Meatloaf might not be the most glamorous of foods but there’s simply something about it that transports you back in time to your mom’s kitchen table for a weeknight meal. Although it certainly has its critics, there’s no denying that meatloaf is quick-and-easy comfort food that anyone can make the night before and leave in the fridge. But making a top-tier meatloaf requires a top-tier recipe.
Although you can find an abundance of meatloaf recipes online, you can easily end up with a disappointing final product if you don’t follow a few pieces of culinary advice. To avoid a dry and bitty loaf or a sloppy, greasy mess, follow these recipes and our advice.
We’ll go through 9 quick tips to help you produce a beautiful meatloaf your mom would be proud of, share our own go-to meatloaf recipe, and share a few other examples of top-tier meatloaf. Let’s get cooking!
Our Go-To Quick-and-Easy Traditional Meatloaf Recipe with Breadcrumbs
➔ 1 lb of ground beef or other meat, preferably 85% lean
➔ 1/2 cup of onions, diced and sauteed
➔ 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs
➔ 1 teaspoon of dried parsley (fresh will produce too much water)
➔ 3/4 teaspoon of salt
➔ 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
➔ 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
➔ 1/2 cup of 2% milk
➔ 1 large egg, whisked and beaten
➔ 2 tablespoons of ketchup
➔ 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
➔ 1/4 cup of ketchup
➔ 2 tables of brown sugar
➔ 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Directions for Cooking
Step 1) Begin by preheating your oven to 350° F (177° C)
Step 2) Mix the wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl. Be sure to fully incorporate the onions and breadcrumbs into the meat. Disperse the spices evenly throughout the mixture. It’s recommended that you use your hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients.
Step 3) Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ in. or 9 x 5 in. loaf tin using cooking spray or oil.
Step 4) Fill the loaf tin with the meat mixture, using your fingertips to pat the meat into a level surface.
Step 5) Combine and whisk the glaze ingredients together in a smaller bowl. Evenly spread the glaze over the meatloaf using a cooking brush or the back of a spoon.
Step 6) Place the meatloaf in the oven and allow to bake for 55 min.
Step 7) Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 min before you cut into it.
When you go to serve the meatloaf, use two butter knives or a pair of spatulas to lift it from the pan and onto a cutting board. Alternatively, if it has sat for long enough, you can serve slices of meatloaf directly from the tin to a plate.
If you plan to use this method, it’s best to line your tin with a piece of parchment paper to make the transfer easier.
Some Advice Before You Start Cooking
These nine quick tips should help you make a meatloaf that’s both moist and delicate without it falling apart when you try to remove it from the loaf tin.
Find a Balance Between Meat and Fat
If you’ve ever suffered through a dry piece of meatloaf, you’ll know it’s like chewing on a block of Styrofoam. Avoid cooking a dry and crumbly meatloaf by using meat with higher fat content.
When butchers grind beef, they often leave out a large portion of fat, producing a leaner product that lacks the moisture needed to hold together a moist meatloaf. Ask your butcher for ground beef with at least 15% fat content. This will help you pull off a tender and juicy meatloaf.
On the other hand, avoid using meat that’s too fatty. If you use an alternate, such as ground pork, be careful with the amount of grease it produces. Too much fat will make a sloppy mess that won’t hold together in the loaf tin.
Soak Your Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs tend to be dry and hard. Before adding them into your meat mixture, soak them thoroughly in the milk you would add to your meatloaf. Working your meatloaf with bread crumbs will help keep moisture evenly distributed throughout the loaf as it cooks.
If you are lactose intolerant, you can also replace milk with some chicken, beef, or vegetable stock. Slowly add stock to your meat mixture until it no longer sticks to the mixing bowl by adding one tablespoon at a time.
Don’t Use Raw Vegetables
Although it will take more time, and make another dirty dish, sauteing the onions ahead of time will improve the overall flavor and texture of your meatloaf. You can also add in a few other vegetables if you want a healthier option.
Throw in a few chopped carrots or celery with the onions to create a well-balanced blend of vegetable and savory meat flavors. Cook them down in some butter or olive oil until they are soft and then evenly add them to your meat mixture
Avoid Overworking the Meat
While it’s important to thoroughly mix the dry and wet ingredients, avoid overmixing the meat. An overworked meatloaf will come out dense and dry. Instead of stirring in your vegetables, try folding them into the meat using a spatula. Then, use a slight chopping motion to ensure that everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Taste the Meat Before You Bake It
WARNING: DO NOT EAT RAW MINCED BEEF
This isn’t a recommendation to eat raw meat. Instead, take a small amount of the meat mixture and fry it in a frying pan. Once cooked, give the meat a taste to try out the flavor.
If it is bland, make a few adjustments by adding more spices and sauce until it suits your taste. If you are using a lean cut of minced meat, adding a little more salt will help pull the flavors together.
Leave Some Space in the Loaf Tin
If you don’t leave enough space in the tin, you’ll end up with a thick brick of meat. Ideally, you should avoid using a small loaf tin. Instead, find a medium-to-large tin or you can even use a baking dish or a sheet pan. Leaving some room around the edges will help your meatloaf caramelize on the sides, making a delicious and enviable crust.
Additionally, you can try making mini-loaves by splitting up your mixture and placing it in multiple tins. You can freeze any leftovers or have them for lunch at the office the next day. You can even cut them up and use them as meat for sandwiches.
Don’t Forget to Glaze Your Meatloaf!
Typically, you would glaze meatloaf in a ketchup and vinegar solution but don’t be afraid to get adventurous with it! Mix things up by using barbecue sauce, hot sauce, spicy mustard, some parmesan cheese, or even a curry sauce.
The more flavor you add, the more your family will love the final product. This is also a fun way to make a variety of different meatloaves so your kids never get bored of it.
Don’t Cut Into Your Meatloaf Right Away
Treat meatloaf as if it were a pie, a steak, or a Sunday roast. It needs to sit for at least 10-15 minutes after cooking. As soon as you remove it from the oven, cover your meatloaf with some foil to trap in heat and then leave it to sit. The juices will settle back into the meat, giving you a succulent final product.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
A Few Other Takes on Traditional Meatloaf
If you want to mix things up, you can also try these variations on the traditional meatloaf. Depending on the variation, you may need some additional equipment, so be sure to read each one carefully.
Air Fryer Meatloaf
If you own an air fryer, you can speed up the cooking process by baking your meatloaf in air fryer instead of using an oven.Step 1) Start by preheating it to 392° F (200° C) and use the same ingredients and directions as shown above in the previous recipe.
Step 2) After combining all of your ingredients, lay the meat mixture in a pan that is small enough to fit inside your air fryer.
Step 3) Let the meatloaf cook for 25 minutes before removing it and leaving it to sit for 10-15 minutes.
Step 4) Slice and serve as normal.
Crockpots are arguably the greatest invention ever made for the working parent and homemaker. Simply prep your meal ahead of time, set it to cook, and then come home to a delicious meal without any hassle.
To make a crockpot meatloaf, use the same ingredients and mixing methods shown above in our go-to quick-and-easy traditional meatloaf with breadcrumbs. However, do not put the meat mixture into a loaf tin.Step 1) Line your crockpot with some aluminum foil.
Step 2) Form your meat mixture into a loaf shape and place it inside the aluminum lining.
Step 3) Once inside the crockpot, then glaze your meatloaf with your preferred sauce.
Step 4) Set your crockpot to cook for 6 hours on LOW or for 3 hours on HIGH.
Step 5) If you have a meat thermometer, it will be ready to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 160° F (71° C)
Stovetop Stuffing Meatloaf
If you want to amp up the flavor in your meatloaf, there’s no better way to do so than by substituting the breadcrumbs with stovetop stuffing. A packet of stovetop stuffing comes premixed with all the herbs and spices you want inside a meatloaf. Working your meatloaf with stove top stuffing will spice up the recipe.
For this recipe, you only need a few ingredients:➔ 1 lb of ground meat (85% fat content is recommended)
➔ A pack of your preferred stovetop stuffing
➔ 2 large eggs, whisked and beaten
➔ One 8 oz can of tomato sauce
➔ 1/2 cup of ketchup or barbeque sauce for glaze
Follow the same cooking directions as shown in the recipe above. The tomato sauce will act as the necessary liquid but add some stock to loosen things up if it is too thick.
Meatloaf with Lipton Onion Soup Mix
If you’re not so keen on using stovetop stuffing, Lipton onion soup mix is another wonderful trick to amp up the flavor of your meatloaf. You can also use a variety of other soup mixes if you don’t like onion soup. Try experimenting with beef, mushroom, and herb and garlic soup packets to find the flavor that matches your pallet.
This recipe is devilishly simple:
Follow the same ingredient and cooking instructions shown in our go-to quick-and-easy traditional meatloaf with breadcrumbs. The only difference is that you should substitute the dry spices with a packet of soup powder. The powder will mix with the meat and wet ingredients to create a punch of flavor.
Cook in an oven, air fryer, or crockpot and serve it as normal.
Baking meatloaf on smoker makes changes to both the flavor and the cooking method. If you own a Traeger or any other version of a smoker, you can make flavor-packed meatloaf by smoking it over your favorite wood pellets.
Best of all, this recipe is so simple it should be illegal:Step 1) Start by combing the same ingredients shown in our go-to quick-and-easy traditional meatloaf with breadcrumbs. If you want to substitute any of the ingredients for stuffing or soup mix, go ahead.
Step 2) Bring your smoker to an internal temperature of 325° F (163° C)
Step 3) Shape your meat mixture into a loaf shape
Step 4) Place it directly onto the rack of your smoker. If you are worried about it falling through the grate, you can place it on a sheet of aluminum foil.
Step 5) Let the meatloaf smoke for at least 1 ½ hours before removing it.
Step 6) Slice and serve as normal
As you can see, there are a million and one ways you can play around with a simple meatloaf recipe. We hope you enjoy trying out some of these variations and don’t forget to follow our tips to pull off a moist and succulent meatloaf.