Why You Should Never Skip The Starchy Ingredient For Meatloaf

Though its name suggests it's simply meat shaped into a loaf, meatloaf has many components. In addition to the ground beef, there's also onions, cheese, beaten eggs, and various herbs and spices. European and Middle Eastern meatloaves are often stuffed with hard boiled eggs, while the Filipino kind includes relish and raisins. But one of the most important ingredients in any meatloaf, second only to the meat, is the starch.

Most recipes call for starch in the form of breadcrumbs or chunks of fresh bread soaked in milk, but according to The Cookful, dry oatmeal, potato flakes, boxed stuffing mix, and cooked rice are also effective. These are usually thought of as fillers, after all, as Bon Appétit explains, the dish was invented in order to utilize scraps and prevent food waste. 

But making meat stretch isn't the only purpose of adding starch, All Recipes shares. So even if you do have plenty of ground beef for your meatloaf, you don't want to skip this ingredient.

No starch yields crumbly meatloaf

It's not just the loaf pan that gives meatloaf its shape. It's also the starch, whether that be breadcrumbs or stuffing mix, All Recipes explains. Along with the eggs, the starch binds the meat and other ingredients together. It also absorbs all the excess liquid that would otherwise evaporate or drain out during the cooking process, The Spruce Eats adds. Without starch, therefore, meatloaf will not only fall apart when sliced, but will also be a lot drier.

For best results, The Spruce Eats recommends 15% to 25% starch. The leaner the meat you use, the more starch you'll need. Some older recipes call for up to 50% starch, The Spruce Eats shares, but ideally you shouldn't exceed that amount. As Frugal Cooking points out, too much starch can cause your meatloaf to be too mushy. 

For meatloaf that is firm but still tender, simply make sure to include an appropriate amount of starch.