Meatloaf Sous Vide – Nostalgia Is Not What It Used To Be.

meatloaf-10-of-12I hope I won’t offend you. But really, meatloaf? How dull and dreary can a slab of mince meat be? It’s so often overcooked, grey, crumbly and tasteless. Yet, so many of you go all dreamy and wistful at the mention of the hateful lump of meat. This is a bit of nostalgia that needs to updated. I need to improve your meatloaf for you. Many ‘traditional’ recipes require no more than some beef, some lamb, some sawdust, a chopped onion, salt and pepper (OK, the chopped onion is optional. You need the sawdust to get the traditional gritty texture.). 

Traditionalists may be aghast. What, no sawdust?

Traditionalists may be aghast. What, no sawdust?

We have to be able to elevate this staple of 1920’s America to something palatable (It’s no wonder they called it the Great Depression). To do this, I decided to introduce some vegetables, some fat and some flavour. Given that the meatloaf is usually cooked in a bain marie, I reckon sous vide can help in the rescue.

Ingredients for Meatloaf Sous Vide

  • 1 kilo of good quality leg beef
  • 4 streaky rashers of bacon
  • 150 grams or so of pork fat
  • A tablespoon or two of concentrated beef, pork or chicken stock.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 small tin of tomato purée
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A big handful of breadcrumbs (yes, breadcrumbs, not sawdust)
  • Plenty of salt and pepper to season

Celery, carrot and onion are known as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Italian cuisine. The French also claim ownership by referring to them as ‘mirepoix’. None of this matters. Peel the onions and carrots. Chop all three into very small pieces. Slice and mash the garlic. Fry the mirepoix over a low heat until soft.

The holy trinity add a nice bit of flavour. This is unusual in a meatloaf.

The holy trinity add a nice bit of flavour. This is unusual in a meatloaf.

Grind the meat, the bacon and the pork fat. This not only helps to mix it together, it makes for nice photos.

My mincer has been around since the great depression. This may not be it's first meatloaf.

My mincer has been around since the great depression. This may not be it’s first meatloaf.

Add the remaining ingredients into the big mincer bowl.

You grey meatloaf purists might be offended by my adding such flavour!

You grey meatloaf purists might be offended by my adding such flavour!

Mix to combine. Next you will need to line two loaf tins with cling film. Use about twice as much as you think is needed. This is so you can wrap the meatloaf mixture entirely in cling film. Then vacuum seal the entire loaf and tin.

It even looks good before cooking. I'm hopeful this will work.

It even looks good before cooking. I’m hopeful this will work.

Place it in the water bath at 65ºC for 5 hours. Cool the cooked meatloaf in an ice bath and leave overnight in the fridge. When you take it out of the loaf tin, it will be covered in a pretty nasty sort of pink slime looking goo. Wipe this off to reveal a lovely meatloaf.

Those of you who spread tomato sauce on top of your meatloaf may be offended.

Those of you who spread tomato sauce on top of your meatloaf may be offended.

Paint the top of the loaf with an egg wash and heat in the oven until the top turns an attractive brown. The loaf should be warmed through. We served the meatloaf in chunky slices accompanied by an onion gravy and some roasted parsnips.

The meatloaf is rescued from grey mediocrity. A lovely dish.

The meatloaf is rescued from grey mediocrity. A lovely dish.

This sous vide meatloaf was packed with delicious flavours and we enjoyed it hot. We also had it cold, a couple of days later. It was equally toothsome (great word) then. If you have a sous vide, give it a go. I can only disappoint those of you who swoon in nostalgia at the prospect of a grey loaf with a tomato sauce topping. That old thing can now be consigned to history. There’s a tasty meatloaf in town!

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Latest comments
  • Any thoughts on how long your traditional bain marie process would take, bearing in mind the still sous-videless state of my kitchen? And of course, I’ll have to do a test or two to see what I can use instead of either breadcrumbs or the more traditional sawdust…

  • Poor old much maligned meatloaf, need your smart thinking makeover. oThis looks like an Irish Franco-American hybrid. Nothing better than cold meatlaof and homemade spicy tomato chutney together in a brown bread sandwich, but it’s been a long time, I must make meatloaf…

  • Your meatloaf looks excellent – just like a bat out of hell 🙂
    While I have had the misfortune of tasting the odd sawdust version, most meatloaves I’ve eaten in America were very good (I’ve rarely seen them in Europe). The best I ever had was in a Kentucky truck stop, near London!

      • I was after canned rattlesnake!

  • It looks great – do you think it would work with mutton instead of beef?

  • Obviously, you’ve never had my meat loaf 🙂

  • I have personally never made a dry, grey and tasteless meatloaf, but they certainly aren’t sexy are they?!! I never would have thought to sous vide minced meat, but it’s now tempting…. It’s one thing I make when I’m about to leave town – my husband can actually reheat it in the microwave. He struggles with anything more challenging – especially if slicing is involved.

      • I wouldn’t really call them microwave dinners. Rather, reheated dinners. And he’d rather stay home and golf for the most part. Tant pis!

  • It never occurred to me to saute the mirepoix (or make a soffrito from the trinity as the Italians, might have it). I often add all three veggies to meatloaf but, though I saute them in other cases, for making a tomato sauce (for example), I never have in this case… Great idea!

  • Another great post, Conor. I’ve never prepared a meatloaf, but if I do it will probably be something like this. Definitely sous vide, obviously 😉 Is it necessary to cool, or could it be eaten warm from the sous-vide, after browning the top?

    • With a huge amount of love ‘oh dear’ if this be so!!!!

  • Couldn’t agree more – lots of vegetables and spices are the secret for a tasty meatloaf. 🙂

  • Flavourtastic 😋😋😋

  • Chicago John cooks turkey at Thanksgiving time to make turkey ‘sammiches’ – well I largely and very often make a meatloaf to have cold and healthy leftovers for salads and wraps and sandwiches too! Nought boring ’cause you have the whole world’s ways of making use of the humble mince 🙂 ! Methinks this is exciting . . . . oh well, ’tis me 🙂 !

      • Hmmm!! And a big smile . . .

  • Best thing about meatloaf: sandwiches! (And this from someone who usually hates leftovers.)

  • I’ve always included chopped onions and shredded carrots in my meatloaf, or any other veggie I’ve happened to have on hand, including red or yellow bell pepper on occasion. I have never thought to use my sous vide for a meatloaf, nor add BACON! Bacon is the God of all tastes IMHO. I do add sawdust (quick oats), an egg, and tomato paste. I think I’ll have to try this, probably sooner than later, as we have an impending 20-inch snow storm upon us! 😮

      • I guess north east depends on your perspective, I live in the US Pacific Northwest. I told hubby last night I wanted to sous vide a meat loaf, and I think he’s game for it!

  • I love meat loaf, Conor .. well .. I love the sandwiches. I’ll have to taste yours vicariously, however, since I still do not own sous-vide equipment, much to Stefan’s dismay! 🙂

      • Oh, his Christmas present was a pressure-cooker at the moment being put to very good use indeed ! So that is at least ‘meatloaf’ 2: ‘meatloaf’ ‘?’ WE WIN!!

  • Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear – why do you think that meatloaf is usually grey and dreary? What happened during your childhood – do you need to see a therapist?
    Meatloaf has always been one of the joys of our family; hot with gravy or cold with pickles and salad, and often in sandwiches. A favourite in school packed-lunch.
    Here in China I make it fairly often. I ring the changes, sometime combining minced beef with minced pork, or minced pork with minced chicken. I add lots of other ingredients depending on mood; chopped lightly cooked onions, or finely chopped spring onions, panko breadcrumbs, beaten egg, chopped peppadews, Old Bay spice, lots of chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper….I think meatloaf is one of the great staples of any household eating plan. I don’t even have (or need) sous vide. The mixture goes into a greased loaf tin in a bain-mairie (covered with foil) or free-formed and basted with a spicy sauce in a pan. Always delicious and always eaten to the final morsel!

  • Very Interesting, Conor – and I think you must have been traumatized by some bad meatloaf in the past – or maybe in a past life? 🙂 I’ve never heard of cooking meatloaf in a water bath…of course, never heard of cooking it in a sous vide, either! Your version sounds wonderful and I think you’ve unlocked the secret to a good meatloaf!


  • I laughed when I read your post! But not all meatloaf is so awful. My grandmother made an awesome Italian style meatloaf with mozzarella cheese inside. Heaven!

  • Conor, it appears that your history with meatloaf was a bad one. I too am on the side of others here that think we make a very tasty and moist meatloaf…no offense taken. I will share your recipe with my husband as he has now become my “mad scientist” since his sous vide circulator has entered our kitchen. I’m sure he will be experimenting with meatloaf. Oh and thanks for the warning about the pink slim, I won’t freak out. 😀

      • I’ve tried Conor, he set one up at the same time I did but never did one post. The problem is that he is a great cook but doesn’t measure a thing. 😀

  • How I adore the ‘Holy Trinity’ idea! Your meatloaf looks shamelessly sensuous and it must be intolerably Yum!
    Thank you for the recipe … can’t wait to try 🙂
    Happy rockin’ new year. Boss-man, stay blessed <3

  • New fan here Conor, found you via the marvellous Dinner is Served 1972. Love your blog!

    I write about movie stars and their favourite recipes, and many of the greats loved their meatloaf. Joan Crawford’s recipe has hard boiled eggs secreted in the meat, Theodore Bikel’s contains raisins and Dick Emery’s has mashed potato on top. My favourite of all is Rhonda Fleming’s Hollywood Ham Loaf which is PINK rather than grey… Made one just this week with leftover Christmas ham and turkey. Yum yum.

    Yours looks DIVINE.

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