When I moved out of my parents’ house and onto my own more than 10 years ago, I started cooking a lot to conserve money. Most everything I made in the kitchen was very good—except my meatloaf.
I have a lot of theories about why my meatloaf was so bad—this bland lump of inedible meat and ketchup—but I have no confirmation on its erroneous creation. Too bad my dad lived 300 miles away at the time because he said he could’ve somehow made it edible. I strongly doubt that. I tasted this horror in a loaf pan, and not even all the ketchup and cover-up seasonings in the world could’ve made it worth feeding to the dogs.
Since that time, I’ve been nervous about making meatloaf. I still very much enjoy eating the dish, but only if someone else makes it. Well, I got bold recently and decided it was time to try again, so I looked through a stack of possible recipes on our cookbook shelves.
It came down to a few specialized recipes and the go-to recipe of my wife Molly’s mom, Lisa Phipps, written on a 3×5 index card. My mother-in-law’s meatloaf is one of my favorite dishes she makes, and it’s one of my favorite meatloaf recipes anywhere. There’s a certain tenderness and flavor to the meat that strikes a good chord, and flavor is exactly what was missing in my ill-fated attempt at meatloaf a decade ago.
The key to this recipe, I believe, is two-fold. First, it incorporates a moist piece of bread into the meat, similar to the approach of my wife’s family’s Breadie Burgers, made popular by her great-grandmother Loma “Banny” Watts. Second, the process includes sautéed onions and Worcestershire sauce, which I think gives ground hamburger meat a nice taste in any cooking form. (I like adding Worcestershire sauce to my cheeseburger patty meat, too.)
I was anxious for my retry at meatloaf to come out of the oven, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The dish was as flavorful and well-cooked as I could hope for. Did this one success end my fright over making meatloaf? Not yet. It’s still going to take some time for my confidence with meatloaf to heal.
Mama Phipps’ Meatloaf
What You Need:
1-2 pounds fresh ground beef
1/4 cup ketchup
1 piece of bread, wet with water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
small onion, sautéed
chili powder, to taste
garlic salt, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
What You Do:
1. Spray meatloaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sauté onions in frying pan with butter.
3. Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl, tearing apart piece of bread before adding.
4. Mix thoroughly with hands and move to cooking pan.
5. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, until beginning to brown on top and done inside.