A chef shares the secrets to making a perfect meatloaf

It's all about ingredients and technique, according to this chef.

meatloaf with sauce on plate
Photo: Craig Lee/San Francisco Chronicle (Getty Images)

If you’ve ever needed a guide to perfect meatloaf, I’ve got good news for you: Golf Magazine has just published a short guide to meatloaf. What does meatloaf have to do with golf? Well, this guide is written by Richard Gras, executive chef at Cliff’s Valley, which is part of a seven club collection of luxury golf communities located in North and South Carolina. I’ve never been out golfing before, but nothing sounds better to me than being out in the hot sun all day, then sitting down to a giant slice of ground meat that was shaped and baked into a loaf.

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Chef Gras’ meatloaf contains thyme, red pepper flakes, oregano, and diced pickles in it, but his five basic ground rules apply to whichever kind of meaty loaf you desire.

Fat Content

Chef Gras says that his favorite ratio of lean meat to fat is 80/20, which keeps the meatloaf from getting too dry. This is generally the ratio I like for burgers too. Gras says it has “just enough fat to keep the meatloaf moist.”

Shape and size matter

Make sure your meatloaf is evenly shaped, otherwise it’ll cook irregularly. Gras cooks his at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-55 minutes, which he says helps keep the shape of the meatloaf while allowing for some color to develop. He also recommends you not cover the meatloaf so you can get that crust going.

Binders are necessary

Gras swears that buttermilk and panko mixed into the meatloaf to keep it moist and firm. He lets the panko sit in the buttermilk for 15 minutes before mixing it into the meat; the mixture acts as a binding agent to keep the loaf together.

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Ingredients to avoid

Gras avoids rosemary, as he thinks the flavor is too strong for the meat. I tend to agree; rosemary is a very strong flavoring agent and is better in small doses.

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Get the air bubbles out before you bake it

Chef Gras drops the meatloaf pan on the countertop a few times to get rid of extra air bubble pockets and to make sure that the meat has settled into the pan firmly so it cooks evenly.

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So, armed with this knowledge, go forth and make meatloaf. Or play golf. Whatever you do, just don’t bake golf balls into your meatloaf.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

thundercatsarego
thundercatsarego

A timid confession: I love almost all foods, and I’ve never been able to stomach meatloaf. I just don’t see the appeal. To me it’s always the equivalent of taking something good (beef) and making it worse in both texture and flavor. I don’t like it.

I’ve never had any objections to burger or meatballs, both of which have similar recipes to meatloaf but different preparation, so I’m not sure what it is about meatloaf. There’s just something about meatloaf that doesn’t work for me. What am I missing?