|A moist meatloaf made with lean ground beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic and a crushed saltine binder, cooked in the crockpot. Served here with everyday mashed potatoes and southern green beans.|
Slow Cooker MeatloafI know that meatloaf sometimes gets a bad rap, mostly I would venture a guess that it's usually based on past experiences with a dry, tasteless glob of meat. On the other hand, I actually enjoy a good meatloaf myself and so does The Cajun, and I've discovered that using the slow cooker is a great way to get it on the table, when you've got a busy day.
Since Santa brought me a Ninja blender last Christmas, this is one appliance that I have really enjoyed using. I used it as a food processor to mince the veggies and also to crush the saltines for this. I know I've mentioned it a few times but gosh y'all, I really love that thing! I just recently saw the multi-purpose Ninja cooker which, although also pricey, is getting some decent reviews, so who knows, that might just be on my Christmas list this year!
Anyway, you add all those goodies to the ground beef. For burgers, I like a nice fat content, but for cooking ground beef in the crockpot, I really recommend going with a leaner beef. It produces less fat, meaning that the meatloaf won't be floating around in a lot of fat as it cooks, and it holds together better. The addition of veggies really does help to keep it moist, despite the loss of fat, so seriously don't skip them!
Gently mix together. One of the biggest mistakes folks make with meatloaf is overworking the meat, so use a gentle touch and just get it mixed, but don't man-handle it. Overworking the beef will give you a dense, tough result. By the way, if you want to test for seasonings, pinch off just a small piece of the mix and fry it in a small skillet. Taste and adjust seasonings from the sample.
I'm using my oval 6-quart so an oblong shape works for me. Shape it to fit into your slow cooker.
Now... you could sear this off like I do with the Creole Meatloaf I do, but it's a bit awkward and frankly this is slow cookery, so let's just keep it simple. I still can't get used to pale meat from a crockpot though, and it kinda creeps me out a little, so for this, I like to brush a little combo of Worcestershire sauce and Kitchen Bouquet on the meatloaf.
It adds color and a bit of extra flavor too, and I keep both products as staples in my kitchen anyway, but you can completely skip this step if you don't keep them on hand. I like to spread a ketchup glaze on top of meatloaf, so to be honest, that'll cover the meat up anyway.
The glaze is just the basic ketchup, mustard and brown sugar mix many of us use. If you're using it, just add it towards the last 15 minutes of cooking time. A nice gravy is great with meatloaf too though if you'd rather go that route.
I do recommend using an instant read thermometer when crocking a whole loaf of meat like this. They are inexpensive and having on sure takes out a lot of the guesswork with cooking. Check the internal temperature in several of the thickest parts to ensure it's reached a safe temperature, around 160 degrees F.
I use a long and wide fish spatula to remove the meatloaf from the crockpot. When I cook fish, it's most often simply baked or broiled with a little olive oil, butter, lemon and a few seasonings. I never imagined why I would need a fish spatula until I got one, but it really does work a lot better to lift fish without it breaking up on you. Then I found it pretty handy for a lot of other things - like here, to transfer foods from the crockpot. One thing I've learned in this modern age of cooking, the job is a lot easier when you have the right tools.
Let the meatloaf rest, slice and serve. Don't you just love a good meatloaf sandwich the next day too?
Here's how to make it.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Meatloaf©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Inactive time: 6 hours | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
For the Meatloaf:
For the Glaze:
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 pounds of lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup of minced onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup of minced green bell pepper
- 1 sleeve of saltine crackers, crushed fine
- 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk, only if needed
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, optional
- 1/2 tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet, optional
- 1/2 cup of ketchup
- 1 teaspoon Creole mustard
- 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
Place the 1/4 cup of water in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker. Add the ground beef to a large bowl and top with the minced vegetables, crushed saltines, seasonings and egg. Gently mix, adding milk only as needed to moisten. Form into a loaf and place into slow cooker.
Combine the Worcestershire and Kitchen Bouquet if using and brush over the top of the meatloaf. Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F in several places. Combine the glaze ingredients until well mixed; spread across the top of the meatloaf the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Use a wide spatula to carefully transfer meatloaf to a platter. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Cook's Notes: I used a 93/7 lean ground beef. Avoid using fattier cuts of ground beef as meatloaf may crumble from the accumulated fat. Instead of the glaze, you may also serve the meatloaf with a brown gravy.
Burger Variation: Prepare meatloaf recipe as above, except shape into 4 to 6 individual burger patties. Sear the patties in hot oil in a preheated skillet to form a crust on both sides, transfer patties to crockpot. Combine the glaze ingredients with the 1/4 cup of water and spread evenly over the patties. May also substitute barbecue sauce if you prefer. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or 3 to 4 hours on high.
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©Deep South Dish
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