The Unexpected Ingredient You Should Be Adding To Meatloaf

Meatloaf is as quintessentially American as apple pie. It's a food that immediately conjures up images of 1950s America (per the Augusta Chronicle), with a family sitting happily at a dinette table, drinking glasses of milk with their supper. Meatloaf isn't very pretty, but it's earned a soft spot in many hearts with its warm, dense structure, uncomplicated nature, and flavorful heartiness: it reigns supreme among comfort foods when it comes to the meat category (per the Los Angeles Times).

Simple to make and easy to eat, it pairs perfectly with megamenu potatoes and America's favorite condiment: ketchup. But like so many idealized home-cooked foods, it's not as easy to get right as you might think.

Meatloaf is a straightforward affair, but it needs the right balance of flavors and textures. Too many aromatics, and it becomes unrecognizable and weird; too few, and it's just plain bland. You need just the right kind and number of binding agents (egg, fresh breadcrumbs) so that it holds together without becoming a brick. You may also want to cook it on a sheet pan, rather than in a loaf pan, so that it doesn't end up soggy, suggests Epicurious. Not as obvious as it looks, is it? There's more to meatloaf than meets the eye.

Your meatloaf needs the other white meat

Once you've jumped through all those basic hoops in pursuit of the perfect meatloaf, you can still get tripped up when it comes to the kind of meat to use. Many of us hear the word "meat" and automatically think beef. And while that's mostly right, it's not completely correct. 

Supermarkets often sell ground meats packaged together and labeled as "meatloaf mix" which includes equal quantities of beef, pork, and veal. But veal isn't really necessary for the best meatloaf, as its more subtle flavor can get lost in this hearty main dish, notes Epicurious. Pork, on the other hand, makes a world of difference. The extra fat and flavor found in pork rounds out the flavor profile of the meatloaf and helps keep your loaf moist without drenching it in oil.

Rachael Ray's meatloaf recipe, for example, calls for 1 pound beef to 1 pound pork, but you don't need equal quantities of beef and pork to do the trick. Pork can comprise anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of your total meat mixture. If you have a hard time finding ground pork, you can even grind it yourself in a food processor using pork shoulder or loin, just like you can grind your own beef. Ground pork will be the unsung hero of your family's favorite — or at least, most familiar — dinner.