Whether you’re making meatballs, meatloaf, or some other food that requires seasoning a mass of raw ground meat, it can be hard to predict the flavour outcome, especially if you’re working with a new recipe, a vague recipe, or a recipe that you developed all by yourself.
Tasting and adjusting is easy if you’re making sauces, soups, dips, and meat-free dishes, but seasoning “to taste” is a little hard to do when the main ingredient is not only unsafe to consume raw, but tastes dramatically different once cooked. The good news is that you can taste test a bit of your meatloaf before the whole thing goes into the oven — you just have to make a tiny, precious, little test patty.
Your test patty won’t taste exactly like your meatloaf or ball, on account of the greater surface area and browning, but it will taste close enough to give you a good idea of how well-seasoned your mixture is. All you have to do is take a little bit of your raw, seasoned meat, form it into a small patty, and fry it in a pan. (I usually use nonstick for the sake of ease.) Cook it. Let it cool slightly. Put it in your mouth. Chew it. Swallow it. Ponder it. Draw your conclusions, then season your meatloaf or balls more if needed. Repeat this process until the meat tastes how you want it to, but don’t go too wild. There is, obviously, a limit to how many times you can do this. Even small test patties can take their toll on your loaf of meat, so keep the number of tests to three at the most, and don’t take more than a teaspoon of meat mixture at a time. (Otherwise you could end up with half a meatloaf, and I’d hate that for you.)