Loose Meat Sandwich Recipe

Loose meat sandwich with 2 pickles, condiments in background
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Depending on where you live, the loose meat sandwich is called different things. In Iowa, it is a Maid-Rite. In other midwest states, it is called a Nu-Way, steamer, Big T, loose hamburger, Tastee, or even a tavern sandwich. So many names, and some slightly different recipes, but they are all a loose meat sandwich. It is essentially a sloppy Joe without the sauce. It is still plenty messy, and plenty juicy!

We made these sandwiches for our Iowa state dinner, so our version is a take on the Maid-Rite sandwich recipe. Or at least based on what I read online. I’ve never actually been to Iowa, nor had a Maid-Rite sandwich. So I don’t claim that this is a 100% replication. But I do claim that it is a tasty sandwich.

Two loose meat sandwiches on a board,with a pan of meat in the background

Ingredients for a Delicious Loose Meat Sandwich Recipe

A loose meat sandwich is prepared by steaming the ground beef in flavorful liquids. This allows the beef to absorb great flavor. There is a rumor that Maid-Rite uses root beer in their sandwich. They will only admit to using a syrup that looks like root beer, but it is widely suspected to be a secret ingredient.

For our version of a loose-meat sandwich, we used two “secret” ingredients: Root beer and pickle juice! It sounds like a strange combination, right? But it worked! It gave great flavor to the meat, and made it sweet and tangy! Even my pickle-hating family members thought it was delicious!

Loose meat in pan with serving spoon

How Do I Top A Loose Meat Sandwich?

The best toppings for a loose meat sandwich is something highly debated. Some say a couple of pickles are the only appropriate topping. Others love to pile on cheese, ketchup, mustard, and raw onions!

I say make it how you like it! There is only one non-negotiable in my mind, and that is putting it on a toasted bun. It adds great flavor and texture, but most importantly, helps the sandwich from becoming a soggy mess.

3 open-faced loose meat sandwiches, 2 with cheese, 1 with pickles
What Kind of Ground Beef Should I Use?

I like 85% lean, 15% fat for this recipe. It makes a very juicy sandwich that is not dry.

Can I Cook This In a Slow Cooker?

Absolutely! This is a great recipe for a slow cooker! It will mellow some of the flavors, so I still recommend adding the salt and pepper at the end. You may also have a lot of liquid in the pan, so if your slow cooker has a saute function, saute with the lid off for a few minutes, before serving.

Do Loose Meat Sandwiches Freeze Well?

Loose meat sandwiches can easily be frozen. Portion into a freezer bag, pressing out excess air, and seal. They will keep in the freezer for about 3 months! When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and reheat on the stove with medium heat.

Loose Meat Sandwich Pinterest Image, Maid Rite Copycat
Loose Meat Sandwich in a basket, with 3 pickles and chips

Loose Meat Sandwich

In Iowa, they call this a Maid-Rite sandwich! Flavorful ground beef, cooked loose instead of packed like a hamburger. Our recipe has a couple of secret ingredients that make it sweet and tangy!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 404 kcal


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup finely diced or grated onion
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle juice
  • 5 oz root beer
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns, split for serving
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Desired toppings: Cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles


  • Crumble ground beef and minced onion together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until most of the outside is browned, but there is still some pink.
  • Add pickle juice, root beer, garlic, and Worcestershire to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes. The liquid should simmer, but not boil.
    Remove lid and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper and cook an additional minute, then serve.
  • When ready to serve, butter your buns and place on a baking sheet, cut side up. Put baking sheet on the top rack of your oven, and broil on high for 1 minute, or until the buns are lightly toasted. Scoop meat onto the buns and add desired toppings.


Nutrition Facts
Loose Meat Sandwich
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword 30-minute meal, beef, easy dinner, lunch, party food
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