Chef's Hat: Kick up old favorite recipes but add a twist

Use beef or chicken broth instead of milk in meatloaf for a more enhanced flavor

Chef's Hat meatloaf sandwich.jpg
Use leftover meatloaf to make a hearty Grilled Cheese and Meatloaf Sandwich.
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Sometimes you get in a rut with food. Take meatloaf.

For years (decades) I have prepared it basically the same. Granted, it was a good meal and always disappeared quickly, so it never occurred to me to make any changes to the basic recipe.

Meatloaf has always been a favorite in my household, but there are many people I’ve run into who find meatloaf dry and tasteless. There are a few helpful tips to keeping your meatloaf moist, and a new technique I recently discovered adds additional flavor to what can be a bland dish.

First, to make a good, flavorful meatloaf, you don’t want to use very lean beef. Generally speaking, it's best to pick 80% to 85% fat ground beef for use in a meatloaf. A bit more fat greatly enhances the flavor of this dish.

In addition, a slightly higher fat content helps the meatloaf to stay together and not fall apart in crumbles.


Instead of using just hamburger, make the meatloaf with half beef and half ground pork or ground turkey.

Many meatloaf recipes call for milk. A new technique I ran across encourages the use of beef or chicken broth instead of milk. This does enhance the flavor of the dish.

Also be careful not to add too much liquid. You need enough liquid so that the meat forms a nice loaf, but too much will diminish the beef flavor.

A few drops of hot sauce adds flavor, but not heat.

Cook an onion until it's tender before adding it to the meat mixture. Uncooked onion or onion powder just doesn’t add enough to the flavor.

A big key is not to over-mix the meat. Over-mixing can cause the meat to become tough.

Making meatloaf is a bit of an art and a bit of science. Too much moisture or not enough means the meatloaf will not hold its shape. If cooked too long the meatloaf can become dry, crumbly and tasteless.

This recipe calls for breadcrumbs. If desired, you can use seasoned breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs.


The trick to breadcrumbs is to start by using just a half cup. If the meatloaf easily forms a “loaf," then you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs. However, if the mixture seems soupy, gradually add more breadcrumbs until you get a solid consistency in the meat.

My original meatloaf recipe came from a 1982 "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook." Obviously, that is no longer a “new” cookbook, but it is still on my shelf and something I occasionally turn to when I need a basic recipe.

This recipe did call for milk, not beef broth, but it is also the recipe where I began using a sweet sauce for the topping. Granted, the recipe has been amended and there are notes in the margins, but this is definitely a tried-and-true recipe even if you follow it step by step.

Many people think the best part about meatloaf is the leftovers. Another new experiment was a grilled meatloaf sandwich. And why not? Grilled ham and cheese is quite popular, but when you have leftover meatloaf, why not replace that ham with a slice of meatloaf? If makes an amazing sandwich.

Every so often, there is nothing wrong with throwing out the tried-and-true recipes or amending them with ideas found in magazines, websites or other cookbooks. Sometimes experiments fail; but at other times, you will be amazed with what you create. Happy Eating!

Saucy Homemade Meatloaf

  • 1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ½ to 1 cup breadcrumbs (panko or seasoned)
  • 1/3 cup beef both
  • 1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 2 teaspoons jarred garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • Several drops (or ½ teaspoon) of hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium sized onion, red or yellow, diced

For the topping

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. You can also line it with foil for easier cleanup. If you prefer, you can use an 8x8-inch pan.


Place the olive oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook it until softened, about 10 to 12 minutes.

In a medium sized bowl, add the onion, ½ cup of breadcrumbs, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce, the seasonings and the hot sauce. Mix until well blended.

Add the ground beef and ground pork. Mix lightly. If the mixture does not stick together, add additional breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup at a time, and mix lightly until the beef/pork can be easily formed into a loaf.

In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients. Taste. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Set the bowl aside.

Place the meatloaf into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven and pour off any grease that has accumulated in the pan. Return the meatloaf to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Pour off any additional grease.

Pour the sauce over the top. Return the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, just until the sauce is warmed and sightly browned, and the meatloaf has an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven. Let the meatloaf cool for 10 minutes and then cut and serve.

Grilled Cheese & Meatloaf Sandwich

  • 1 hearty slice of leftover meatloaf
  • Slices of cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 slices of hearty bread (or whatever bread you have on hand)
  • 1-2 tablespoons barbecue sauce

Double the ingredients to make two sandwiches.


Place a medium sized skillet on the stove and turn the heat to medium.

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread down in the pan, butter side down. Layer with the meatloaf and then drizzle a spoonful of two or barbecue sauce over it. Top with cheese slices. Place the remaining piece of bread on top, butter side up.

Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the bread turns brown. Flip the sandwich over. Cook on the second side for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

Opinion by Donna Evans
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