A Loose Meat Sandwich Is Perfect For Repurposing Cooked Ground Beef

When we're stuck with leftover ground beef, most of us turn to the usuals: tacos, sloppy joes, or chili. But if you're on the hunt for something even easier than these classics — and without all of the mess from the sauce — it might be time to try a loose meat sandwich. Originally hailing from Montana, loose meat sandwiches, which are also called tavern sandwiches, are traditional in the Midwest and a famous staple on Tastee and Maid-Rite menus.

In 1920, Carroll Dietz of Missoula, Montana, created the "steamed hamburger," which was the predecessor of the loose meat sandwich we know today. By 1926, established butcher Fred Angell began selling his specialized version under the name "loose meat sandwich" at the first Maid-Rite restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa. Angell's version of the sandwich was born by merging a special cut and grind of meat with a unique blend of spices, making the Maid-Rite sandwich an exclusive version of the tavern sandwich.

But what exactly is on a loose meat sandwich? Traditionally, a Maid-Rite sandwich is undeniably simple, including only a mixture of cast iron-cooked, finely ground beef that's placed on a bun and topped with onions, mustard, and pickles. It's certainly a cousin of the beloved sloppy Joe, but it's the sandwich's seasonings (instead of a sauce) that make it come to life.

Loose meat sandwich variations

The only variations of a loose meat sandwich on the Maid-Rite menu are versions with your choice of cheese and/or jalapeños, but that doesn't mean you can't make it your own at home. Because this sandwich is essentially a burger, you can put all of your favorite burger toppings on it. Moreover, your options are endless when it comes to choosing a bun — sesame seed, brioche, and potato buns would all work well.

Sauces are also extremely customizable. While the traditional Maid-Rite sandwich uses mustard, sauces like ketchup, barbeque, different aiolis, mayonnaise, and even Rachel Ray's go-to burger sauce will all elevate this sandwich to the next level. Maid-Rite doesn't let us know exactly what their special seasoning blend is, but there are plenty of options to season your ground meat with, even if it's already cooked. Burger seasonings and rubs that can be found at your local grocery store are a great place to start, and adding in variants such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and apple cider vinegar can all help liven up the taste of the ground meat.