Published January 1, 2006.
An all-beef meatloaf may be convenient, but it's also tough, dry, and dense. We went through 260 pounds of beef to find the best way to lighten the loaf.
Every all-beef meatloaf we've tasted has had the same problems--chewy texture and uninteresting flavor--making it more of a hamburger in the shape of a log than an interesting meatloaf.
In the past, when we wanted a great meatloaf, we turned to the traditional meatloaf mix of beef, pork, and veal. Could we create an all-beef meatloaf to compete with this classic?
The first part of the solution was to keep the "meat combo" idea--only in this case using just beef, finding that equal parts of ground chuck and sirloin provided just the right balance of juicy, tender meat and assertive beefy flavor. Chicken broth was a surprisingly successful add-in; it transformed the loaf from livery to savory (beef broth contributed a metallic off-taste). We liked the idea of adding cheese for its flavor, moisture, and binding quality, but we didn't want little pockets of cheese that oozed unappealing liquid once the loaf was cut. We solved this problem by grating the cheese and then freezing it to make it even more crumbly. Saltines were the winning binder, helping to deliver a tender, cohesive loaf. But our biggest challenge was texture: Traditional meatloaves made of beef, pork, and veal have an unctuous texture (because of the gelatin in veal) that was tricky to duplicate. Adding veal stock seemed unreasonable, so we focused on the much more readily available powdered gelatin. A mere half-teaspoon made the texture luxuriously smooth. We finished the meatloaf with the classic flavors of sautéed onions, celery, garlic, and the ever-popular ketchup glaze.list of recipes