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Meatloaf: Bread crumbs and Crust

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi Gang,

I've got a couple of questions about preparing meatloaf. I want to make my own bread crumbs for the next loaf I prepare, and I was wondering if there's be any difference in the texture of the loaf depending on how coarse or fine I make the crumbs. How might Panko bread crumbs work in a 'loaf?

Also, one of the things I love about meatloaf is the way the softer, lighter inner part contrasts with the crisp outer crust of a nicely carmelized exterior. Cooking the loaf in a pan seems to allow only the top to develop the crust, so I thought that just forming the loaves by hand and cooking on a sheet would allow the crust to develop all around the loaf. If I do that, is there a way to get the ketchup mixture to cling to the sides of the meat and caramelize like the top? Also, is there a way to get a crust on the bottom of the loaf as well? I thought about cooking the meat on a rack, but I'm concerned that it will stick and tear apart when I try to remove it. Maybe I shouls just forget about a bcrust on the bottom?

Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions,

post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hmmm - I just thought of this: how about browning the bottom of the loaf in a cast iron skillet after it's been appropriately baked? Any thoughts on that idea?

post #3 of 16
I bake my meatloaves in muffin tins...perfect serving size is two. Bake them in a dark colored muffin pan and at a higher temp, say 400. Watch them, they will bake must very quickly.

post #4 of 16
I don't see what advantage there would be to preparing your own bread crumbs for a meat loaf. They are incorporated into the mixture and cook along with the meat so, unless you're looking for a specific size for your bread crumbs, I'd suggest you stick with those quality products that are commercially available. You could sear one side of the loaf (I'd use a very hot cast iron pan) for a couple of minutes and then bake the loaf on a rack. Bake at a high temperature (400 - 425 degrees) and, instead of dumping a tomato sauce over the top at the start of the process, baste the meatloaf several times with the sauce throughout the cooking period. The greatest error in preparing meatloaf is, in my opinion, overcooking it. Use a meat thermometer (follow directions for your particular thermometer - I use an oven proof digital that remains inside the meatloaf all during the cooking cycle) and let the meatloaf rest about ten minutes before slicing it. I prefer a glass baking dish when preparing meatloaf but that's a matter of personal choice.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Since I enjoy cooking and playing around in the kitchen, it might be interesting to make my own bread crumbs. As indicated in my original post, I'm curious as to what effect the size of the crumbs would have on the outcome. I don't know what brands of bread crumbs would be "quality." The only one I've ever heard of is Progresso, and when I tasted it once I found the sample to be lacking in richness, flavor, and mouth appeal. I've never used it for cooking, so I don't know how well or poorly it would fare compared to other brands or a home made version.

post #6 of 16
Shel, I believe what Myplaceoryours meant by "quality" bread crumbs is something like Panko (also know as "Japanese Bread Crumbs") or a variety that isn't corrupted with a bunch of flavoring and seasoning. Those are things you can decide upon when you create your recipe. That said, there are a number of types of bread crumbs. Some are simply dried bread, others are toasted, etc. If you're going to make your own I'd suggest using a good quality sweet or sourdough bread from a local baker and I'd avoid using the packaged stuff. I like to cut mine into 1/4 inch pieces (they're more like croutons than crumbs) and toast them in the oven with a bit of olive oil drizzled throughout. You could, of course, use any other type of oil or butter. The reason I use the 1/4 inch size in my meatloaf is that I like the little bursts of change in the mouth feel of the meatloaf that the larger bread pieces provide during the dining experience.
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
post #7 of 16
Not sure if you are doing this but….using stuff with high (or mostly) sugar like honey, molasses, etc will caramelize on the outside at about 320 degrees I think. Mix with the ketchup it will help it stick to the meat as well. I cover my meat loaf with a mixture of honey, ketchup, mustard, lea and perrins, salt and pepper. The bottom is impossible to crust as it sits in the juice.

As far as the bread crumbs go…. I would use unseasoned bread crumbs. This way you can control the seasoning you want. At that point its just a matter of volume of bread crumb to meat. Panko may work nice since its unflavored.
post #8 of 16
cover top with bacon and cover it with brown sugar it will get crispy
post #9 of 16
I use fresh bread crumbs for meatloaf. Cut off the crusts, and put em through the processor..
For my tastes, the fresh crumbs give a better texture. I also just form my meatloaf by hand and bake it on my broiler pan. The meatloaf itself bakes up nicely, and the excess fat all goes into the bottom of the broiler pan.. I've never used a loaf pan as I dislike the fact that the meatloaf would be simmering/boiling in its own liquid/fat...
If you bake a meatloaf hand formed you'll get a nice crispy finish all around.. (well, except for the bottom)

If I'm making Italian meatloaf, I add a thin layer of Italian spiced stewed tomatoes (chopped finer) over the top along with lots of sprigs of fresh basil.. Just before its done, I add a mixture of freshly grated asiago and mozza. cheese. It melts and crusts over nicely.. Very good!

For regular everyday meatloaf, I usually coat it with chilli sauce, then lay strips of bacon all over it.. I also add sprigs of whatever herbs I have available at the time.. Other times I'll omit the bacon, and use thickish strips of old cheddar or whatever other cheese I might fancy towards the end of cooking to melt over the top.. Thats very good too..
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm going to use a nice "bakery" white bread and make my own crumbs, or perhaps use some Panko crumbs, depending on my schedule and time available for shopping and preparation.

Yesterday I came across a perfect technique for cooking the meatloaf on a rack which will prevent any of the loaf from sticking to the rack and which allows the fat to drain away into the pan below. The technique was featured on the America's Test Kitchen web site and uses aluminum foil made into a small tray with holes poked into it. Looks like I'm set to go - now to just fine tune the recipe a bit and grag the appropriate ingredients.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions and ideas,

post #11 of 16
These are excellent points. Some people tend to pack their meatloaf into a very tight roll or ball before baking. It's better to pack it only until it can hold its shape without collapsing. Putting the meatloaf into a loaf pan to bake produces something akin to a boiled meatloaf. Not a good thing! A large baking dish that prevents the juices from running all over the oven and provides open space around the meatloaf is the better choice. I'm not aware of any rules regarding the type of breadcrumbs used in meatloaf. Culinary skills are a combination of arts and sciences and the artistry rests with the creativity of the one who creates the dish. What goes in to your meatloaf, from type of breadcrumbs to other ingredients (olives, peppers, root veggies, etc) is a matter of choice. Use your imagination. A culinary failure isn't the end of the road, it's the starting point for improvement. :chef:
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Indeed - I can't imagine any result being so bad that it would be inedible, especially with lots of ketchup <LOL>

I'm thinking of flavoring my next attempt with sausage, like Aidell's Habanero and Green Chile sausage. Doing something like that might save some prep time and still impart a nice flavor and texture to the loaf.

post #13 of 16
Yes, I used to do the rack thing. Cover the cooling rack in foil, poke the holes all over for drainage, spray the foil with a smidge of cooking spray or a swipe of olive oil so there would be no sticking of the meatloaf. An old 1 in. deep cookie sheet underneath to catch all the drippings.. Until I realized one day, why am I doing all this prep work when I have a broiler pan that will do the same thing?! The top of my broiler pan already has slits for drainage, and for some reason (I think because its always been hidden away in the drawer) I had not really taken advantage of using this pan..
I now keep it with my regular pans and use it a lot..
I do cover the bottom half of the broiler pan with foil tho.. Nice easy clean up that way..
Another added hint.. Try adding sprigs of your favourite herbs in the bottom pan or sheet that you use.. Adds a bit more flavor, and smells lovely of course while the meatloaf is baking!

Good luck with your meatloaf!
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks! The idea of adding sprigs of herbs sounds wonderful. I'll definitely give it a try at some point.

post #15 of 16
substitute bbq sauce for ketchup..wrap the whole thin in bacon..bread crumbs u can do whatever u want make ethem spicy like toasted w/ cayenne to ballance the sweet:beer:
post #16 of 16
I know this probably will raise some brows here, but for my breadcrumbs, I like to use a package of Stove Top Stuffing, I think the flavor is called Savory stuffing, or something like that. It's got all the seasonings, herbs, and I'm sure plenty of salt in it. I also blend a tube of breakfast sausage with the meat.

One of my favorite ways to cook meatloaf is on the smoker, using some pecan and hickory wood for the smoke, around 250-275 degrees, for about 5 hours or until done using a meat therm.

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