How to Make Salisbury Steak

Ryan Nadolny

Just what is Salisbury steak and how does it differ from meatloaf? Learn this and more as we teach you how to make Salisbury steak!

Salisbury steak is a classic comfort food dish that makes an easy weeknight dinner. With this homemade version, you'll learn how to make Salisbury steak.

Yes, that's right. Salisbury steak goes way beyond the TV dinners of your youth. And making it homemade is far more delicious!

How to Make Salisbury Steak Image

What is Salisbury Steak?

So, what is Salisbury steak? To answer this question we need to go back to the mid 19th century in Hamburg Germany where the hamburger was first being enjoyed.

It consisted of minced meat formed into a steak, grilled, and slapped between two slices of bread. It was popular among the middle and working class because of its portability.

As immigrants started to make their way to the United States, so did this recipe, which found its way onto restaurant menus in New York City.

It helped to give the European immigrants a tasteful memory of home. As time went on, the recipe took on different forms.

Dr. James Henry Salisbury was a physician and chemist during the American Civil War that believed a meat-heavy diet was the key to healthy eating.

How to Make Salisbury Steak from Scratch Photo

At the time, more soldiers were dying from digestive illnesses than they were fighting in the war.

Dr. Salisbury concluded that fruits and vegetables were toxic and the soldiers needed more meat and less bread in their diet to get all of their necessary nutrients.

You read that correctly, “Fruits and veggies are toxic." I feel like my whole life has been a lie.

Fast forward a hundred years to the invention of the TV dinner and you’ll find Salisbury steak as one of the industry's best sellers.

Over time, Salisbury steak also found its way into school cafeterias across the country where many of us tried it for the first time.

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak Ingredients Photo

How to Make Salisbury Steak

This culinary classic is easy to prepare and is great for a quick weeknight dinner, containing only a few staple ingredients.

It is typically served with a beef mushroom gravy, but if you loathe mushrooms as much as I do, it’s easy to omit them.

To make Salisbury steak, you will need:

  • Ground beef - 80/20 would work well for this dish, but if you want to cut some of the fat down, try 85/15 or even 90/10. For added flavor, try mixing a little ground pork into the mix.
  • Seasonings - Keep it simple. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of mustard powder.Another option is chopped onions or shallots. I personally like to add garlic. And I don’t mean like a clove or 2. I always go heavy with the garlic. Something like 4 cloves per pound of meat should do the trick.
  • Binder - One egg per pound of meat and seasoned breadcrumbs will keep your patties from falling apart.
  • Gravy - You can make an easy gravy with a little beef stock, some Kitchen Bouquet seasoning, Worcestershire, and cornstarch. Then add any seasonings you prefer and don’t forget the mushrooms. Or...conveniently “forget” to buy those spongy little funguses in the first place.
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When it’s time to cook, I like to sear each side of the patties in a skillet over medium-high heat, but stopping short of cooking them all the way through.

I then remove the patties from the pan, pour out any excess grease, and then build my gravy.

When your gravy has reduced to your desired consistency, add your beef back to the pan and simmer until you’ve reached an internal temp of 160° - it's that easy!

What Is the Difference Between Salisbury Steak and Meatloaf?

Even though the ingredients for Salisbury steak and meatloaf are quite similar, meatloaf is typically made in a small loaf pan or otherwise formed into a loaf-like shape and then roasted. 

Salisbury steak is usually formed as individual patties and simmered in a gravy as opposed to being roasted in a pan.

Alternately, meatloaf is occasionally served with a beef gravy, but is usually topped with a ketchup based glaze.

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak Photo

What is a Good Side for Salisbury Steak?

Now you know where it all started and how to make Salisbury steak, what is a good side for Salisbury steak?

The most popular, and my personal favorite, would be over pillowy mashed potatoes with extra garlic.

Others enjoy this dish over egg noodles, roasted potatoes, or your vegetable of choice.

Homemade Salisbury Steak Variations

Another popular way to make this dish is to make slow cooker Salisbury steak. Being the purest that I am, I was skeptical about doing it this way.

To my surprise it was incredibly easy and the flavor was more rich and decadent than my previous attempts in a skillet.

Other variations include the famed Pioneer Woman Salisbury steak recipe, roasted in the oven with roasted potatoes, or even adapted recipes for your electric pressure cooker.

No matter the method you choose, you cannot go wrong with this savory, hearty entree.

How to Make Salisbury Steak from Scratch Image

Can You Freeze Salisbury Steak?

Now that you’re full of deliciousness, you realize you’ve made way too much food. Happens to the best of us.

The good news is, these little hamburger patties freeze extremely well. Just double wrap in foil and store for up to 3 months.

Thaw them out the night before and zap them in the microwave or in your air fryer.

Another option is to freeze them in oven-ready containers. We often forget to pull something out for dinner or fail to have a plan at all.

This freezer to oven method is a lifesaver for last minute weeknight dinners. Just toss in the oven at 325° for 30 minutes.

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Ryan is a food and writer from Toledo, Ohio where he's had a love affair with food since 1984. When he's not cooking or writing, he's planning the next he wants to eat.

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