Today’s post is all about a diner staple that too often gets a bad rap: meatloaf. A good meatloaf is the stuff that the coziest comfort food dreams are made of—as long as it is made with the care and attention it deserves!
That’s why I’m sharing 11 useful tips that will help you ensure your meatloaf turns out moist, flavorful, and delicious every time. Consider these simple tips the antidote to the dense, dry, utterly disappointing creations that have sullied meatloaf’s good name over the years!
All you have to do is apply one or more of these tips (or all of them, if you’re feeling ambitious!) to your favorite meatloaf recipe. But just in case you don’t already have a favorite meatloaf recipe, feel free to use the one I’ve provided for you at the bottom of this post! :-)
11 Tips & Tricks For The Perfect Meatloaf
1. Mix It Up
If you’ve always made your meatloaf with beef, try mixing it up by adding another meat! Substitute up to half of your beef for ground pork or sausage to enhance the overall flavor and texture of your loaf.
Some people prefer to add ground chicken or turkey to their meatloaf mixture to make it a bit leaner. (Just be careful with this, because fat content is extremely important in making a moist and flavorful meatloaf!)
2. Fill It With Cheese
This one is self-explanatory: fill your meatloaf with cheese. It gets all melty and gooey in the oven, and gives the finished meatloaf a very “cheeseburgers on the grill in the summertime” sort of vibe. Mmmm…
3. Boost The Flavor
Wet ingredients can add moisture and flavor to your finished meatloaf. Try adding a bit of ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mustard, A1 sauce, or even V8 juice to your meat mixture!
Another option for adding flavor (and a sneaky way to make it a bit healthier) is to add some sautéed veggies to the mix. Add cooked carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, or spinach to your mix to enhance your meatloaf’s moisture, flavor, and texture.
4. Respect The Breadcrumbs
Far from being a “filler ingredient,” breadcrumbs are crucial to the alchemy of meatloaf-making. When mixed into the meat, the breadcrumbs absorb and retain the fat and juices that might otherwise seep out and leave it bone-dry.
Feel free to get creative with your choice of “breadcrumbs!” Panko breadcrumbs are a classic choice, but you could swap them out for crushed saltines, fried onions, stuffing mix, or even instant potato flakes.
5. Give It A Glaze
Finishing off a meatloaf by covering it in a sticky glaze is a time-honored tradition. Many use a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar, but you could use canned tomato soup, Heinz 57, or even brown gravy instead.
Or you could forgo the glaze entirely in favor of draping your meatloaf with a blanket of bacon. Just drape uncooked strips of bacon over the top of your formed meatloaf, tuck the ends underneath, and bake.
6. Ditch The Pan
A lot of people rely on loaf pans to provide their meatloaf with shape and structure, but the pan isn’t necessary. Try a more rustic approach by forming it by hand on a sheet pan!
One of the benefits of this approach is that there’s more exposed surface area, and that means more delicious caramelization. You can also make mini ones on a sheet tray instead of one big loaf, which makes for better leftovers.
7. Get Hands On
When it comes to mixing meatloaf, your hands are the best tools for the job! Incorporate the ingredients carefully and avoid compressing them too much.
8. Handle With Care
Along the same line as the previous tip, be careful with your meat mixture when you’re loading it into your loaf pan. Packing it down or squishing it too much will make it tough and dense!
(That’s another reason why forming your meatloaf by hand on a sheet pan is a good option!)
9. Let It Rest
Always let your meatloaf rest for at least 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven. Cutting into it too early will cause all the moisture to seep out, leaving you with dry and underwhelming meatloaf.
10. Do A Taste Test
In order to know that your meatloaf is properly seasoned, you have to taste it before you cook it. There’s an easy way to check the taste of your meatloaf before putting it in the oven (and don’t worry, it doesn’t involve eating raw meat!)
Just cook a bit of your meat mixture in a pan on your stovetop! Once it’s cooked through, you can taste it to check that the flavor is where you want it.
11. Check The Temperature
Forget about playing the guessing game to determine whether or not your meatloaf is cooked through! Use a digital thermometer to know for sure. Once it reads 155°F, it’s done!
What’s your comfort food of choice?
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 slices white bread torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/2 cup canned tomato soup
- 2 Tbs brown sugar
- Salt and pepper
- parsley to garnish
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add onions, carrots, and celery.
Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Turn off heat and add Worcestershire sauce. Let cool.
In a large bowl, combine bread pieces and milk. Let bread soak.
Add ground beef, eggs, and cooked vegetables to the bread mixture and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently combine the ingredients.
Gently form into a loaf and set on a foil-lined sheet pan.
In a small bowl, combine tomato soup and brown sugar. Pour over the loaf and spread to evenly coat.
Bake at 325°F for about one hour, or until meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 155°F.
Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.