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 150 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
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!
Culinary School Secrets
Pro-level tricks to transform your cooking!

Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

You May Also Like

Questions and Comments

Thank you for your comments! Please allow 1-2 business days for a reply. Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am PST to 5:00 pm PST, excluding holidays. Comments are moderated to prevent spam and profanity.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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

  3. My original Maidrite sandwich came from The Maidrite in Quincy, Il, the one and only maidrite in my world! There is no ketchup allowed on a true maidrite. Mustard, pickle and onion. That’s it! YUM!

  4. My husband is from Iowa and he had dreams about the Tastee Made-Rite sandwiches. He says this recipe is like the real thing! I do add 2 healthy dashes of Worcester sauce to mine!

    Thanks for the quick, easy, soul-filling recipe!5 stars

  5. MaidRite or on the farm. Brown ground beef and immer in chicken broth for a few hours until grainy. Serve with mustard, onions and pickles. Kinda German.

  6. I was born and raised in Iowa, but I now live out of state. This past weekend I returned for a funeral and I had to stop by Maid Rite in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Occasionally I think about trying to find the recipe, but I honestly would rather make it treat to enjoy the real thing.
    I like to bring the meat back in styrofoam cups to make sandwiches at home. I also stop by Jaarsma Bakery (pronounced: Yarsma) in either Oskaloosa or Pella to bring back Dutch pastries. Their Dutch Letters along with a Maid Rite burger are a true treat from Heaven.

  7. Chris Kimble does pretty good, but, being from Ottumwa, Iowa…nobody beats the Canteen!!!!! Heck, Roseanne Arnold tried to open a similar place somewhere around Ottumwa…it sadly did not stack up to the Canteen!
    Geez, I need a Canteen now!! Lol!!!

    1. Hi Molly, Fred Angell was a butcher from Muscatine, Iowa. He opened his first Maid-Rite there. The first franchise was opened in Durant, Iowa. The headquarters of Maid-Rite are in Des Moines, Iowa. Thanks! -Meggan

    2. Nah, it’s def. Iowa.

      This recipe is a pretty good dupe. We usually get them in Lamont, IA, en route from KC to my Illinois hometown.

  8. I worked at a locally owned, branch of the real Maid RIte as a cook for many years in the 90’s in Ft Dodge, Iowa, called Ray’s Maid RIte. The seasoning came in big envelopes that did not have the ingredients listed on them, but we mixed it with 1 gallon of warm water, and it was added to 20 lbs of 80/20 ground beef. My boss, the owner did not even know what was in the seasoning. The maid rites were served with only mustard, pickle & onion on the bun. Ketchup was on the tables for people to add if they wanted. To make it a cheese rite, we had a liquid cheese sauce, that was kept in squirt bottles, that were kept in a warmer. The cheese sauce came in gallon cans too.

  9. This is my go-to recipe and I have tried plenty! Simplicity is where it is at! I am making another batch as I post this comment! There are so many loose meat sandwich recipes out there but this is the only one I consider to be close to the real deal. Thank you so much! Pickles mustard and onions yep!5 stars

  10. Hi, we grew up in Peoria area. Loved maidrite sandwiches. Got a pkg of ground beef in freezer, trying to decide what to do with it and remembered these sandwiches. Going to make some, and thanks Megan.

  11. Made this for my wife as a surprise. She was born in Iowa and remembers going to Maid-Rite as a treat with her Dad. She liked it very much!

  12. This recipe is like the loose meat sandwich I got in Greenville, Ohio. Name of Restaurant, Maid Rite!
    No ketchup!5 stars

  13. Megan, you’re a doll, and I thank you for this recipe. I am a Central Illinois native, and these sandwiches were popular with the blue-collar crowd (like my father) as a kid. We’d eat them, and I’d usually wish we just went for an actual cheeseburger. I never understood the point of the loose meat, and saying “loose meat sandwich” made me want to go to confession or take a shower — not sure which. Why does the meat have to be loose? Why not an actual burger? It’s a mystery to this kid from Peoria. Anyway, when nostalgia hits me for those awkward days with Dad at his favorite lunch counter, the Maid-Rite, I’ll whip this recipe up, and toss a slice of American cheese on top, because it holds those ridiculous delicious and pointless crumbles together. Thank you.

    Bon appetit!5 stars

    1. Hi Jack, you really cracked me up. I think in older versions of this post, I mentioned my aversion to the term “loose meat sandwich.” But I looked and I didn’t see it there anymore, probably because so many readers complain about story-telling on food blogs. In any case, I know! Confession or shower, LOL. I first learned about loose meat sandwiches from my sister-in-law’s mother and I was just like… what is happening here? Is this food? What in the world? You take care, enjoy Illinois! -Meggan

  14. I only read the recipe, but I tend to disagree with part of the recipe. While I believe yours is tasty, I have eaten Maid-Rites all of my life. I even helped make them when my daughter worked at a Maid-Rite. The key to a Maid-Rite is low and slow with consistent stirring until a fairly large amount of water is mostly cooked away. This is what helps to insure tender, flavorful meat. Also, no spices are added. It is served with minced onions and mustard.
    Note: It is rumored that the original Maid-Rites were made with root beer. I have not found this to be factual however.

  15. A true Maid Rite would not have Onions that size. More like onion Juice. No mustard in meat.. True is Salt, Pepper, onion juice and hamburger meat. Maybe some pickle juice

  16. I am another misplaced from Iowa person. Loved these growing up and my mom made them at home. We would ad a slice of American cheese when it was hot and it melted a little into the meat (made it not quite as messy). You just brought up great memories by posting this recipe! THANKS!5 stars

    1. Hi Kim, I changed the recipe to take the added salt out (basically just suggesting that people add salt and pepper to taste rather than dictating how the recipe is seasoned). I think that’s how it should be anyway. So, that will help you control the sodium a little better (the sodium in the nutrition label now shows how much sodium there is in the recipe without any added salt or pepper). The other biggest factor in the sodium here is the rolls that you eat the meat on. If you choose a low-sodium option, that will cut out a lot more (about 10% maybe, but it depends on which one you choose so I can’t say for sure). Those are my recommendations (although I should point out I’m not a registered dietician). If you have any other questions please let me know! Thanks. -Meggan

  17. I am from Iowa. We had an original Made-Rite
    on Main Street. Ate there often & I knew the people that worked there.
    I use a stainless steel saucepan. One lb. ground beef 80/20. A little water, sugar, or a little brown sugar, & mustard & about half a diced onion & a little
    garlic powder “opt”.
    I use a potato masher to get the meat to a fine consistency. Serve on a bun with whatever you like. YUMMO
    A GAL FROM WEBSTER CITY, IOWA5 stars

  18. Hello…I remember these from Jr high school back in the 70’s. ..I’m so wanting to try this recipe…Would you know how to figure the carb count without the bun.. I’m guessing only a few…I’m on a very strict low diet to control my T2 diabetes. .Thanks so much…5 stars

    1. Hi Theresa, happy to help. If you remove the buns, the carbs are 3.5g per serving including 0.6g dietary fiber and 1.9g sugar. Since you are T2 I also grabbed the information without the added 1 teaspoon sugar (in case you want to leave it out). Then it is 2.5g total carbs with 0.6g dietary fiber and 0.9g sugar. If you want any other info, just let me know. I use a nutrition label calculator and I’m not a registered dietician so these numbers might not be perfect, but it’s the best I can do. Thank you! -Meggan

  19. Just to be clear… do you drain off the excess fat after browning the beef? I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere in the recipe.

    1. Hi Wendy, no, I don’t drain off the excess fat here. However, you certainly could if that was your preference. I’ll update the recipe to explain this very clearly. Thanks! -Meggan

  20. I grew up on Taverns or loose meats
    Have had everything from Tastes, Maid Rites & the like!

    Never put ketchup on a loose meats, just onions & mustered. I also use a little Lip tins Union Soup mix for flavor. Best ever

    1. Yes on this. We no longer live in Iowa but my dad still stops in Marshalltown twice a year for these. I distinctly remember that asking for ketchup in a Maid-Rite establishment was a major faux paus.

  21. This was fantastic! I had a maid rite maybe 15 years ago, and don’t really remember it. I can’t say whether or not this recipe is accurate but I do know that it was delicious and we will definitely make it again. Thanks for sharing!5 stars

  22. My father ran the maid-rite in Kewanee Illinois for
    50 years starting with the opening in 1926 it was only boiled ground beef salt and pepper I worked there 8 years

  23. Love in the area where maid-rite originated. My mother worked for the company that mixed their chain recipe together. She told me she couldn’t remember exactly what all was in it, but did say they used minced beef, and beef tongue…maybe that’s the secret thought I would let you know, maybe try that see if it gets closer.5 stars

  24. The Minnesoda Fountain in Park Rapids, Minnesota has a similar sandwich called the Beefy Burger. Absolutely the best!

  25. I spoke with a Maid-Rite manager and even she was not allowed to know the original recipe. The meat gets delivered to the restaurants in clear plastic bags ready to be heated. While the mustard, chopped onions, etc. are probably on point, a friend once who had never had a Maid-Rite noted that there is clearly some vinegar involved in the recipe.

  26. This is incorrect. I know people that know the recipe so it’s not that no one knows,they’re just not going to tell. I lived right next door to the original owner of the very first Maid rite in Muscatine Iowa’s, Daughter. Saw the Owner often. I recently say the grandchildren (who know the recipe) but they wouldn’t tell me!5 stars

    1. Sorry for the confusion, OBVIOUSLY somebody knows, yes. That isn’t what I meant, LOL. I meant no one who knows is telling. But yes, you’re technically right.

  27. Grew up with a Maid-Rite down the road, in Bettendorf, Iowa. We don’t have them where I live now but even if we did, apparently things have changed (not for the better). This is a great, comparable sandwich. Won’t be exact but it’s close enough and the food get snarfed down very quickly. I find that I do prefer cooking the mustard in the meat this way, even if that isn’t how the restaurants did it. It allows a subtle mustard flavor without having to douse the bun in cold mustard. My husband doesn’t normally rave about food but he could not shut up about these and said they’re definitely a menu staple. Quick, easy, yummy. 5 stars

    1. Hi Joy, thank you so much!! You’re right, it’s impossible for me to make an EXACT copycat. But I’m glad you liked this version, I do too. I also genuinely appreciate your use of the verb “snarf” because I do too, and I really feel like not enough people in the world talk about snarfing down food. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing! I’m grateful to you husband too, that’s really always what seals the deal (approval by The Husband). Thanks again, take care, and I appreciate you! -Meggan

    2. Joy , I just moved away from Bettendorf. IA and they closed the old Maid Rite and opened a new one and they are not as good as they used to be, but if you ever go back you have to ask for a wet one. That is as good as the original.

  28. Add in a dash of Root Beer syrup…it tastes amazing! I have always put mustard in the meat…served on buns with mustard and onion. Maid Rite was taken over by another company a few years ago and while the sandwiches are close, they’re not the same. When I was a kid, we used to go to the original Maid-Rite restaurant in Muscatine. There’s nothing like a Maid-Rite and a cold mug of root beer!5 stars

  29. Our Maid-rite was in down town Fort Dodge, Iowa. The meat was kept in a big heated box like an old Coke Machine. It was heated and filled in advance of noon lunch. Realy good and realy busy!!

  30. They are called Nu Ways in Wichita Kansas. When ever I go home I head to Wichita several times to my Nu Way Sandwich. Yum!

    1. Dale, I use to live in Wichita and YES!!! They’re sandwiches are amazing! I’m sure you’ve tried the root beer! SOOOOO good!5 stars

  31. I grew up on Marshalltown, Iowa. I love going to Taylor’s Maid-Rite when I go back. One of the first things I asked my sister after the tornadoes hit a couple of weeks ago was if Taylor’s was okay. I wasn’t the only one. Even the locals said it could have been worse. At least Taylor’s is still standing. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  32. Wow! Talk about easy and good…this was a hit! Thank you Meggan! I will certainly make it again. Oh, I added 1T of dill pickle juice…yum5 stars

  33. I remember Maid-Rite when I was a kid in Illinois My daughter lives in Nebraska and every time we drive through Iowa we go past a Maid-Rite restaurant. It just always happens to be closed when we go by, darn it. Can’t wait to try this recipe! Even though I haven’t made it yet 5 stars for helping me bring back my childhood!5 stars

    1. we have a Maidrites in Ohio. I’m told the secret ingredient is steaming it in beer. I never make it without it. I still use mustard, salt, pepper and a tad of sugar.

  34. This recipe was easy to make and so delicious 🤤. In MN we have a Maid-Rite in St. Cloud that my husband went to when he was younger.  He loved this when I made it for him tonight.  Brought back lots of memories he had with his family when they would visit relatives in the St. Cloud area.5 stars

  35. I’m jealous.  I live in the Caribbean and that doesn’t make it here.  I really wanted to bring some back here, but wouldn’t you know, the places I saw it were all out of it the night before I left.  Bison is much healthier!5 stars

    1. I live in a “one horse town” and I can get Bison in one pound packages at Walmart!  It costs me $9.00 but it is worth it!

  36. Because I am in a squabble with ground beef…I am subbing in Bison!  I may never go back to ground beef!!5 stars

  37. It says at the very beginning…..”inspired by”……it’s not even claiming to be a copykat recipe….get a grip people!5 stars

  38. True maid rites are not made with mustard or any sauce at all. Please do not compare this recipe to “iowa maid rite”.

    1. I worked at the maid when I was in high school, my uncle Joe Vershaw ran the business for years, we never used any sauce , only salt pepper The hamburger was was boiled slowly in a huge kettle and ocassionly we would stir it. That was it, delicious!!!!

    2. There is no sauce in this recipe. Just a little mustard. Not sure what sauce you are referring to?5 stars

    3. Love these! Not only do they taste great on a sandwich but also great on a hot dog! A place in NW Iowa does it and it tastes AMAZING! Whenever you’re in NW Iowa go to Bobs Hot Dogs and then go to the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor!5 stars

    1. We LIVE in Iowa and have a Maid Rite near us. Originally they weren’t served with ketchup but they do now. I just ask them to not put it on ours.

    1. Thank you so much Jean! I completely agree… I could just eat the meat plain out of the pot! :D Take care and thanks again!

  39. I loved reading this.  I am from Iowa and familiar with Maid Riite, but being from Ottumwa, there is a small place called the Canteen.  They make a similar type sandwich and homemade pies.  I love to go there when I get back,  it I’m so far away now, not sure it will happen, so this is a very bitter sweet memory.5 stars

    1. Hi Cathy, thank you so much for the comment with your story. I love how food is always tied to our most important memories… bittersweet or otherwise. I appreciate your support so much. Thanks again and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  40. I make these for our Youth Group at church. I simmer the crumbled beef in beef broth, it adds a nice richness to the meat. We use Pita pockets instead of buns, it cuts down on spillage with the kids!

    My husband is from Iowa and whenever we go back to visit family, I have to get Maid-Rites multiple times.5 stars

    1. I love the idea of pita pockets, Tracy! That’s genius. I’m such a sloppy eater, I need that for ME, not even just my kids! Ha ha. I will definitely try your beef broth tip next time too. Great idea. Thanks for the comment and take care!

  41. I’m pretty excited about this recipe.  Maid-Rites are a fond childhood memory. It was a special treat to have a Maid-Rite when we “went into town”!  Can’t wait to try it.  Thanks!5 stars

  42. I didn’t realize that Maid-Rite is a chain. I know Maid-Rite from their location in Greenville, OH. They are famous for their alley wall of bubble gum. Gross, but hey. People talk about it :) I had heard that another ingredient is beer. I’m excited to try your recipe, though, and see how it stands up to what I remember. :)5 stars

    1. Sarah… I only knew them from Greenville Ohio too since I lived in Englewood! When I had to work on Saturdays I got off work around noon and my husband would take me to the Maid-Rite In Greenville. I was from out of state so it was a huge treat for me! This recipe is awesome thanks so much for sharing! Pickles and onion only! Although the one in Greenville also started serving them with cheese if desired.5 stars

    2. Hi Sarah! I’m from Greenville originally, and love my Maid Rites!!! I was just driving through Iowa last week and drove past a sign that I swore said “Maid Rite”! I almost slammed on my brakes, highway and all!!! I thought I would turn around on the next exit, but there it was!! It was in a truck stop (very nice and very expensive). The truck stop was called Wings America Travel Centre in Avoca, IA. Maid Rite was just one of about 6 eating places to choose from. First, I almost fainted when I saw the price. One sandwich was $4.30 plus tax…$4.70!!! But I had always read about the rivalry between Greenville, OH and Iowa Maid Rites…which tasted better!! I never thought I would EVER say this, but it was very, very similar (without Iowa’s ketsup). And in the end, I gotta say that I liked Iowa’s version better! The sandwich was huge, so it made the $4.70 a little more palatable! So no, the Maid Rite in Greenville is stand alone, and the Iowa version is a chain! And yea, I get it. Maid Rites are just a sandwich, but a great sandwich it is!