A meatloaf is a smoked or baked, traditional European dish of ground meat resembling bread loaf and closely connected to meatballs. Unlike most other meat dishes, the meatloaf can be cut into regular –shaped neat slices which make it easy for serving and for consumption. Although very popular in the Dutch, German and Belgian cuisines, after the 19th century it became popular in the American cuisine as well. Though beef is the ingredient of choice for meatloaf recipes, other types of meat, such as, pork, poultry meat, veal and lamb are also used for making meatloaves. Forloren hare (Danish meatloaf), Hackbraten (German meatloaf), Stefánia Szelet (Hungarian meatloaf), Polpettone (Italian meatloaf), and Rolat (Macedonian meatloaf) are all popular meatloaves or meatloaf dishes.


History of Meatloaves

The meatloaf is an ancient dish, its history dating back to the 5th century, when it was first prepared in the European countries. A recipe for meatloaf as in the Roman cookery literature “Apicius” shows the preparation of one of the first meatloaf dishes of the world. The dish was introduced to the American cuisine by the colonial Germans. However, the American meatloaf recipe was differed from the European ones in that it was made from scrapple, a mixture of ground meat (mostly pork) and cornmeal.


Ingredients Used and Method of Preparation of Meatloaves

Meatloaf involves the usage of ground meat (mostly beef, but pork, poultry meat, or veal may also be used) as the primary ingredient. Soaked bread crumbs, eggs, wheat germ, ground almonds, are used as binding agents. Vegetables, such as onions, celery and green peppers, and herbs (parsley) along with spices are added as seasonings to the meat mixture. Apart from these ingredients, cheese and mushrooms, are used as fillings. Some meatloaf recipes include bacon strips as a garnish. Gourmet meatloaves may be made with a stuffing of broccoli, cheese or ham, and a garnish of cilantro instead of parsley, onions and green peppers. Steak Sauce is served as an accompaniment in place of the usual ketchup, tomato sauce and onion gravies. Other gourmet versions of meatloaf recipes include different types of meat such as turkey meat and seasonings such as oregano.

Preparation of a meatloaf involves making dough with the meat mixture, seasonings, fillings and binding agents. The dough is shaped into a loaf and baked in an oven. It is not necessary to bake it in a conventional oven as a crock pot or microwave oven can also be used for the purpose. It is recommended that the meatloaves are baked in small sizes.


Serving Meatloaves and Meatloaf Dishes

Meatloaf is generally eaten as a main course item along with sauces, ketchup or gravies. Usually tomato-based sauces are used to accompany the dish. Even pasta sauces are used. A combination of tomato ketchup, a barbecue sauce, and other seasonings like mustard also makes a flavorful accompaniment to many meatloaf dishes. Onion or brown gravies are served as alternatives to sauces. Some meatloaf recipes involve cooking meatloaf along with the sauces and vegetable toppings like mashed potatoes. Meatloaves are mostly served warm, but they are also served as cold slices. They are often considered soul food or comfort foods.


Popular Variations of Meatloaf

Meatloaf is prepared in different countries in region-specific ways using ingredients and methods of cooking typical to their cuisines. A few popular variations are described as under :


  • Danish – this variation of the meatloaf, popularly known as the forloren hare or farsbrød is a dish made with a combination of pork and beef and topped with bacon strips. The recipe prescribes boiled potatoes and sweet brown sauce as accompaniments to this dish.


  • German- Hackbraten, Falscher Hase, and Faschierter Braten are popular meatloaves made with boiled eggs as stuffing.


  • Italian – meatloaves called Polpettone are made with egg, cheese and/or ham fillings


  • American- The American meatloaf is made with cereal, spices and seasonings


  • Middle East– The Middle Eastern Kafta is a kind of a meatloaf as in that it is mostly prepared using the same ingredients but differs in shape. The kafta or kofta may be rounded and used as a filling for hamburgers. It is also used in making kebabs. Meatloaf recipes of this country usually use parsley seasoning.


  • The Hungarian Stefania Meatloaf (one of the visually appealing meatloaf dishes made with white and yellow parts of egg in between the individual loaves), the Filipino embotido (a steamed meat roll with sausage and hard boiled egg stuffing. The dish is eaten fried and cut into slices for breakfast), the Macedonian Rolat (a browned meat roll similar to the Arabian meat kofta), the Czech sekana (a meatloaf made with chopped ingredients. The meatloaf recipes may or may not include Gherkins, weiner wurst and hard boiled eggs) are other popular variations of the basic meatloaf.



Health factors Associated with Meatloaves and Meatloaf Recipes

Meatloaf is fondly eaten as a comfort food by many. It is a filling dish. Meatloaf recipes are high on calories and those on a weight loss diet may find it unsuitable for the purpose unless they depend on it as the only main course dish they consume. Lesser calorie versions of the meatloaf may be made using lean meat. Meatloaves and meatloaf recipes may be consumed by all age groups, but since it is a dish with high calorific value it is best consumed in adequate quantities by people who lead a lifestyle suitable for burning all those calories as otherwise there is a fair chance of putting on body weight. The calorie value of the meatloaf is, however, dependent on the type of meat used and a person on a weight loss diet may go for meat with less calories.