Meatloaf has been a staple in American cuisine since the 1870s, though its origins can be traced back to medieval times. Americans seemed to have embraced this ragtag dish of leftover meats and other add-ins more than any other culture or country. So much so, in fact, that it is typically listed alongside hotdogs and hamburgers as a classic American food. Despite the rich history surrounding meatloaf, it has gotten a lot of flack over the years. Perhaps this is due to its less than appetizing appearance, but most likely the reason for disdain is due to having choked down a bone dry meatloaf a time or two. Lucky for you, we’ve got a secret ingredient to ensure any meatloaf (or other ground beef dish) comes out perfectly moist every time!
You might think the best way to keep moisture inside of your meatloaf is to add another egg or perhaps top the finished product with a special sauce. While these things do help, there’s a much simpler solution: ice water. Crazy, right? But it makes sense. Something is too dry, add water. Why didn’t we think of this before? Of course, it’s not so easy as just splashing water into your meatloaf mixture. Keep reading to see how it’s done!
There are a few different ways to get that extra bit of water incorporated into your meatloaf to ensure extra tenderness and juiciness. The first method is to pour it directly into your meat mixture as you’re combining the other ingredients. Experts debate on the correct ratio, and really, it depends on the recipe you’re using. The number of eggs, bread crumbs, and even the type of meat and fat to protein ratio all play a role. According to the legendary New York City Italian restaurant Rao’s, the correct ratio is one cup of water to one pound of meat. Food52 recommends 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water per pound of meat. The safest method is to simply add water a tablespoon at a time, and stop when the mixture no longer sticks to the mixing bowl.
The second method of adding water to your meatloaf is to fill an oven-safe dish, such as a cast-iron skillet or a casserole dish with water and place it on the bottom rack of the over while cooking your meatloaf. This limits the amount of moisture being cooked off of the meatloaf.
Other Meatloaf Tips
There are a ton of ways to make your meatloaf stand out. Some helpful tips are to caramelize onions before tossing them into the meat mixture, adding water into the pan of onions before caramelizing to get an onion gravy of sorts you can add right into the mixture. You can also add strips of bacon on top of the meatloaf before throwing in the oven, or even experiement with creamy sauces to top off the meatloaf in place of the traditional ketchup.