Updated: Feb 10, 2021
-2 pounds of meat
Beef or venison with pork shoulder, moose with pork shoulder, bison with pork fat, elk, etc.
-Bread, hamburger buns, or bread crumbs
One large hamburger bun or three slices of bread or 1/2 cup bread crumbs.
-Salt, pepper, or other spices
-Ketchup & mustard
Preheat oven to 350°
Meatloaf is a staple of life and ultimate comfort food. I make our meatloaf from 30% pasture-raised all-natural Berkshire pork shoulder and 70% super clean venison. I don't have any problem grounding up a backstrap for this dish, but be sure to have at least a 20% fat content, so your loaf isn't gamey or dry. Here's the real secret. The way you add ingredients to meatloaf dramatically changes the flavor profile and texture.
Just like baking cookies, it matters how you put your recipe together. Tossing all of the ingredients into the bowl for your meatloaf at once blends the eggs and spices mostly with the bread or bread crumbs. So when your loaf cooks, the egg firms up in the bread quickly, and the more intense meat juices leave the loaf, and you are stuck with a drier, firm loaf. Egg and bread is just a flat french-toast. You don't want pockets of that in the middle of your meatloaf.
For a moist meaty flavored loaf, always mix with your hands and not a mixer. A mixer will overwork your loaf, making a meat-brick instead. Cut your desired bread into small pieces, or use bread crumbs. Don't be tempted to throw in whole slices of bread or buns. The bread won't get evenly distributed. Cut the bread and mix the bread in, letting it sit for a few minutes to absorb the excess meat juices. This method will keep your meatloaf moist instead of eggy and dry. Cut your onion while you let your loaf rest and prepare your spices.
Add the spices, ketchup, mustard, and diced onions and gently fold them in. I like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little thyme in my loaf. My Grandma, bless her feisty, dearly departed heart, liked to add caraway seeds. My Mom likes to add BBQ sauce. Maybe you like premixed seasoning spices or red wine. I was a fan of Montreal Steak seasonings for years until I discovered the glory of homegrown herbs. The additions and variations are endless, but knowing when and how to add the eggs and bread is the secret to a legendary loaf.
Lastly, finish up your loaf by scrambling your eggs before adding them. This way, there won't be any weird white parts or heavy eggy areas to your loaf if the eggs don't get mixed in well. Don't stop mixing until fully incorporated. You might panic at first, thinking it will never mix in to form a loaf, but it will.
Place your loaf in a casserole dish or pan. Your loaf should not touch the pan's edges, so don't pack it and bake it in a bread pan. The browned edges on a meatloaf are considered the best part of the dish, like a brownie's corner pieces. Fashion your loaf about two to three inches thick. The thicker the loaf - the longer the cooking time.
Put your loaf in a preheated oven at 350-degrees. After 45-50 minutes, remove the loaf and top with a thick slathering of ketchup and return to the oven until the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees. Let the loaf sit for at least 10 minutes after removing from the oven. Allowing the loaf to relax absorbs some of the moisture from the bottom of the pan. Cut into squares and enjoy!
My exact recipe follows:
2 Pounds very clean, ground venison and pasture-raised Berkshire pork shoulder
1 XL Homemade organic hamburger bun
1 Small yellow organic onion
3 Tbs Homemade organic ketchup
1 Tbs Organic mustard
1 tsp Home harvested thyme
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 Fresh farm eggs
1/3 Cup more organic homemade ketchup
Preheat oven to 350°
Place meat in an oversized mixing bowl.
Cut bread crumbs into small pieces.
Mix meat and bread pieces together.
Dice onion while meat mix rests.
Add onion, ketchup, mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Gently fold in onion and spices until well incorporated.
Add eggs and mix into a soft loaf form.
Place loaf in an 11x11 casserole dish and shape to keep the loaf away from the edges.
Place loaf in the oven without the lid.
Cook for 45-50 minutes and remove from oven.
Add additional ketchup as a topping.
Return to oven until internal temperature reaches 160°.
Let rest ten minutes before serving.
Return lid to pan and refrigerate cooled leftovers if there are any.
I usually serve this dish with potatoes and peas, but we are fresh out of organic garden peas.
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