The Electric Skillet – Your New Favorite Way to Make a Meatloaf
Part of the beauty of meatloaf is that memory of our mothers opening the oven and unleashing succulent aromas of this classic mid-week staple. So, if you have only been following your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe and didn’t see all the new takes on this dish that has existed since Ancient Rome, you might have missed all the amazing new ways to cook it, like an electric skillet.
Meatloaf in the format it is made most of the time in American homes is traditionally baked and sometimes smoked (more on this a little later), but in the explosion of food blogs and social media, we have also seen it prepared in a slow or pressure cooker, sous vide, etc.
Now, I say, is time to explore an electric skillet – that little device you have probably bought when you saw Alton Brown make french onion soup, or the gadget you would simply pass by in the store because you presumed it’s only useful on boats and in camping trailers.
Let us for a second examine the anatomy of a meatloaf – it’d a giant burger. Often it would be bulked up with another foodstuff to stretch out the ground meat a bit further, but it still doesn’t like to be overcooked unless you like your meatloaf crumbly and dry.
This is where our hero of the hour comes in – the majority of the models on the market come with a very reliable temperature control dial that gives you better control than your stove, making it an ideal way of cooking all animal protein. Here are a few ways you can go about it when preparing a meatloaf in your new toy.
First, you can bake your loaf like you are used to. Your skillet can function as a mini oven with a few adjustments. If your model has come with a wire rack, great, but if you do not have one, you will have to think of a way to elevate your baking dish from the bottom of the pan. Unless you are going to use a low temperature, the direct contact of the pan with the hot surface of the skillet can lead to the bottom to be overcooked or even burned. If your cooling rack can fit and handle the heat, it will do, or you can fold and twist aluminum foil into doughnuts and place them under your dish.
As with your oven, you will need to preheat your device by turning it up to the temperature and putting the lid on, but the beauty of it is that it happens rather quickly, and the skillet doesn’t emit too much heat, allowing you to prepare this mid-week classic even in the middle of summer without melting away in the kitchen.
You will use a very similar set-up if you want to smoke your meatloaf, but you will also need a fire-proof dish for your woodchips. You will place your pan on one side, and the chips on the other, light them per manufacturer’s instructions and aim to keep the temperature range of 200 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
What can get a little tricky is the airflow – your trusted foil can come to the rescue by being folded and molded again to prevent the side of the lid opposite the woodchips close down, but how much space you should aim for depends on the shape and the size of your skillet.
Another perk of these guys is that they are usually made to be a bit more durable and safe in comparison to your standard kitchen appliance, so they will be perfectly fine if you chuck them outside to do their job if you don’t want the smoke in the house.
And finally, you can simply slow cook it. If you have a favorite crockpot or pressure cooker recipe (pretty much anything that works in one will work in the other but with slightly different flavor profiles), you can just use that and more or less follow the recipe word by word. Many better quality skillets have a fantastic temperature range so you can either set it at about 170 degrees Fahrenheit (the equivalent of low on a slow cooker) or you can choose your preferred meat doneness (ie beef rare 140, medium 160 and well done 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook it in a sous vide inspired technique until it’s done just right.
And again with aluminum foil – you will not need another dish, but use it to either line up the whole skillet for a mega loaf that will feed everyone you know and their grandmother, or you can section of the device and leave the rest of it free.
What to do with the empty space? Cook some potatoes, bake a cornbread, another loaf but with loads of ghost chilies… The choice is yours, so have fun.