Meatloaf is a dish of ground meat that has been mixed with other ingredients and formed into the shape of a loaf, then baked or smoked. The final shape is either hand-formed on a flat pan or created by cooking it in a loaf pan. It is usually made with ground beef, although ground lamb, pork, veal, venison, poultry and seafood are also used.
Meatloaf of minced meat was mentioned in the Roman cookery collection Apicius as early as the 5th century. Meatloaf is a traditional German, Scandinavian and Belgian dish, and it is a cousin to the Dutch meatball. American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal served by German-Americans in Pennsylvania since colonial times. Meatloaf in the contemporary American sense did not appear in cookbooks until the late 19th century.
Chilean meatloaf, known as Asado Aleman (German roasted meat) is a staple of southern Chile cuisine, especially in areas known for having been influenced by the arrival of German colonizers during the 18th and 19th century. The most common recipe nowadays consists of ground beef, carrots, sausages, boiled eggs and breadcrumbs, cooked in the oven and normally served with a side-dish of mashed potatoes or rice.
Finnish meatloaf is called lihamureke. It is completely based on the basic meatball recipe. The only spices used are salt and pepper. It is not customary to stuff lihamureke with anything. The usual side dish is mashed potatoes, and lihamureke is usually served with brown sauce.
Embutido (not to be confused with the Spanish embutido) is made of well-seasoned ground pork, raisins, minced carrots, sausages, and whole boiled eggs. The meat is molded into a roll with the sausages and hard boiled eggs set in the middle. Another variation of the dish involves wrapping the meatloaf with pork crow or mesentery. It is then wrapped in aluminum foil (historically, banana leaves) and steamed for an hour. The cooked embutido may be stored in freezers. It is usually served fried and sliced for breakfast.
During the Great Depression, cooking meatloaf was a way for families to stretch the food budget by using an inexpensive type of meat and leftover ingredients. Along with spices, it was popular to add cereal grains, bread or saltine crackers to the meatloaf to add bulk and stretch the meat. This tradition of additions still lives on, but with new goals: primarily, producing a lower-fat dish with superior binding and consistency.
American-style meatloaf is normally served warm, as part of the main course, but it can also be sliced as a cold cut (and then used in sandwiches). This dish can be considered a typical comfort food in the US, and so it is served in many diners and restaurants. In a 2007 poll by Good Housekeeping, meatloaf was the seventh-favorite dish of Americans.