The idea of meatloaf does not appeal to me. A loaf of meat? No thank you.
But part of me knows meatloaf has redeeming qualities in spite of its name. When done well, it is a delightful main course, tender and full of flavor, unpretentiously sporting a blanket of tangy ketchup. Paired with creamy mashed potatoes, I can almost forgive the awful title. I like meat loaf. I just don’t enjoy the name.
I have prepared and enjoyed several versions of meatloaf. Of most recent note, the two versions I cooked during the Ina In A Year project were fantastic. Ina’s Turkey Meatloaf is very traditional (with the exception of it being made from turkey), and her 1770 House Meatloaf is different in a way that is worth trying.
While both of these are tasty and worthy additions to a recipe repertoire, they are not effortless. The work is worth it, but they take quite a while to fully prepare and bake. In my mind, if we are going to make meat loaf, it should be the kind of fare that will work on a busy weeknight and require weeknight-worthy effort. Namely, I want to be able to make meatloaf while also doing a million other normal weeknight things (i.e., laundry, spelling words, navigating sibling rivalry, etc.).
I have developed a method for meatloaf that accomplishes my desire for minimal effort and has helped quell my personal angst over loaf-shaped piles of meat. In short, I made the loaves miniature. Something about smaller loaves made the dish more palatable to me, and it cuts down on the cook time tremendously.
Yes, you will need to sauté an onion, but for the most part, this is a mix-form-bake situation yielding a very likable version of meat loaf suitable for a busy Wednesday night. Whatever you do, don’t call it meatloaf. Call it Mini Meatloaf, and somehow that feels better.
- 2 pounds ground beef I like using 80/20, but anything will work
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion chopped (approximately 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs any kind will work, but I prefer Panko
- 2 eggs beaten
- ketchup for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and allow it to cook until it the onion is softened and golden, but not browned. This will happen best if you leave the onions to cook without stirring, only tending to them occasionally to move them around a bit. Once the onions are perfectly cooked, add the dried thyme, Worcestershire, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Stir to make sure everything is combined. Remove from the heat.
- Set aside a sheet tray so it ready when you are finished mixing the meat.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, and onion mixture. Using your hands in a loose raking motion, combine everything well without compacting the meat. Keep mixing until everything is evenly distributed. The mixture will be wet. Form the meat mixture into 8 mini loaves, shaping them into bricks, and evenly spacing them on the baking sheet.
- The total bake time will be about 60 minutes. I like to bake them for 30 minutes without ketchup and then add ketchup to the top of all the loaves for the rest of the cook time…but you can add the ketchup at any time you like. The loaves are done when the internal temperature reaches 155, but at most this will take 90 minutes, but more likely they will be done in an hour. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, just slice open a mini meatloaf and check to make sure it is cooked.