One bite of this Loose Meat Sandwich (aka Maid-Rite), a simple, savory, midwestern classic full-of-flavor seasoned beef on a brioche bun will quickly convince you to add this to your simple supper for two meal rotation.
When it comes to simple suppers think no fuss, budget friendly ingredients, little to no planning required, hearty, delicious and on the table in under 15 minutes. This sandwich checks these boxes.
Where in the world can you find a Loose Meat Sandwich?
According to local legend, the loose meat sandwich made its first appearance in Sioux City, Iowa in about 1924. The Miles Inn and Ye Olde Tavern each claim their version as the “original”.
Chowhound gives credit to Ye Old Tavern as does the local 97.3 KKRC Souix Falls Radio Station. While, Maid-Rite, a road-side diner chain declares they are the home of the loose meat sandwich since 1926.
Bottomline, if you are from central Iowa or have been lucky enough to road-trip there and try a loose meat sandwich(a simple affair of steamed ground beef topped with mustard, pickles, and onions, served on a soft hamburger bun), you know what all the fuss is about.
Every time this version of a loose meat sandwich hits our dinner table it disappears quickly!
Want to know what all the fuss is about without visiting Iowa? Give this 15-minute simple supper loose meat sandwich recipe a try, its sure to solve the dinner dilemma and become a regular in your rotation.
In this post you will learn:
- What is a loose meat sandwich?
- It's not a sloppy joe
- Recipe ingredients
- Recipe tips and variations
- Making a Maid-Rite
What is a loose meat sandwich?
Commonly known as a Loose Meat Sandwich, you may find them on Iowa eateries and diner menus as a Tavern Sandwich. Locals will refer to it as a Maid-Rite sandwich, and if you visit the Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux Falls, place an order for the “tastee” sandwich to experience this classic.
This is a simple affair of seasoned steamed ground beef (yes, steamed not browned) and chopped onions -- its like eating a messy hamburger.
Piled high on a cheap hamburger buns the traditional toppings are dill pickle slices and yellow mustard.
I liken this to ordering a classic Jimmy’s hot dog with everything from Jimmy’s Hot Dogs in Easton, PA . This means your steamed hot dog will come with mustard, onions and a pickle spear. I have witnessed the addition of cheese, and through conversations with Iowa natives this is totally acceptable – and is my favorite topping.
It's not a sloppy joe
Think of a Loose Meat Sandwich as intensely flavored ground beef but with no sauce. While, a sloppy joe is ground beef smothered in a vinegar and tomato based sauce that enhances the ground beef flavor.
And yes. Like a sloppy joe, a loose meat sandwich is served like a loose hamburger, crumbled ground beef piled high on a hamburger bun.
One thing to love about this recipe is it includes ingredients you should have in your pantry or in your refrigerator.
Here’s what you will need for this version of a loose meat sandwich.
- ground beef: Use a 85% lean ground beef. Please do not substitute leaner ground beef in this recipe or the sandwich will be too dry.
- lemon-lime carbonated soda like sprite or 7-Up. No soda on hand? Swap water and sugar for the soda: For ¼ cup soda substitute ¼ cup water + 1 teaspoon sugar
- yellow mustard. Yep, use the yellow stuff, leave the fancy Dijon or whole grain mustards in the cabinet. The best substitute for this essential ingredient is a Dry mustard mix: For 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard, substitute ½ teaspoon dry mustard plus 2 teaspoons water.
- salt and pepper
- onion. White, yellow or even shallots are great choices.
- Worcestershire sauce. Packing a big, savory punch, lends itself well to this recipe to intensely season the ground beef fast, just by mixing it in. No Worcestershire sauce? A 1:1 swap with soy sauce works best for this recipe, for every tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce you can use a tablespoon of soy.
- garlic powder. This dried and finely ground to a flour-like consistency allows the garlic to disintegrate quickly and incorporate into this recipe. Garlic powder is more concentrated and adds the right amount of garlic flavor.
- sliced dill pickles or bread and butter pickles.
- American cheese. This is optional, but endorsed as an acceptable topping by locals of Sioux City, where some believe the loose meat sandwich first appeared on the food scene.
- hamburger buns
Note: ingredient measurements are found in the recipe card below.
recipe tips and variations
- Yield: This loose meat sandwich recipe (aka Maid-Rite) makes 2 delightfully messy sandwiches – perfect for a simple supper for two.
- Storage: Let leftover steamed meat cool then store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: Make the meat up to 3 days in advance – do not add the cheese or the onions. But do let the meat cool and then store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove top or in the microwave until warm, add onions and American cheese, cover, set aside and prepare the buns.
- Freezer: Steam and season the meat (again do not add the onion or the cheese), then spoon into individual servings or into desired number of servings into freezer-safe containers or sealable freezer bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat on the stove or in the microwave. Once the meat is warmed through add the onions and cheese, cover and set aside while you prepare the buns.
- Take your Maid-Rite to a new level: Layer your favorite burger toppings on top of a pile of loose meat. Try a melty cheese (like American cheese), red onion, tomato slices, a splash of barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, or ketchup.
making a maid-rite
To achieve the sandwich’s trademark loose, pebbled texture, we gently simmer 85 percent lean ground beef with lemon-lime soda, the maid-rite “secret ingredient” to enhance the beef’s subtle sweetness. Simple seasonings of salt, pepper, mustard, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce, combine with the beef and simmer together in a skillet until the beef is thoroughly cooked but not browned.
Now stir in the onions and slices of cheese, cover, and remove from heat to keep the meat warm while preparing the buns. Adding the onions to the beef just before serving allows them to soften slightly but still retain a crisp texture.
Spread more mustard on the bun bottoms, then using a slotted spoon, mound beef mixture over top. Layer on pickles, bush on more mustard on the bun top and Serve.
Loose Meat Sandwich (aka Maid-Rite)
Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box
You can access your saved recipes on this device and generate a shopping list for recipes in your collections.
- cast iron skillet or another skillet
- ½ pound 85 percent lean ground beef
- 2 Tablespoons lemon-lime carbonated soda
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard plus extra for serving
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 slices deli American cheese (optional)
- 2 hamburger buns or 4 slider buns
- Sliced dill pickles
- Combine beef, soda, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in 8-inch skillet if cooking for two or a 10-inch if doubling the recipe. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, breaking up meat with back of a spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion and place cheese slices on top of the beef mixture. Cover and remove from heat; keep the beef mixture warm while preparing buns.
- Spread extra mustard on bun bottoms then, using slotted spoon, mound beef mixture over top. Cap with pickles and bun tops brushed with more mustard. Serve immediately.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.