With cold winter months around the corner, I’m starting to crave comforts foods like Colorado green chili, tortilla soup, and meatloaf. However, it’s still in the 90’s outside, so a warm bowl of soup still doesn’t suit the palate just yet, but that doesn’t exclude meatloaf! I know, meatloaf got a bad rap when someone decided to dirty it up with huge chunks of veggies and super market meat that was as far away from fresh as it gets. Kids across the country have grown up never knowing that meatloaf can actually be good.
Fresh Ingredients, Please
You have to start with fresh ingredients, and then look for the taste you want in your meatloaf. My mom made hers taste like pizza, throwing in tomato sauce, cheese, fennel, Italian seasoning, and other yummy herbs that typically go into Italian dishes. I like her recipe, but I once came across a simple recipe that called for eggs, stuffing and barbeque sauce. That was it, and the recipe was really good, but I knew it could be better. By taking that same concept, but adding in additional flavors we liked – always add onion and garlic, always – I finally found a recipe that was (as my family says) heaven in your mouth! Like little drops of meatloaf heaven dancing on your taste buds, you’ll re-think your childhood hatred for that meat in a loaf.
Plenty of Elk Meatloaf Leftovers
I swear that the secret is the barbecue sauce and fresh/organic ground meat. We are a family of hunters, so we always have a lot of ground elk and venison on-hand, but you could just as easily get the ground meat from your local organic market. The recipe below makes a rather large loaf (2 pounds of meat), but when I’m feeding my family of 4, I want to make sure I have plenty of leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Even then, sometimes they just keep eating until it’s gone!
For a healthy mashed potato side, try my cauliflower mashed potato recipe.
Sometimes this recipe can come across a bit sweet. If you find that’s the case, then cut back on the brown sugar and BBQ; however, I’d advice trying the recipe as is, first, so you know where to cut back.
My family has always slathered their meatloaf in ketchup – perhaps to hide the taste, I don’t know (I do it to… it’s tradition, I suppose) – but with the BBQ sauce on top with this recipe (instead of the baked on tomato sauce), my family doesn’t even ask for added ketchup. The BBQ sauce does the job of fixing that yucky, caked on tomato bake that you’re used to seeing, and gives enough extra moisture that the ketchup isn’t needed.
One more thing, instead of doing one big loaf, opt for multiple mini loafs. I like doing this if I don’t think we’re going to eat an entire loaf for dinner. I can then freeze my extra loafs to either cook fresh in the future or just heat up if already cooked. When I’m freezing them raw, I usually do the the throw away metal, fold-able containers you can get at the grocery store. They’re tiny – like 5″ x 3″ (estimating here) – and I can pack the elk meatloaf in the container, wrap, and freeze for individual meals in the future (when our boys leave the nest, this will likely be how mom and dad continue this meatloaf tradition).
Elk Meatloaf Recipe
- 2 lbs Ground Elk
- 8 oz Multi-Grain Crackers Finely Crushed
- 1/2 cup Barbecue Sauce
- 1 whole Onion Chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic Chopped
- 1 tsp Dried Sage
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Steak or Burger Seasoning
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 4 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 whole Eggs
- 6 slices Bacon Partially Cooked
- 1 cup Barbecue Sauce
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Place all of the ingredients for the meatloaf (except for the egg) in a large bowl.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then pour on top of the meatloaf mix.
- Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, or line it with parchment paper so you don’t have to clean the mess up afterwards. This step is important, because with the next step you’re getting dirty and you need to prep before that stage.
- Take your rings off and get to mixing all of the meatloaf mix together. Squish, squish.
- Pour all of the ingredients out on the baking sheet, and form into a loaf. I like to form it so the slices are the size of sandwich bread – always thinking ahead.
- Place the partially cooked bacon over the top of the meatloaf. With this, I either cut the bacon in half so it fits right, or I’ll tuck long ends under the loaf. If you’re on an anti-bacon diet, then cut this out, but I’m telling you, you’ll be missing out on some great flavoring.
- Bake in oven for about 40 minutes. Or if you have a meat thermometer, cook until it reads an internal temperature of 160⁰F.
- 10 minutes before the meatloaf is done, mix together the remaining ingredients – barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce – and heat on oven until it starts bubbling. Turn it down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- When the meatloaf is done, pour the sauce over the top, and let it rest for 5 minutes before digging in.