meatloaf on a cutting board

American Meatloaf History & Origins + Best Recipes

Meatloaf is an easy-to-cook meal your entire family can enjoy. It is an American comfort classic most grew up on. But have you ever thought where meatloaf actually originated & how this dish became so popular? The roots of meatloaf cuisine date back to the early fifth century!

Way before American region was discovered. A loaf of fresh minced meat was mentioned by Marcus Gavius Apicius (who is a Roman gourmet) in his fifth-century version of a cookbook known as De Re Conquinaria (“The Art of making dishes or Cooking”). 

That food recipe included cooked animal brains, bread, wine, & seasonings that were actually formed into a patty. After becoming famous in Rome, it spread to several other European countries. Versions from Germany & Scandinavia are considered the closest to the meatloaf dish we know today. In Sweden, it is served with fresh mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes. 

German people stuff their version of meatloaf with hard-boiled eggs. As many people emigrated from the Europe region to America, they also brought their homeland food recipes with them & it influenced cooking. The Pennsylvania Dutch settlers of the mid-18th century made scrapple as a way to use each and every bit of a slaughtered pig. 

Leftover remains of pork were combined with organs from the pig & simmered. Cornmeal was also added to the meat & formed into a loaf. Once set, the loaf was then sliced & fried. A predecessor to what we now know is called meatloaf. 

Meatloaf Became A Staple Dish During The Great Depression 

During a time where families and governments struggled like never before, meatloaf dishes became a household staple in the early-1930s. Meatloaf helped families to stretch the small portions of cuisine they had, especially the essential protein, into a food meal that would otherwise be consumed much quicker.

Using whatever ground meat was on hand, people at that time combined the protein with seasonings & stale breadcrumbs to create a food meal that was flavorful & filling. Meatloaf actually gained its stride after the meat grinder was first invented by the German Karl Drais in the mid-19th century. 

The ability to grind huge quantities of meat quickly, along with some other gains in refrigeration, actually helped the popularity of ground meat grow. Also, many manufacturers produced meatloaf recipes that used this new invention in hopes to get more and more consumers to use the ground meat. 

This became extremely essential as the Great Depression set in. Many people were forced to stretch what they earned and what they had in their kitchen. They did not have any kind of access to high-quality meat or had extremely limited supply of meat. 

Chefs were looking for methods to make their food meals feed more with limited amounts of ingredients. Packaged goods manufacturers also noticed this & began putting meatloaf cuisine recipes on their packaging. In the early-1930s, goods like pre-packaged bread, and oatmeal grew in popularity. Today, meatloaf cuisine variants are produced all around the world. 

The 20th century saw a huge explosion of different types of recipes as cooks got creative with their loaves, & what was once a European staple now has a distinctly international and unique flavor.

Our Choice Of Best Meat Loaf Recipes

Out of 100’s of recipes.. Below are some of our favorite traditional Meat Loaf Recipes based on originality, taste and ingredients.. 

1. Classic Momma’s Meat Loaf
Great old fashion recipe from “Stay At Home Chef”, this meat loaf recipe is fairly easy to make and is topped a delicious all American traditional glaze. I was amazed on how the meatloaf stuck together throughout the baking process even with the chopped onions.. 

2. Homemade Meatloaf From Scratch
Meat loaf turned out to have the perfect moist texture and was just mouther watering.. Great recipe and instruction from Dianne Kometa.

3. Best Meat Loaf From Chef Jean Pierre
A super tasty meat loaf.. Chef Jean Pierre uses several meats such as beef, pork and ham.. A great dish to make and enjoy with the family especially during the holidays.

4. How To Make Momma’s Meatloaf
From World Food 4u: Old Fashion easy to make but tasty meat loaf. Usually served on Holidays.

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