In addition to being a vanilla snob, I’m also a “ground beef snob.” Why are you a ground beef snob? you ask? Well, I’ll tell you why: Because I can’t stand gristle and bone fragments. It used to be that you could buy 93% lean ground beef and be virtually assured that, in addition to very little fat, you wouldn’t be chewing on gristle and tiny pieces of bone with nearly every bite – not so, these days (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the meat department to see what they REALLY add to that grinder). I refuse to pay for premium ground beef and not get premium ground beef!

After I realized that premium ground beef isn’t what it used to be, I started to pick-out roasts and have the store grind them for me. However, the last time I asked, I was told that they’re no longer allowed to do that (hmph!). Since “necessity is the mother of invention,” I bought a grinding attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but I didn’t like the gray goop that periodically came out with the meat (I think it’s probably a lubricant of some sort, but just because it’s food-safe doesn’t mean I want to eat it!). So, my hubby bought me a reasonably priced Rival electric food grinder, and for my purposes (grinding beef), it suits me just fine – and no gray goop, either.

I wait until my grocery store has a good sale on roast beef (nearly any type of lean beef will do), and I stock-up. Half of the meat I keep for slow-roasted beef, and the other half I cut into cubes and grind myself.

Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, today’s post is for an all-purpose meat mixture that you can use for meatballs, meatloaf, Salisbury steaks and whatever else you can think of. It’s easy and delicious, it has a silky smooth texture, and even the pickiest of kids will like it.

Here’s what I use:

1 ½ pounds of lean ground beef (store-bought or self-ground)
1 ½ pounds of meatloaf combo (veal, pork AND beef – most grocery stores sell this)
Packet of meatloaf mix (I use French’s or Adolf’s)
½ can of tomato sauce
Packet of dry onion soup mix
1 ½ eggs
Garlic powder (optional)

Instructions:

1. Put all of the meat in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the packet of meatloaf mix.
3. Add 1 ½ eggs. Note: The meatloaf mix I used called for 1 egg for 2 pounds of ground beef; Since I had three pounds of ground beef, I added one whole egg, then beat another and added roughly half of that to the meat. 
4. Add ½ can of the tomato sauce.
5. Add onion soup mix (and a sprinkle or two or three of garlic powder, if desired). Note: I sifted the onions out of the soup mix so that all I was left with was a powder.
6. Put on some food-safe, disposable mixing gloves and go to work, making sure that EVERYTHING is mixed well. Once you’re sure that everything is mixed well, mix it some more.

If making meatloaf, shape into a loaf and bake in a glass pan at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour remaining ½ can of tomato sauce over the meatloaf, return to oven and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

If making meatballs, shape meat mixture into balls (your choice for size) and place on a shallow baking pan (I use a jellyroll pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, then remove the largest meatball from the pan and test to make sure it’s cooked through. Add to your choice of sauces: spaghetti, stroganoff, beef gravy, etc..

If making Salisbury steaks, follow the same directions as meatballs, except shape into flat, oval patties. Additionally, you can fry these in a large pan instead of baking them; the choice is yours.

If you find that you’ve filled your pan with meatballs or Salisbury steaks (and you’ve got enough for your meal), but some of the meat mixture is left…put it in a freezer bag, label it, and freeze it for a quick meal some other time.

It’s been ages since I made stuffed peppers, but I venture to say that you could even use this mixture for those, too; I think you stuff the peppers raw before cooking (don’t hold me to it, though).

In the case of meatballs and Salisbury steaks, I like cooking the meat FIRST for two reasons. First, if they’re cooked before being added to the sauce, they hold together better without breaking apart, and the sauce is easier to stir. Second, if they’re cooked before being added to the sauce, they REALLY hold together better without breaking apart, and the sauce is REALLY easier to stir. Also, it gives you the opportunity to drain some fat off of them before-hand. Keep in mind, though, that you still want a bit of fat from those meatballs (or Salisbury steaks) in your sauce, because it adds amazing flavor. If you do like I do, though, and grind your own meat…you’ll have very little fat to speak of, but still more than enough for flavor.

One additional note…. I had my doubts about the combo “meatloaf” pack from the grocery store, but so far, I’ve only encountered one tiny piece of gristle; needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise (and less work because I don’t feel the need to grind the veal and pork, too). Enjoy!

Meatballs in spaghetti sauce

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