I’ve never been the type to be squeamish about handling raw meat. I’ve always enjoyed getting truly hands on when cooking meat because it’s the best way of determining the quality of the cuts and if things are progressing properly. When I’m cooking steaks I use my (clean) finger to check doneness and when I’m mixing meatloaf I absolutely insist upon using my hands to mix it all up. How else can you feel if you’ve gotten all of the ground beef worked into the rest of the ingredients? How else can you tell if you need to add more crackers or bread crumbs? When you use a spoon you lose touch with a mixture that is rarely exactly the same as the last batch you made. It’s an organic recipe; depending upon fat contents, moisture levels, and humidity. And if you get those things right, magic happens. Your reward is a plate of hot, hearty, comforting goodness that can make the coldest night cozy or the worst day seem just a little brighter around the edges. What’s that? Your meatloaf isn’t that good? Then you’re using the wrong recipe! Allow me to share my rock-your-socks-off meatloaf recipe 🙂
Here we have your fairly standard meatloaf ingredients with the addition of carrots and bacon:
“What on Earth is in the blue bowl??” you ask? Well… my kids still don’t care for pieces of onion in their food, so I grate the onion I need on the fine holes of my box grater. That’s what’s in the blue bowl. Now is the time to get a skillet out and and put some olive oil into it- about a tablespoon or two, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set the heat to medium and once the oil shimmers, add in the carrots and onions.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are fragrant and beginning to go translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Take the pan off the heat and set it aside.
I have never used this particular bread before (from the bakery of a grocery store I shop at), so I didn’t know how it would react to the milk. Turns out, I had to double the milk and rip it into pieces to get it properly soaked. But that’s ok; you can just add some crackers later.
You could try to assemble the meatloaf and have it ready to go in the oven before you send it to chill, but it would likely just turn into an exercise in frustration. It’s best to let the mixture firm up in the fridge for a few hours (up to 8 hours) and then assemble the actual loaf. **Note: I don’t usually put the whole amount of salt in that’s called for in the recipe (1 t) because I almost always add crackers, which add to the salt already found in the soy and Worcestershire sauces as well as the salt that the bacon adds to the finished product.**
Make sure both the baking pan and the plate you’re working with are either sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil very well; that’s the only way you’re going to get the meatloaf to slide out of and then back into the pan and not have it stick to the plate either.
Use thick cut bacon bacon that’s long enough to line your pan. I use Farmland thick cut bacon and it’s a perfect fit. I tried Oscar Meyer bacon once because it was on sale and it was WAY too short- and I got the regular bacon, not the center cut. I couldn’t use it at all for this meatloaf.
When lining the pan, stretch each piece of bacon gently to lengthen it just a little so that when it shrinks while it’s cooking (which is inevitable) it continues to surround the meat mixture. Also, place the bacon strips so that you have the wide and narrow ends alternating; you’ll get better coverage that way.
Once you have the pan lined with the bacon, you’ll have to get the meatloaf mixture in. You can do that one of two ways: 1) press the mixture into the pan in handfuls or 2) shape the mixture in your hand and put it in all at once. I normally choose the latter, and it isn’t as hard as it sounds…
And it’s done! The mixture holds together very well because of the bread and eggs that bind it. You’re almost ready to put it in the oven. Fold the edges of the bacon,
Put your platter or plate over the top of the pan,
Flip the whole thing over and set it back down,
and wait for gravity to do it’s thing…
Here’s the “hard” part. It’s not technically difficult, you just have to be careful (but quick) and confident. You can’t stop in the middle or lose your nerve at the last second. Gently ease both hands under the meatloaf, supporting the length on both sides. Pick the whole thing up and carefully set it down in the same pan you used to wrap the meatloaf to begin with.
This is going to take awhile to bake, so don’t try to make this on a busy weeknight when you only have a little bit of time to cook. It makes amazing leftovers, though, so you could certainly bake this meatloaf on the weekend and reheat it during the week. I usually bake this recipe for over an hour. The bacon will be thoroughly cooked and a thermometer stuck into the center will read 165F-170F. Once the pan comes out of the oven, tent it with foil and let the meatloaf rest for 15-20 minutes- and please don’t skip this step! The mixture is very tender and needs some time out of the oven to set properly.
After the resting time has passed, carefully slide a spatula under each end and lift both up at once. The first couple of times you make this meatloaf you just might tear the hell out of it. I did. Don’t worry; it will still taste fantastic, it just won’t be as pretty as a picture:
Cut slices with a serrated knife and serve with whatever you fancy. After your main meal you can refrigerate the leftovers (if there are any), slice them whatever width you like, and makes sandwiches on some nice, soft bread. Mmmmm…. meatloaf sandwiches….
1/2 Medium Onion, diced or grated
2 Carrots, grated fine
4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 T Butter or Oil
1 LB Ground Beef
1/2 t Dried Thyme
1 T Brown Sugar
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 T Soy Sauce
1 t Salt (or to taste)
1/4 t Pepper
4 Slices Stale Bread
1/3 C Milk
8-12 Crushed Crackers (Optional)
6-10 Slices of Bacon
*In a frying pan, melt the fat over medium heat.
*Add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently.
*Add the garlic and cook another minute then put the pan aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.
*In the meantime, put the slices of bread into a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients (except the bacon, of course), sprinkle the brown sugar over it, and pour the milk over it all. Let it sit until the milk is absorbed.
*Add the ground beef, veggies, eggs, herbs, spices, sauces, and crackers (if using), and mix thoroughly. Your hands work best for this!
*Cover the mixture and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour, but not more than 8 hours.
*Preheat the oven to 375F. (350F for a nonstick or dark loaf pan)
*Spray a 9 inch bread pan (I prefer glass) with cooking spray or brush with oil.
*Line the pan with bacon, leaving the tips hanging over both sides.
*Put the meatloaf mixture into the pan and fold the bacon over the top.
*Spray or oil a platter and put it over the loaf pan. Flip them both over and set on the counter to let the meatloaf fall onto the platter.
*Remove the loaf pan and carefully put the meatloaf back in, bacon tips down.
*Bake 1 hour or until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 165F-170F.
*REST THE MEATLOAF FOR AT LEAST 15 MINUTES!
*Gently slide a spatula under each end of the loaf, remove it from the pan, and place on a serving platter to slice.