Meatloaf is a dish of ground meat formed into a
loaf shape and baked or smoked. The loaf shape is formed by
either cooking it in a loaf pan, or forming it by hand on a flat
baking pan. It is usually made from ground beef, although
lamb, pork, veal, venison, and poultry or a combination are also
The meatloaf has
European origins; minced meat loaves were cooked already in the 5th
century, and were mentioned in the famous Roman cookery collection "Apicius".
Meatloaf is a traditional German, Belgian and Dutch
dish, and it is a cousin to the Italian meatball. American
meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of
ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania
since Colonial times. However, meatloaf in the contemporary
American sense did not appear in cookbooks until the late 19th
Many meatloaf recipes are
interchangeable with meatball recipes, the distinction coming from
shape and from the accompaniments or choice of sauce.
Sometimes tomato sauce or ketchup is in the meat and baked along
with the meat. Meatloaf is a versatile dish. The
ground meat may be mixed with a binder such as eggs and breadcrumbs,
small pieces of bread soaked in milk (or red wine or another
liquid), or wheat germ, finely ground almonds, or oatmeal, to make
it more dough-like.
Salt, spices and herbs (such as parsley), as well as chopped
vegetables (such as onions, green peppers and celery), may also be
added. Some recipes add strips of bacon on top. Meatloaves
may be filled with eggs, cheese, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, or a
combination of these ingredients. Some meatloaves
can be made by adding meat and sometimes also eggs to a meatloaf mix
A regular oven is not required. Meatloaf
can be cooked in a slow cooker or in a microwave oven. To
ensure even cooking in a microwave oven, it is best cooked in
individual portions (for instance, in a mug) or as a small loaf.
In many parts of the United
States, meatloaf is a popular dish. In 2007, it was
voted the 7th favorite dish in the United States according to the
Good Housekeeping website.
During the Great Depression, cooking meatloaf
was a way to stretch the food budget for families, using an
inexpensive type of meat and other ingredients as leftovers; along
with spices, it was popular to add cereal grains to the meatloaf to
stretch the meat. The tradition lives on with the merits of
producing a lower-fat dish with superior binding and consistency.
The meatloaf is typically eaten with some kind
of sauce or relish. Many of these recipes call for pasta sauce
or tomato sauce to be poured over the loaf to form a crust during
baking. The tomato-based sauce may be replaced with simple
brown gravy or onion gravy, but the meatloaf is prepared in a
similar manner. Barbecue sauce, tomato ketchup, or a mixture of both
tomato ketchup and mustard may also be used. American meatloaf may
be garnished with ketchup.
Another variety of meatloaf is prepared by
frosting it with mashed potatoes, drizzling it with a small amount
of butter, and browning in the oven.
The meatloaf is normally served warm as part of the main course,
but can also be found sliced as a cold cut. Meatloaves
can also be considered as a typical Midwestern comfort food, or even