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Old 01-06-2009, 12:17 PM   #1
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Meatloaf in a pan or in free form?

Last summer I sought help for my meatloaf which was mediocre at best, and received at least a million responses. The thread went on and on, and my ultimate conclusion was that f you don't know how ask a proper question, you can't get a helpful answer. I believe I failed to express myself well. There were tons of suggestions, and since then, I've gone through a couple of cows making meatloaf, none of them too exciting. I now suspect that it's not my recipes that are at fault, it's my meatloaf pan which is in two parts. The inner part which holds the meat, is drilled full of holes on the bottom. This is supposed to enable you to get rid of excess fat. This pan, fits inside an outer pan which is apparently no more than a regular bread pan. It is sufficiently deep, so that there is at least a half inch of empty space between bottoms of both pans as the meatloaf cooks. When the meatloaf is done, there is always a considerable amount of melted fat and other juices at the bottom of the outer pan. I'm beginning to wonder if this is why I'm cooking crappy meatloaf? Maybe the best part of my meatloaf is going the drain!

I'd like to hear from those who have opinions on this matter. I'm thinking of trying a free form meat loaf on a flat pan, or even in a traditional pan. I like chuck, but I have used very lean meat (tasteless) and it too has exuded liquids that maybe shouldn't be extracted with a two pan method. If I cook in a regular pan, wouldn't it fill up on the bottom with fat?

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Old 01-06-2009, 12:25 PM   #2
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Sorry, but I don't think it's the pan.

When I make a traditional meatloaf, I use a loaf pan to shape the meat then turn it out onto a foil covered cookie sheet to bake. I do this so the sides and ends of the meatloaf are exposed to the heat and will get crusty.

I use 85% to 88% lean ground beef. You get a good puddle of fat and juices in the pan.

Bottom line is the flavorings you put into the meat that will give you a tasty meatloaf.

Do you try a number of different recipes or focus on the same one with variations? Would you post your list of ingredients and quantities so we can help?
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:27 PM   #3
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Growing up my mom always used a pan and I usually loved her meatloaf. Now I prefer the free form method because your get more yummy crusty surfaces.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
Growing up my mom always used a pan and I usually loved her meatloaf. Now I prefer the free form method because your get more yummy crusty surfaces.
Same here.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:36 PM   #5
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Mignon, I have a pan similar to what you are describing. I get good results from mine so am thinking it is your ingredients. Like Andy suggested, could you list your ingredients and we could help from there.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:24 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Sorry, but I don't think it's the pan.
I'm sorry too, I was hoping for an easy fix. I chose the following recipe not only because I liked the ingredients, but also because it wasn't complex or complicated.

1.5 lbs. chuck
.75 bread crumbs, plain
1 egg
.5 cup chopped onions
.5 cup chopped Bell peppers
.5 cup ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

Somehow it seemed bland. It was coarse and didn't slice well for sandwiches. Unhappily, the two things I value in a meatloaf are mutually incompatible. I love meatloaf to be tight like baloney and soft like pound cake. When I handle the meat long enough, it becomes tight grained alright but it also turns into a rock. A friend suggested I tear bread into pieces, soak them in milk and substitute for bread crumbs, I don't see how that helps.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:47 PM   #7
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As you noted, the more you handle the meat the tighter it gets so you can control the tight vs. soft texture.

I would add more onion, some mushrooms, some soy or Worcestershire sauce, thyme, grated romano or parmesan cheese.

Also, I process the vegetables in a food processor until they are almost pureed. They add more moisture that way and are easier to mix into the meat. Also, they cook and give up their flavor easier when processed.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:08 PM   #8
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I feel like I'm making progress, but at the risk of being too bothersome, may I ask you to be more specific about the ingredients you would add. Remember, I'm a klutz words like "more, some, additional, extra, approximately, about, leave me in left field. How much more onion, for example?

What did you think about the torn bread idea? I've wondered about having my butcher grind the meat twice for a finer grain do you go for that?
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:16 PM   #9
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Freeform here.

Do you saute the veg before adding it to your mixture? Everyone has they're own taste for meatloaf. For instance, I'm not a fan of the ketchup topping but prefer a gravy or sauce.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:41 PM   #10
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I always free form into a round loaf. I also find that for me, oatmeal works better than bread crumbs or crackers because they absorb the juices which keeps the meatloaf tender while not letting all the juices escape and sitting in the bottom of the pan. I also found that using dehydrated chopped onion works well too in controlling exuding moisture by keeping it all inside, mmmmmm
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