Inspired by the famous Maid-Rite sandwiches, this copycat Loose Meat Sandwich recipe brings the flavors of Iowa right to your kitchen. With a secret ingredient twist, these sandwiches are packed with flavor and make a simple weeknight dinner that the whole family will love.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Nostalgic Flavors - This recipe captures the essence of the beloved flavors you enjoyed as a kid and allows you to enjoy that comforting and familiar experience right in your own home.
Irresistible Flavor: This seemingly ordinary hamburger meat sandwich is anything but boring. The root beer's sweet and tangy notes elevate the beef, creating an unforgettable flavor experience in every bite.
Quick and Easy: This simple dinner can be on your table in just 20 minutes so it is perfect for busy weeknights!
What is a Loose Meat Sandwich?
The loose meat sandwich consists of finely crumbled seasoned ground beef and diced onion, served on a toasted bun and adorned with dill pickle slices.
It is a simple recipe where ground beef is steamed in a medley of flavorful liquids, allowing the meat to soak up the deliciousness. While the exact ingredients may vary, there's a mysterious secret ingredient that some say Maid-Rite uses—root beer. Although they may only admit to a root beer-like syrup, the addition of root beer, along with the surprising inclusion of pickle juice in our version, gives the meat a remarkable balance of sweetness and tanginess. The result is a mouthwatering sandwich that even the pickle-averse members of our family couldn't resist.
If you watched the television show Roseanne growing up then you may remember this as a sandwich served at Lanford Lunch Box, the burger joint that Rosanne and Jackie owned.
Having made these sandwiches for our Iowa state dinner, we've taken inspiration from the Maid-Rite sandwich recipe to create our own rendition. However, it's worth noting that the loose meat sandwich goes by different names across the midwest, such as Nu-Way, steamer, Big T, loose hamburger, Tastee, or tavern sandwiches.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full list of ingredients, including measurements.
Ground Beef: Meat with higher fat content, like 85% lean and 15% fat helps to ensure a juicy and flavorful sandwich.
Onion: Finely diced onions add flavor and texture to the meat mixture. White onions are most common but yellow onions can also be used.
Pickle Juice: This secret ingredient adds tangy acidity that balances out the flavors. The meat doesn't taste like pickles, but if you are pickle averse then replace the juice with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
Root Beer: The other ingredient that makes this recipe unique is root beer. This adds a sweet herbal flavor. If you do not have root beer, you can sweeten the meat with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce is a condiment that brings depth and a rich savory note that complements the other flavors.
Spices: Garlic powder, salt, and pepper enhance the taste of the meat by adding depth and balance to the overall flavor profile.
Hamburger Buns: There's no need to get fancy with this recipe, just look for a basic soft bun.
How to Make Maid-Rite Copycat Sandwiches
1) Brown the Beef
- Crumble the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- If you like soft onions then add them in with the beef. For crunchier onions add them after the beef has started browning.
2) Add the Remaining Ingredients
- Once most of the beef has browned, stir in the rest of the ingredients.
- Bring the liquids to a boil, then reduce to low heat.
- Cook the meat mixture uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed. This takes about 20 minutes.
4) Toast Buns
- When the meat is almost ready, butter the cut side of the buns.
- Place the buns butter side-up on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the oven.
- Broil on high for about a minute, until they are toasted.
- Place the bottom bun onto a place. Pile meat onto the bun, then place the top bun over the meat.
- If you are serving picky eaters then grate the onion instead of dicing it. Finely grated onions are less noticeable in the mixture but still give impart great flavor.
- Use a meat chopper to break the meat into consistent small crumbles.
- Toast the bun either under a broiler or in a toaster. In addition to adding great flavor and texture, it also helps the sandwich from becoming a soggy mess.
- Watch the buns closely in the oven. They toast up quickly and it's easy to burn them if you aren't paying attention.
While the meat itself is the star of the sandwich, toppings can provide additional layers of taste. Some popular options include:
- Dill Pickles: Add pickle slices on top of the meat for a tangy and refreshing element.
- Cheese: My family loves to add a slice of Cheddar or American cheese.
- Mustard: Some say yellow mustard and pickles are the only toppings that belong on a Loose Meat sandwich. This condiment definitely adds a classic flavor.
- Ketchup: Though purists critique this addition, ketchup is another popular addition.
- Onions: Finely chopped raw onions can add a nice crunch and sharpness to the sandwich.
- Additional vegetables: Add lettuce, tomato slices, or any other veggies of your choice.
What to Serve with Loose Meat Sandwiches
- French Fries: Serve the sandwiches with a side of crispy, golden fries for a classic combination.
- Potato Chips: Grab your favorite bag of chips or make your own!
- Coleslaw: The cool and creamy texture of coleslaw provides a refreshing contrast to the warm sandwich.
- Potato Salad: A homemade or store-bought potato salad can complement the flavors of the sandwich.
Transfer leftover meat to an airtight container, or cover the serving dish tightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This recipe freezes great! Place individual portions into freezer bags. Press out any excess air and seal the bag. They will keep in the freezer for about 3 months! Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
To reheat: Place in a microwave-safe dish and reheat on HIGH until the meat is hot. You can also reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat. Add a little beef broth if it needs more moisture.
Absolutely! This is a great recipe for a slow cooker! Just put all of the ingredients on low for 2-3 hours. It will mellow some of the flavors, so I recommend adding spices 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 and serve with a slotted spoon.
The main difference is that Sloppy Joes are made with a tomato-based sauce while Loose Meat burgers are just seasoned crumbled beef. Even though there is no wet sauce they are still plenty messy!
More Easy Dinner Recipes
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Loose Meat Sandwich (Maid-Rite Copycat)Recipe by:
- 1 pound ground beef 85% lean
- ⅓ cup finely diced or grated onion
- ¼ cup dill pickle juice 60 ml
- ⅔ cup root beer 150 ml (5 ounces)
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 hamburger buns
- 2 tablespoons butter 14 grams
- Desired toppings: Cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles
- Break up the ground beef into small pieces in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion tandcook until most of the meat is browned, but there is still some pink.1 pound ground beef, ⅓ cup finely diced or grated onion
- Add all of the ingredients except for the buns and butter to the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone.¼ cup dill pickle juice, ⅔ cup root beer, 2 tablespoon Worcestershire, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- When the meat is almost ready, butter your hamburger buns and place them onto a baking sheet, cut side up. Put the baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven, and broil on high for 1 minute, or until the buns are lightly toasted. Watch the buns closely so they don't burn.4 hamburger buns, 2 tablespoons butter
- Scoop meat onto the buns and add desired toppings. Serve immediately.Desired toppings: Cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles
This recipe was originally posted on September 9, 2020. It was updated on June 19, 2023, with new images, as well as additional tips and helpful information. The recipe stayed the same. Here is one of the original images.