Do you still remember your first experience with lunch meat? Mine was a bologna sandwich, and I felt on top of the world. It was a rite of passage, almost, into the big kid realm; my graduation from peanut-butter and jelly to real food. When I discovered Old-Fashioned Dutch Loaf in college, I ate it every day for two years.
I still enjoy luncheon meat today. But now you have to worry about what you are putting into your body. Everywhere you turn you see stern admonishments about the sodium content of packaged food and the risks of eating processed meat. The question dawned on me: “Why don’t I just make my own lunch meat loaf?”
I found a recipe for a spiced luncheon loaf and a new tradition was born. It is much simpler than you could ever imagine.
What is Meat Loaf?
Meatloaf is popular for its simplicity and intriguing flavors, which often stem from the chef’s efforts to keep it moist. It derives its name from the major ingredient, ground meat, and its shape, like that of a loaf of bread.
Ground beef is the most common meat variety, but you can also use veal, venison, chicken, pork, or lamb. Some people even use seafood. Many meatloaves incorporate tomato sauce, ketchup, vegetables, or cheese for moisture. Others forego extra ingredients in favor of wrapping during the cooking process.
Romans used minced meat in their meatloaves and began making them as early as the fifth century. Decades later, meatloaf became a mainstay dish of German, Belgian and Scandinavian cultures in a similar form. The German, or possibly Dutch, version reached Pennsylvania in the 19th century.
A Dutch dish called scrapple may have contributed to both the modern Dutch meatloaf and the Old-Fashioned Dutch Loaf of Pennsylvania. It was comprised of otherwise unused pork scraps and cornmeal.
Today’s American meatloaf typically has a beef or pork base or some combination. It also is characterized by a filler like breadcrumbs to lessen its density and an egg or dairy product to bind and dampen it.
German Karl Drais’ invention of the mechanical meat grinder in 1899 likely had much to do with the explosion of the popularity of modern American meatloaf.
Here are a few techniques for making a great meatloaf.
- Use homemade bread crumbs – remove the crust and soak the bread in milk to give unbelievable succulence to your meatloaf.
- Sautee vegetables before adding them to your meatloaf – this gives additional flavors and moisture.
- Do not overmix meat – this will increase its density and toughen its texture.
- Do not cook meatloaf in a loaf pan – Try this to give your meatloaf caramelization on all sides and allow the fats to drip off of its surface.
- Rest before slicing – Just like a roast, allow the flavors of the meatloaf to permeate it for ten minutes after removing from heat.
- Cook with plenty of fat – if using lean meat, add bacon fat or lard to ensure your meatloaf does not dry out during heating.
While it is perfectly acceptable to bake meatloaf in the oven for an hour, grilling or smoking it gives it a depth of flavor that is difficult to match with any other method.
– If your meatloaf mixture sticks to the sides of your mixing bowl, you need to add more moisture.
Why Cook Dutch Loaf?
What is different about a Dutch Loaf?
Dutch meatloaf uses a blend of ground beef and pork coated with specific spices. You then smoke the loaf. Dutch loaf or luncheon meat in many cases does not call for flour, egg, or breadcrumbs. It is denser than regular meatloaf which makes it well-suited as a lunch meat loaf. It also is traditionally served as a cold cut as opposed to traditional meatloaf that is a hot entree.
Dutch loaf is also different from other luncheon deli meats. It is spicier than bologna and, of course, smokier. It is grainier than some of the other deli meats because it is made from coarse ground meat.
An Old-Fashioned Loaf is distinctive from spam, pastrami, and ham with its lower sodium content. The use of ground meat is also unique as bologna comes from mechanical separation. Pastrami is meat that is brined and then dried.
Reasons to Try Dutch Loaf
Old Fashioned Dutch loaf makes a tangy cured smoky filler for a sandwich. You should try it if you want less salty deli meat than some of the traditional modern ones like ham, Pastrami, and Prosciutto. The spices in a Dutch loaf are rich but subtle enough to be overwhelmed by too much sodium. The hardwood smoke flavor is truly unique among lunch meats.
Luncheon loaf is sliced very thin to serve on sandwiches. It tastes great as cold cuts on bread or heated up on hamburger buns. The major drawback is many manufacturers have stopped making it in favor of better-known deli lunch meats.
If you worry about pork, you can make your old-fashioned loaf with turkey or chicken. You can even add artificial seasonings if you still want it to retain its distinct pork flavor.
Step-By-Step Guide to Making Dutch Loaf
You mix ingredients for Dutch loaf much like you would for any meatloaf. Shape it and then smoke it under low heat for several hours.
Step One – What You Will Need
- Large bowl
- Electric smoker or classic grill
- Loaf pan
- Fruit-flavored wood chips or pellets
- Meat thermometer
- Small bowl
- Medium bowl
Step Two – Collect Ingredients
- Ground Pork – about 3 pounds
- Ground Beef – about 2 pounds
- 1 teaspoon Curing Salt #1
- 4 teaspoons Non-iodized Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
- 2 teaspoons Black or White Pepper (you can mix)
- 1.5 teaspoons Ground Celery Seed
- 1.5 teaspoons Ground Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1.5 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 1/2 cup Cold Water
Step 3: Mix Ingredients and Smoke Meatloaf
- Mix the ground meats thoroughly in a large bowl. Use your hands and poke holes with your fingers in preparation for the spices.
- Combine the spices in a small bowl.
- Pour the spice blend into the cold water. Mix until sugar and salts have completely dissolved.
- Work the spice mixture thoroughly into the mixed meats.
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Add wood when ready.
- Fill the loaf pan with the meat mixture. Make sure to pack the mixture tightly.
- Smoke for 6 to 7 hours, replenishing wood every hour or two. The loaf’s internal temperature should be 150 degrees Fahrenheit
- Allow the Dutch loaf to cool completely.
- Remove loaf from the pan and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate overnight.
- Slice thinly when ready to serve.
*Protip #1: you can use a food processor or grinder to combine the meats, but be mindful not to puree them. You want a coarse mixture. You can even grind your own pork and beef or game meat if you prefer. With venison or bison you may have to add a bit of fat for balance and so it does not dry out too much.
*Protip #2: With both meatloaf and Dutch loaf, you can cook a bit of the mixture in a frying pan before you cook the entire batch. This way you can determine if you need to add seasonings or other ingredients.
*Protip #3: Just like a roast or rack of ribs, you can smoke your meatloaf using the indirect heat method on a standard charcoal grill. Place your wood chips or pellets and briquettes underneath and opposite to the meat. You can also use a gas smoker.
Protip #4: Apple works well as a flavoring wood for a Dutch loaf. You could also try cherry mixed with hickory.
Protip #5: You can fill your sink halfway with ice and water. Once your Dutch loaf is done cooking, place it in its pan in the ice water to quickly cool.
Chances are you have nostalgic memories of childhood lunches with deli meat sandwiches. Using a lump of lunch meat smoked over hardwood like a burger or roast is the ultimate level of midday cuisine. It is as easy as a meatloaf to make, too.
We hope you became inspired to make your own brand of Dutch Loaf. You might be able to start a new tradition with your family. Spread this recipe guide to others who love to smoke meat and maybe want ideas of something unusual to prepare in a smoker.