Despite being a staple of American comfort food since the 1870s, meatloaf doesn't always get the respect it deserves. It's certainly not the prettiest looking dish, and if prepared poorly, choking down dry meatloaf can turn an enjoyable meal into punishment. If you've avoided cooking this dinner plate of Americana for fear of sending your family members running for the hills, there's a simple secret ingredient that will save your meatloaf from drying out. (No, it's not ketchup). That secret ingredient is… water!
There are numerous ways you can help prevent that loaf of ground beef or turkey from turning into a flavorless brick and while Worcestershire sauce and Kewpie mayo are great, you could be out of luck if they're not already in the kitchen cabinet. The legendary New York City Italian restaurant Rao's uses water to keep its famous meatballs fresh, and Food52 has successfully applied this same technique to meatloaf. After all, meatloaf is really just one giant meatball heaved into a baking pan.
Whereas the Rao's meatball recipe calls for 2 cups of water to 2 pounds of meat, writer Emma Laperruque noted that particular ratio "didn't go great" for her meatloaf and recommends using less water. Laperruque also recommends pouring some water over caramelized onions before adding them to the meatloaf mixture. It helps to cool them down and creates a tasty onion broth that can be added to your meatloaf for some extra flavoring. 3/4 cup of water for 2 pounds of ground beef should keep things nice and moist.
It seems the secret of adding a little H2O to your meatloaf can also be done more than one way. The Birch Cottage takes a unique approach to meatloaf and the water doesn't go into the meat mixture, but underneath it. They recommend that to get a moist meatloaf every time, you should place a large pan filled with water on the bottom rack of an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This rather simple but outside the box approach makes a lot of sense, as the water in the pan should cut down on the amount of moisture being cooked out of the meatloaf.
Lifehacker even reported that adding a little bit of ice water to your ground beef mixture when making burger patties can help in keeping them extra juicy. Now that you know the super simple way to keep your meatloaf from tasting like the Sahara desert, why not give this classic dish another chance?