A loose meat sandwich is a declaration in simplicity. Not gussied up with tons of toppings, not loaded with cheese, the loose meat sandwich is not a sloppy joe or a burger, but something in between.
Sometimes called a tavern sandwich, the beef is lightly seasoned and usually adorned with ketchup, mustard, raw onion, and pickle rounds. Made famous by the Midwest chain Maid-Rite, this ode to beef has been sustaining Iowans, where most of the stores are located, since the 1920s.
If don’t live in the Midwest, you can easily make this sandwich at home. You’ll find tons of variations on this recipe, with lots of different ingredients — some even include cola as a sweetener — but we liked this one for its straightforwardness with ingredients you probably already have on hand.
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Loose Meat Sandwiches
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 large onion, chopped finely (reserve approx. 2 tablespoons raw)
• 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
• 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
• 1 tablespoon white vinegar
• 1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 14.5 oz. can of beef broth
• 2 teaspoons brown sugar
• 4 sesame seed hamburger buns
• Dill pickles, sliced
Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions, sauting until translucent. Add beef and cook until meat is no longer pink. Use a potato masher to break up the larger chunks of beef. Add the mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, then add the beef broth and sugar. Continue cooking until broth is reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on buns, topped with ketchup and/or mustard, raw onions and pickle slices.