One evening I was making individual free-form meat loaves on Cooking Live when a viewer called in and said she used a similar recipe but always mixed up a double batch and then froze half in muffin tins. On evenings when there was nothing else in the fridge, she‘d just pop some of those muffin meat loaves into the oven and—voilà—there was dinner. Admittedly, meat loaf is not the most complicated dish on this earth, but it is more work than plain old hamburgers, and everyone does love it. So why not stockpile some in the freezer for an easy dinner down the road?
I tested these guys by freezing them both precooked and raw, and I slightly preferred the way the precooked ones turned out. If you are baking meat loaves that were precooked and frozen, they will take about 45 minutes to heat through. If you are baking meat loaves that you froze raw, put them right in the oven from the freezer and give them about 50 minutes or until cooked through.
Why “mini” meat loaves? I just think everyone just likes his or her own little individual dish—and when they are this small they don’t rake as long to cook as a full-sized loaf.
Makes 12 small loaves, serves 6
For the glaze:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
For the mini meat loaves:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 celery ribs, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small onion finely chopped (1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal or turkey
To make the glaze, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar. Set aside
For the meat loaves, preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or 12 muffin-pan cups.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in 1/4 cup of the glaze and let cool.
Add the sour cream, bread crumbs, egg, milk, parsley, mustard, salt, thyme, and pepper and stir until combined. Add the chuck, pork, and veal and combine. (To taste for seasoning, fry a pinch of the meat mixture in a small skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.)
Scoop the mixture onto baking sheet using 1/2 cup measure; shape into ovals. Or, divide into muffin-pan cups. Divide the remaining glaze over the tops of the loaves. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. The internal temperature should be 165°F when tested with a quick-read thermometer. To freeze, cool the loaves to room temperature, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and freeze them in a resealable plastic bag. To reheat, unwrap them and bake them on an oiled foil-lined rimmed baking sheet about 45 minutes. If loaves were frozen raw, give them about 10 minutes extra.