Flavorful seasoned beef is piled high on a bun creating a quick and easy meal your whole family will love. You don't have to be from Iowa to enjoy the classic Loose Meat Sandwich!
This simple recipe is similar in style to a Sloppy Joes, but a bit less saucy. These sandwiches are perfect for a no-fuss meal or feeding a crowd.
What is a Loose Meat Sandwich
These are commonly known as a Loose Meat Sandwich, served at popular eateries like Canteen Lunch in the Alley. However, locals will often refer to it as a Maid-Rite sandwich instead, after the popular Maid-Rite restaurant chain, or simply as a Tavern Sandwich, where they are also frequently served.
Primarily consisting of finely crumbled seasoned ground beef and chopped onions, a Loose Meat Sandwich is eaten like a messy hamburger. Traditionally this sandwich is served on cheap hamburger buns with dill pickles and yellow mustard. However, I have it on good authority that ketchup and sometimes even cheese is added by locals.
I guess it is one of those things like the classic Wisconsin bratwurst. It is claimed that it is only authentically served with mustard, but I don't know anyone in Wisconsin who actually adheres to that. Myself included... Beer Brat Sauce is where it is at folks! But, I am getting sidetracked...
Loose Meat Sandwich vs Sloppy Joe
So is a Loose Meat Sandwich just another name for homemade Sloppy Joes? No. The major difference between a Loose Meat Sandwich and a Sloppy Joe is the absence of a tomato-based sauce. Well, really a sauce of any kind. Rather than swimming in a seasoned sauce, a loose meat sandwich is simply dry crumbles of flavored ground beef served like a loose hamburger. However, if you are really craving a wet sloppy Joe that tastes like a burger, I got you covered! Check out my Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes recipe, I promise you'll love it!
Roseanne's Loose Meat Sandwich
Though regionally popular in Iowa since the 1920s, Loose Meat Sandwiches owe much of their national fame to the TV show Roseanne. The sitcom featured Loose Meat Sandwiches at Roseanne and Jackie's restaurant, The Landford Lunchbox. However, the restaurant was not completely Hollywood fiction, Roseanne and then-husband Tom Arnold opened their own real-life restaurant, 'Roseanne and Tom's Big Food Diner' serving none other than Loose Meat Sandwiches.
- Ground Beef - Fattier beef, like ground chuck, will carry more flavor but you can use lean ground beef if you want to save on calories.
- Butter - You can substitute olive oil or even bacon grease.
- Onion - I like using yellow onions best.
- Beef broth
- Worcestershire sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Brown Sugar
How to Make It
Making your own Loose Meat Sandwiches is incredibly simple and doesn't require much time. Brown ground beef in a large skillet, or saute pan, often with a little extra fat to assist with the browning, then the fat is drained, and onions and seasonings are added. If you want the extra richness of the fat, you are welcome to keep it in the skillet, but draining it is certainly healthier and still flavorful.
I enhance the rich flavor of the beef by adding Worcestershire sauce and beef broth, plus a touch of sweetness and tang from brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Though initially soupy, simply continue cooking the beef mixture until all of the liquid has evaporated. The flavor will soak into the beef.
Once the ground beef mixture has thickened up it is ready to serve. Pile meat on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings. Pickles and mustard are the traditional choices, but if you are looking to be unconventional add some Cheddar cheese or hot sauce.
What to serve with these sandwiches?
A simple meal like this is best paired with traditional sides that you would often see at a burger joint. I would recommend any of the following:
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Loose Meat Sandwich
- 2 pounds ground Beef
- 2 tablespoons Butter (oil or bacon grease can be substituted)
- ½ Onion (diced)
- 2 cups Beef broth
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
- 8 Hamburger buns
- Melt butter in saute pan over medium heat and add ground beef.
- Cook the beef until it browns and is no longer pink, breaking it up into small crumbles as it cooks.
- Drain fat from the pan and add onions, beef broth, Worcestershire, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until all liquid has evaporated.
- Use a slotted spoon to serve onto hamburger buns with dill pickles and mustard.
This recipe was originally published May 30, 2018 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.