If you're like me, you endured the long, cold winter and now just want a taste of home cooking. Without the convenience of an oven, this can be a challenge. If any of this sounds familiar, this recipe for Rice-Cooker Meatloaf might be just for you.
I'll admit right here and now that I didn't have meatloaf growing up. It wasn't a dish my mom had the time or energy for, but after I moved abroad I found a lot of appeal in the budget-conscious seasoned meat dish. As with most of my cooking expertise, this recipe grew from my extended time abroad and I still make it from time to time.
First, take out the inner bowl from your rice-cooker and make sure it is nice and clean. You'll have to wash it again after we make this dish, too, so knowing how to remove it is a somewhat important step in the process.
Primary ingredients start with menchi. You can use any variation of ground meat available to you. At my neighborhood grocery store, the only options are all pork or a pork-beef mixture, so I tend to get the mix as I would prefer all beef (remember, I'm from Texas) and this is the closest I can get. I used 300 grams of meat for this one and it was a bit excessive. 200 grams to 250 grams should suffice.
For many of my dishes, frozen meat can be used, but for this one it is best to use fresh, non-frozen meat. Ensuring a complete thaw in ground meat can be tricky, so it's easier just to use fresh raw meat.
Next, you need panko, or bread crumbs. You can buy a big bag of them like I have here probably near the flour in your grocery store. You could also grind up bread into crumbs yourself or use smashed crackers. The choice is up to you, but I do recommend using more than I did here. For 250 grams of meat, you probably need around a cup of bread crumbs.
Unfortunately, I did not measure this out well as I only had a small amount of crumbs left and not really enough to make up for that much meat. This meant I needed more egg to hold the mixture together and the resulting meatloaf was still a bit crumbly. You will need at least one egg, but if you don't feel the mixture coming together around hamburger-texture, add another. No more than 2 eggs should be necessary unless you have a truly massive rice cooker.
Other completely necessary ingredients include one medium onion (chopped), 1-2 cloves of garlic (I chop them too), salt, pepper, and ketchup. I also always add celery (1 stalk, chopped) if I can find/afford it.
In addition, I often use mustard, cumin, oregano, basil, barbecue sauce, paprika, and even chili powder. other elements that can be added include hot sauce, thyme, rosemary, diced tomato and other vegetables.
From left to right: the absolute necessities, the preferred group, and the nice-to-haves. Not pictured here: BBQ sauce
Now for the official recipe if the above pictures didn't already tell you enough. First, throw the meat into the bowl of the rice-cooker. Add all other ingredients before you start mixing so as not to get bits of meat all over your salt shakers and other ingredient containers.
Then mix by hand all of the ingredients in the bowl until thoroughly blended together to form, essentially, a giant hamburger patty inside of your rice-cooker. Pat down the top until it is uniform in depth. Add mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and any other sauce you want to the top of the patty and smear it around, mixing together all of the many flavors while forming a light covering of sauce over the top of the meatloaf.
The next part is the best. Put the bowl into the rice-cooker, turn the rice cooker on, and walk away.
Our unit is pretty old and lacks any terribly fancy options, so it usually just stays hot until we shut it off. I leave the meatloaf cooking for 4-5 hours usually, so this isn't a meal to do after a busy day at work unless you have time to put it together at home during your lunch break.
When you think it might be ready, use a pot holder to take the meatloaf out. You can test it if you are unsure by taking a sample of the middle with a small spoon or knife. If the meat is still red, put the bowl back in and cook it for a bit longer.
When the meat is nice and brown all the way through, dump the loaf out onto a plate or into a large shallow bowl.
Cut into slices and enjoy with a side of salad.