Meatloaf is a meat dish consisting of seasoned ground meat (usually ground beef or a combination of ground beef with veal, lamb, or pork), which is formed into a loaf shape and baked or smoked. In 2007, it was voted the 7th favorite dish in the United States according to the Good Housekeeping website. The loaf shape is formed by either cooking it in a loaf pan, or forming it by hand on an ordinary baking pan. During the Great Depression it was popular to add cereal grains to the meatloaf to stretch the meat; the tradition lives on with the merits of producing a lower-fat dish with superior binding and consistency. It is normally served warm as part of the main course, but can also be found sliced as a cold cut.
Many meatloaf recipes are interchangeable with meatball recipes, the distinction coming from choice of sauce and accompaniments. Many of these recipes call for pasta sauce or tomato sauce to be poured over the loaf to form a crust during baking. In the Midwestern United States, the sauce may be replaced with simple gravy but is prepared in a similar manner. Barbecue sauce or a mixture of tomato ketchup and mustard may also be used.
Meatloaf is an extremely versatile dish. The ground meat is always mixed with breadcrumbs, small pieces of bread soaked in milk (or red wine or another liquid), wheat germ, or oatmeal, and eggs in order to make it more dough-like. Salt, herbs and spices (such as parsley), as well as chopped vegetables (such as onions, green peppers and celery), may also be added. Another variety of meatloaf is prepared by frosting it with mashed potatoes, drizzling it with a small amount of butter, and browning in the oven. Some people like to add strips of bacon on top. Furthermore, meatloaves may be filled with eggs, cheese, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, or a combination of these ingredients. Meatloaf is typically eaten with some kind of sauce or relish. The dish can be considered Italian (it is a cousin to the meatball), Midwestern, or even soul food. Stefánia szelet” or Stefania slices are a type of Hungarian long meatloaf baked in a loaf pan with 3 hard boiled eggs in the middle, making decorative white and yellow rings in the middle of the slices.