There’s just no competing with the Alton Brown Meatloaf recipe. You’ll make some magic in your kitchen
with this beefy beauty, scientifically engineered by Mr. Brown himself to be the best!
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I’m pretty sure if you look up the word “hearty” in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of a dense, rich meatloaf with a shiny, sticky glaze dribbling down the sides.
It’s the dish no one else can make quite like mama used to, and having a good meatloaf recipe is probably listed somewhere as the key to a happy marriage (Spoiler Alert: The Alton Brown Meatloaf recipe fits the bill!).
Meatloaf has been around since gladiators were fighting in big arenas, and practically every country on our big, blue globe has some version of ground meat pressed into that classic loaf shape.
I’m sure this is partly because combining meat with some fillers is a great way to stretch an expensive ingredient to feed more mouths, but it’s also because there really aren’t many things that say “comfort food” quite like a quality meatloaf.
What is the best meatloaf recipe?
I don’t think anyone’s ever answered that question quite as well as Mr. Brown: “Great meatloaf is always juicy, but it never falls apart. It is neither bland nor so heavily seasoned that it loses its meaty soul.” I agree completely, and I think you’ll agree this meatloaf is real “soul” food.
When it comes to meatloaf recipes Alton Brown is always a reliable resource (for pretty much anything other than meatloaf too).
It’s hard to argue with a food scientist! He’s also a fan of meatloaf in general, which gives him some cred in my book.
The Alton Brown meatloaf Best Thing I Ever Made version is a show-stopping, smoked meatloaf with complex seasonings like cocoa powder and chipotle peppers (oh, and potato chips).
If the Alton Brown smoked meatloaf seems a little too snobby for your mashed potatoes, though, the classic Good Eats version can’t be beaten.
His Good Eats meatloaf episode is a great one to catch on re-runs or YouTube to learn about different cuts of beef and the benefit of grinding your own for burgers or meatloaf.
Although I’m not quite ready to invest the extra time and energy for grinding, the flavors and textures accomplished by using his meatloaf methods are perfectly dialed in.
I think the biggest take away for the meatloaf Alton Brown prepared for us in that show is to choose your meat wisely.
The episode is all about beef, though you can certainly make meatloaf with many different meat combinations: beef and pork; beef, veal, and pork (like the meatloaf recipe Food Network Bobby Flay created), and, of course, a good Turkey Meatloaf.
When it’s a meat and potatoes kinda night at my house, though, the family’s expecting a beef fix, so Mr. Brown’s advice is spot on for what I want on my table.
Lots of recipes, like the meatloaf Paula Deen makes, use regular ground beef. “Ground beef” purchased from a grocery store is made from all the odds and ends the market trimmed off or didn’t use that day, everything from the cheapest chuck to the finest filet.
The only problem with relying on premixed ground beef is the combo will vary from day to day, which means the beefy flavor and fat content will vary as well.
To make the Alton Brown Meatloaf, he suggests using a nice, beefy lean cut (ground sirloin) and a flavorful fatty cut (ground chuck) to make sure the flavor-to- fat ratio is just right.
Alton actually describes his recipe as an “inside out” burger on the show, and that’s really true!
The fluffy bun gets incorporated as dry breadcrumbs, but with a unique twist. Rather than using fresh or “seasoned breadcrumbs,” which are usually mixed with Italian seasonings and Parmesan, he uses garlic-flavored croutons. Genius!
The purpose of breadcrumbs (or oatmeal) in a meatloaf recipe is to work along with the eggs as a binder.
Ground beef, regardless of the cut it comes from, creates a coarse texture; the addition of starchy ingredients softens that a bit and creates that classic, velvety mouthfeel we’re after in a good meatloaf.
Using croutons instead of regular breadcrumbs also means you have the benefit of a little extra fat (moisture), plus, even though they’re seasoned, the flavor base is more neutral than the basil and oregano Italian variety.
The veggies – garlic, onions, bell peppers, and carrot – also add moisture, but since we’re dealing with a nice fatty blend of beef (rather than something leaner like turkey), we can actually skip the saute step and use them raw.
Just be sure they’re finely chopped so they’ll incorporate seamlessly with the beef.
We’ll season the beefy mixture with salt and pepper, of course, but also a bit of thyme, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. This is the perfect blend to accentuate the beef and aromatics we’ve incorporated without dominating the flavor profile.
Just remember to gently combine the ingredients once everything’s in the mixing bowl.
Too much kneading or squishing of the beef can toughen the mixture, and we want a tender, juicy meatloaf. I suggest just getting your hands in there so you can work everything more easily.
Some people prefer to bake their meatloaf in a loaf pan, but Alton’s method (and mine as well) is to mold the meat and bake it naked.
The loaf pan traps a lot of the fats that would normally ooze off to the sides, which means you’ll end up with a soggier, greasier, and less stable meatloaf.
This isn’t exactly a crispy meatloaf recipe, but the exterior will be dryer and have more texture than one that’s been baked in the pans. It’ll also hold together better when slicing.
What can you put on top of meatloaf?
Bacon. Lots of bacon. You can also drizzle the top with store-bought barbecue sauce, Heinz 57 sauce, or
even plain (or spicy!) ketchup.
If you want something a little more interesting, though, it’s easy to whip up a quick topping or glaze to complement that beefy soul we’ve crafted underneath.
When it comes to a meatloaf glaze recipe, it can range from sticky sweet (like the one I use in my Brown Sugar Meatloaf) to a more traditional topping of ketchup, mustard, sugar, and a dash of hot sauce (like the meatloaf Pioneer Woman makes).
The Alton Brown Meatloaf combines the best of them both by using ketchup seasoned with smoky cumin and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, adding just a touch of honey to balance those flavors.
Why don’t we glaze the meatloaf before putting it in the oven?
Because allowing just ten minutes in the oven for the outside of the meatloaf to dry out and seal in some of the juices means that tasty glaze will actually stay on top, not get watered down by the beefy liquids trying to escape during the cooking process.
How long do you bake meatloaf in the oven?
This meatloaf recipe, which has about 2 ¼ pounds of meat, will need about an hour to reach 155 degrees.
I know there are some die-hard slow cooker fans out there, and if you opt to make this in your crockpot, it’s quite a bit longer – 5 to 6 hours on low.
Once it’s finished baking, let it rest a few minutes (you don’t want it falling apart now!), and you’re
ready to dive into meatloaf heaven.
This Alton Brown Meatloaf may just be better than your mama’s, though I’m not sure I’d tell her that.
Recipe Notes for Alton Brown Meatloaf:
Line it – So much caramelization goes on in this recipe, which is what makes the covetable crispy bits on the outside of the meatloaf and thickens the glaze.
What you don’t want is all that baking magic happening on top of your best baking dish. Either line the baking sheet with parchment paper or foil to make clean-up easier. If you skip this step, you’ll be tempted to toss that dish!
Let’s talk leftovers – There’s always the classic meatloaf sandwich to make short work of any leftovers, and you can add it to a grilled cheese if you want to up your lunch game.
This Alton Brown Meatloaf is perfect crumbled up, though, in chili or stuffed into bell peppers and baked with a little cheese on top. You can also freeze it.
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Alton Brown Meatloaf Recipe
- 6 Ounces Garlic Flavored Croutons
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/2 Large Yellow Onion Roughly Chopped
- 1 Carrot Peeled and Cut Into 1 Inch Pieces
- 3 Cloves Garlic Peeled
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
- 18 Ounces Ground Chuck
- 18 Ounces Ground Sirloin
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Large Egg
- 1/2 Cup Ketchup
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Cumin
- Dash Hot Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Honey
- Adjust oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Combine the croutons, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder and thyme in the bowl of food processor. Pulse until the mixture is a fine crumb. Pour crumb mixture into a mixing bowl. Add onion, carrot, garlic and red pepper to food processor and pulse until the vegetables are finely chopped (Don't over-pulse-since we don't want to go as far as puree). Add the chopped vegetables, chuck, sirloin and salt to the breadcrumbs and combine. Mix in the egg and combine thoroughly, but don't squeeze the meat.
- Press the mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to shape the meatloaf. Turn the meatloaf out onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven.
- Meanwhile, make the topping by combining ingredients in a small mixing bowl. After meatloaf has baked 10 minutes, remove it from oven and brush the ketchup mixture over top and sides. Place back in oven and bake until cooked through, about 55-65 minutes, or internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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Source: Alton Brown