No dish has taken more tinkering than meatloaf. We've perfected a classic, made turkey tempting, and even eliminated the meat all together in favor of a nut-based loaf. Destined for the oven, no matter the meat, the mixture is always packed into metal loaf pans or molded into freeform loaves onto baking sheets. Until now!
In this recipe we flavor a mixture of beef and pork with sautéed onions and press it into a cast iron skillet. Then we brush the baked meatloaf with barbecue sauce and broil it until glossy and sticky, leaving each bite of juicy meatloaf coated in a sweet and smoky glaze.
Making a Smarter Weeknight Meatloaf
This skillet meatloaf starts with a pared-down ingredient list. Lean ground beef leads the way, accented with just enough ground pork to add flavor and fat without leaving the meatloaf greasy. It gets its rich flavor from the slow sauté of diced onions, where the even heat of a cast iron skillet coaxes out complex, caramel-like flavors. A quick sauté can suffice when the clock is ticking, but if you have a few extra minutes to spare, cook the onion longer — until browned and fully caramelized — for a more nuanced flavor.
Most meatloaves are bound with eggs and panade, a mixture of bread or breadcrumbs and milk, but fine dried breadcrumbs are the smart pick here. Dried breadcrumbs absorb more moisture than fresh breadcrumbs from the meat mixture, keeping the skillet loaf juicy. The panade is not just a filler used to stretch ground meat to serve a larger crowd (although it does that too) — it forms a gel-like paste that gets between the meat proteins, preventing too-tight bonds, ensuring the meatloaf remains tender.
Skillet meatloaf is out of the oven in just 30 minutes. To top it off, I reach for a bottle of barbecue sauce (homemade is great too!) since no meatloaf is complete without a sticky, sweet glaze. I brush it on thick, then run the pan under the broiler until the sauce is glossy and dark.