangeable with meatball recipes, the distinction coming from shape and from the accompaniments or choice of sauce. Sometimes a form of tomato sauce or ketchup is also mixed with the meat before baking.
Meatloaf is a versatile dish. The ground meat may be mixed with a binder such as eggs and breadcrumbs, small pieces of bread soaked in milk (or red wine or another liquid), or wheat germ, finely ground almonds, or oatmeal, to make it more dough-like. Salt, spices and herbs (such as parsley), as well as chopped vegetables (such as onions, green peppers and celery), may also be added. Some recipes add strips of bacon on top. Meatloaf may be filled with eggs, cheese, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, or a combination of these ingredients. Sometimes meatloaf is made by adding meat and sometimes also eggs to a meatloaf mix before baking. A regular oven is not required. Meatloaf can be cooked in a slow cooker or in a microwave oven. To ensure even cooking in a microwave oven, it is best cooked as individual portions (for instance, in a mug) or as a small loaf.
The Austrian meatloaf version is called Faschierter Braten. Most of the time it is not filled (e.g., in Germany), but it is wrapped in ham before baking it. Often it is served with mashed potatoes (when warm) or with Cumberland Sauce (when cold).
The Bulgarian Rulo Stefani meatloaf is similar to the Hungarian Stefánia Szelet meatloaf, with hard-boiled eggs in the middle.
In the Czech Republic, meatloaf is referred to as sekaná (‘chopped’). It is optional to put hard boiled eggs, gherkins, or wienerwurst inside.
Danish meatloaf is called forloren hare ‘mock hare’ or farsbrød ‘ground-meat bread’ and is usually made from a mixture of ground pork and beef with strips of bacon or cubed bacon on top. It is served with boiled or mashed potatoes and brown sauce sweetened with red currant jelly.
Finnish meatloaf is called lihamureke. It is completely based on the basic meatball recipe. The only spices used are salt and pepper. It is not customary to stuff lihamureke with anything. The usual side dish is mashed potatoes, and lihamureke is usually served with brown sauce.
In Germany, meatloaf is referred to as Hackbraten, Faschierter Braten or Falscher Hase ‘mock hare’. In some regions it often has boiled eggs inside.
In Greece, meatloaf is referred to as rolo (Ρολό) and it is usually filled with hard boiled eggs, although several other variations exist.
Stefania meatloaf or Stefania slices are a type of Hungarian long meatloaf baked in a loaf pan, with 3 hard boiled eggs in the middle, making decorative white and yellow rings in the middle of the slices.
In Italy, meatloaf is called polpettone and can be filled with eggs or ham and cheese.
In Jewish cuisine, meatloaf is called Klops and can be served cold or hot. It is sometimes filled with whole boiled eggs. The source of the word might be German, Klops, meaning meatball.
Rolat is a similar dish to the chiefly Arab, though also Persian and South-Asian, kofta. Ground beef is rolled and cooked until brown. It can be cooked with vegetables and various sauces.
In the Philippines there is a meatloaf dish called embotido made of well seasoned ground pork, minced carrots, sausages, and whole boiled eggs. The meat is molded into a roll with the sausages and hard boiled eggs set in the middle. It is then wrapped in aluminium foil (historically, banana leaves) and steamed for an hour. The cooked embotido may be stored in freezers. It is usually served fried and sliced for breakfast.
In Romanian cuisine, there is a meatloaf dish called drob, similar to other minced meat dishes in the region like the Bulgarian Rulo Stefani or the Hungarian Stefánia meatloaf, the major difference being that it is always made with lamb organs (or a mixture of lamb organs and pork or veal) and the hard boiled eggs in the centre of the drob are optional.
The Vietnamese meatloaf version is called “giò”. It’s boiled rather than baked or smoked. There are many versions of “giò” that differ by the materials used.
In 2007, meatloaf was voted the seventh-favourite dish in the United States according to Good Housekeeping. During the Great Depression, cooking meatloaf was a way to stretch the food budget for families, using an inexpensive type of meat and other ingredients as leftovers; along with spices, it was popular to add cereal grains to the meatloaf to stretch the meat. The tradition lives on with the merits of producing a lower-fat dish with superior binding and consistency.
Meatloaf is normally served warm as part of the main course, but can also be found sliced as a cold cut. It is typically eaten with some kind of sauce or relish. Many recipes call for pasta sauce or tomato sauce to be poured over the loaf to form a crust during baking.
- The tomato-based sauce may be replaced with simple brown gravy or onion gravy, but the meatloaf is prepared in a similar manner.
- Barbecue sauce, tomato ketchup, or a mixture of both tomato ketchup and mustard may also be used.
- American meatloaf may be garnished with ketchup.
- Another variety of meatloaf is prepared by frosting it with mashed potatoes, drizzling it with a small amount of butter, and browning in the oven.