Monday, May 3, 2010

BBQ Meatloaf

Meatloaf too often becomes a tough, overcooked mess of hamburger and ketchup. I have learned a few tricks to making it better from the scientists and cooks on PBS's America's Test Kitchen. One big improvement is to skip the dried-out canned bread crumbs in favor of freshly ground bread. The starch and moisture in the fresh bread gets in between the protein strands and keeps the texture tender, but not mushy. Another improvement that I really like is to skip the ketchup and use barbecue sauce instead for more tang and less syrupy-sweetness. Finally, I find it best to cook the meatloaf on a rack instead of a pan, allowing the grease to drain away as it cooks.

  • 1 to 2 slices rye bread, torn into pieces (french bread, white sandwich bread, or sourdoughs also work well)
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup smokey BBQ sauce, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire cooling rack onto a sheet pan. Fold a piece of aluminum foil so it makes a double-layer the same size as the rack. Starting about a half inch from the sides, cut 2-inch slits in the foil about 1/2 inch apart. Put the foil on the rack.Make fresh bread crumbs by processing bread in food processor. Transfer 3/4 cup bread crumbs to large bowl; set aside (any remaining bread crumbs may be frozen up to 3 months). Add onion and garlic to food processor; process until finely chopped (do not puree). Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic with a pinch of kosher salt; sweat 6 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally (if it starts to brown, reduce heat to medium-low). Let cool 5 minutes. Add beef, sausage, eggs, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, salt and pepper to reserved bread crumbs. Add onion mixture; mix well. Form the meat into a 9" x 6" loaf shape and transfer to prepared rack. Trim foil so it is only directly under the loaf (you want grease to run straight off the sides). Bake 30 minutes. Spread remaining 1/2 cup BBQ sauce over meat loaf; bake 30 minutes more or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Reserve half of the meat loaf for BBQ Shepherd's Pie (tomorrow's recipe!)

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