The most popular item on the Maid-Rite menu, these Loose Meat Sandwiches taste as good as the Iowa-famous diner classic. This easy ground beef recipe cooks in just 10 minutes!

A loose meat sandwich on a plate.

Not quite as sloppy as a sloppy Joe, but still firmly in the category of “messy,” a Loose Meat Sandwich is the ultimate, all-American road food feast. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to try one at Tastee, Maid-Rite in Muscatine, Iowa, or even at Canteen Lunch in the Alley, you already know what all the fuss is about.  If not, well then consider this recipe the next best thing.

Depending on where you are in the Midwest, the sandwich can be called a Nu-Way, Steamer, Big T, loose hamburger sandwich, tavern sandwich, or just a Maid Rite. Since the 1920s, it has been made with sautéed (sometimes steamed) ground beef and onions, served on a bun and dressed up with ketchup, mustard, and pickles.

If you love Sloppy Joes and hamburgers, then you need to add a tavern sandwich to your culinary bucket list.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Loose Meat Sandwich (Maid-Rite Copycat) Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for loose meat sandwiches

Ingredient notes

  • Ground beef: I prefer a ground beef blend of 85% lean, 15% fat, for the best flavor.
  • Onions: Yellow onions, white onions, or even shallots will do. I add them after the meat is cooked so they’re still a bit raw in the beef, just like a traditional Maid-Rite sandwich. Brown them in the skillet before browning the beef if you like them a little softer and milder in flavor.
  • Hamburger buns: I love a good quality soft burger bun, toasted, buttered, and ready to go. But you can even make these slightly smaller soft dinner rolls for a buffet-style meal or a tailgate menu.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a large skillet, combine beef, water, mustard, and sugar. Simmer over medium heat until the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes, breaking up clumps of meat with a spoon.
Ground beef cooking in a skillet.
  1. Drain the fat if desired (I don’t, and it is closer to the original recipe if you don’t, but you can if you want). Stir in onion and season to taste with salt and pepper; I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
Ground beef and onion cooking in a skillet.
  1. Serve meat on buns with toppings on the side, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles. 
A loose meat sandwich on a plate.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This Maid-Rite recipe makes 4 delightfully sloppy sandwiches.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Feel free to make the meat up to 3 days in advance, then store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave until warm, then pile inside hamburger buns.
  • Freezer: Make the loose meat portion, then divvy it up in single-size or family-size servings in freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
  • Slow cooker: To make Loose Meat Sandwiches in a slow cooker, brown ground beef in a skillet, then add to a slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients except buns to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours. Serve in buns.
  • Optional seasonings: Some cooks swear by a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce to amp up the flavor.
  • Take your Maid-Rite over the top: Any burger toppings you like will be a hit atop a Loose Meat Sandwich, too. Try dill pickle slices, red onion, tomato slices, a splash of barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, and/or mustard.
Two hands holding a loose meat sandwich.

Best sides for Maid-Rites

A loose meat sandwich on a plate.

Loose Meat Sandwich (Maid-Rite Copycat)

The most popular item on the Maid-Rite menu, these Loose Meat Sandwiches taste as good as the Iowa-famous diner classic. This easy ground beef recipe cooks in just 10 minutes!
4.98 from 155 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 302

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground beef (85/15 recommended, see note 1)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup onion finely chopped, plus more for topping (see note 2)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns split, for serving
  • Toppings such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, for serving

Instructions 

  • In a large skillet, combine beef, water, mustard, and sugar. Simmer over medium heat until the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes, breaking up clumps of meat with a spoon.
  • Drain the fat if desired (I don't, and it is closer to the original recipe if you don't, but you can if you want). Stir in onion and season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
  • Serve meat on buns with toppings on the side such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles. 

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground beef: I prefer a ground beef blend of 85% lean, 15% fat, for the best flavor.
  2. Onions: Yellow onions, white onions, or even shallots will do. I add them after the meat is cooked so they’re still a bit raw in the beef, just like a traditional Maid-Rite sandwich. Brown them in the skillet before browning the beef if you like them a little softer and milder in flavor.
  3. Hamburger buns: I love a good quality soft burger bun, toasted, buttered, and ready to go. But you can even make these slightly smaller soft dinner rolls for a buffet-style meal or a tailgate menu.
  4. Yield: This Maid-Rite recipe makes 4 delightfully sloppy sandwiches.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Make ahead: Feel free to make the meat up to 3 days in advance, then store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave until warm, then pile inside hamburger buns.
  7. Freezer: Make the loose meat portion, then divvy it up in single-size or family-size servings in freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
  8. Slow cooker: To make Loose Meat Sandwiches in a slow cooker, brown ground beef in a skillet, then add to a slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients except buns to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 3 hours. Serve in buns.
  9. Optional seasonings: Some cooks swear by a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce to amp up the flavor.
  10. Take your Maid-Rite over the top: Any burger toppings you like will be a hit atop a Loose Meat Sandwich, too. Try dill pickle slices, red onion, tomato slices, a splash of barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, and/or mustard.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sandwichCalories: 302kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 20gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 120mgPotassium: 335mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 2mg
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Comments

  1. Maid rite chops it’s meat up with no clumps. It’s absolutely finely chopped. Their sandwiches are probably some of thr best on the planet.

  2. Made these for dinner and they taste delicious and just like the Maid Rite knock off I missed from my home town15 stars

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