Welcome to this week's edition of Will It Sous Vide?, the weekly column where I make things with my immersion circulator.
Photos by Claire Lower.
This week's topic is quite meaty, in that it is literally a loaf of meat. Though meatloaf may not be the most glamorous way to consume your beef, there is a certain comforting homeyness that speaks to folks, particularly if you grew up eating this fine staple. (I've actually never met a man — save for the vegetarians — who didn't love meatloaf, particularly their mother's.)
If there's one thing that can ruin an otherwise good meatloaf, it's dryness, and sous vide cooking guards against that in no uncertain terms. As a baseline, I prepared this loaf from All Recipes, but decreased the milk to 1/4 cup, due to the fact there would be no way for any moisture to evaporate.
I then pressed it into a loaf shape and vacuum-sealed it in a sous vide bag. It didn't make a very pretty package, if I'm being honest.
Yup. That's a loaf of meat.
This recipe recommends sous vide ing a loaf of meat at 60C for three hours, so I gave that a whirl.
Once the cooking time had elapsed, I took it out of the bath and marvelled at just how much it looked like a loaf of meat. I also took note of how much liquid was hanging out in the bag.
I then transferred it to a pan, gave it nice coating of tomato sauce and brown sugar, then broiled it for a bit.
Much meat. Very loaf.
It sure looked the part, but the taste was less than my favourite.
It was, for lack of a better descriptor, completely freaking mushy. It was also bland. It was so bland that I had the commie boyfriend try it, just to make sure my palate wasn't broken. "This tastes like nothing," was his hot take, so back to mixing bowl I went.
Obviously, I needed to eliminate excess liquid, so I scratched the milk. I also mixed up my meats a bit, adding 225g of Italian pork sausage to liven things up. After a bit of tweaking, I ended up with the following ingredients list:
- 450g of 80/20 ground beef
- 225g Italian sausage
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 of a large onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon beef base
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
I seasoned the beef with salt and pepper, then added everything to one big bowl and used my hands to combine. I then formed this new meat mixture into a loaf, and sealed that bad boy up in a bag. It looked pretty much the same as the first loaf, if I'm being completely honest with you.
Yup. That's another loaf of meat.
Given how mushy the first loaf was, I decided to increase the temperature to 63C and decreased the time to two and a half hours.
Once bath time was over, I repeated the whole glaze-and-broil procedure with the new loaf.
Then I tasted it.
So. Will meatloaf sous vide?
The answer? Yeah, sure. This second meatloaf was actually quite tasty — commie boyfriend agreed — but I don't know that is was particularly better than any loaf I've made in the oven. It was extremely moist and very flavorful but, even with the broiling, there was no real crust, and it's not like I could have seared it. (Due to the severe moistness, it would have fallen apart.)
That being said, it was nice to not have my oven on for an hour. I guess what I'm trying to say is that yeah, meatloaf will sous vide, but sous vide meat loaf isn't going to blow your mum's recipe out of the water. Which is kind of funny, given the fact that it's the only meatloaf actually cooked in water. Oh well.