Meatloaf is a quintessential American dish consisting of meat and other ingredients made into a loaf and then baked. Although it is much beloved in the United States, it is also enjoyed around the world albeit is often known by other names and may be prepared slightly different. For instance if you find yourself in Cuba you might enjoy a dinner of Pulpeta or in France a Gâteau de Viande that includes mushrooms and chicken livers. In South Africa you’ll discover Bobotie topped with a silky egg custard and in the Czech Republic you might order Sekana which includes sausage and gherkins. Suffice it to say everyone has a recipe for meatloaf encompassing a wide range of ingredients and cooking methods. Today, I am sharing my own meatloaf recipe which I, of course, consider to be the best out there. So let’s dive in!
How I Created My Meatloaf Recipe
I really love to cook at home when I’m not traveling and meatloaf is a pretty easy meal to prepare that is also deliciously satisfying. One day I was running errands and listening to one of my favorite talk radio shows when the host of the show began to talk about meatloaf. The show’s guest that day was the author of a book called A Meatloaf in Every Oven and the topic was pretty interesting. I decided to buy the book and give the recipes a try. When the book came in the mail I started my meatloaf journey which spanned the course of a number of months. The book provides so many different meatloaf recipes from famous people and traditional recipes from around the world. Through preparing a number of recipes, I figured out what I liked and did not like in my meatloaf and thus my own recipe was born.
If you’re interested in learning more about meatloaf and giving some awesome recipes a try, I highly recommend the book listed above. I don’t get any money if you buy the book on my recommendation. I just think it’s a great book!
Tips for Making the Perfect Meatloaf
Meatloaf is one of the easiest meals to make because you quite literally combine all your ingredients, make a loaf, and bake. It’s fairly fool proof. But, just as with all cooking, sometimes things can get a little complicated. Here are a few tips that’ll help you make the best meatloaf even if you are a beginner.
High Fat Meat
Usually when I cook, I try to go for lower fat ingredients to maintain my health. But when it comes to meatloaf, I definitely use a higher-fat cut. If I choose a to make the meatloaf out of lower fat beef then I always mix in ground pork sausage or veal to increase the fat. Fat in this case helps keep the meatloaf moist and creates a tender finished product.
I always soak a couple pieces of bread (crust removed) in milk and then mix the bread into my meatloaf mixture. Moisture really is the name of the game when it comes to creating the best meatloaf so the milk adds needed moisture helping to soak the breadcrumbs. If you use a leaner meat then soak your bread in heavy cream for added fat. If you prefer to not use dairy then you can try using low sodium beef or chicken stock.
Binding Your Meatloaf
Nothing is worse then pulling your meatloaf out of the oven when you’re hungry and discovering that it simply is not holding its loaf shape. This means you won’t be able to slice it and instead will be left starting over or serving a pile of disheveled meat and other ingredients. There are two reasons why your meatloaf may fall apart. The first reason is you overcooked it. It’s very important to not allow the meatloaf to over cook. When you take it out of the oven the heat will continue to cook the meatloaf until it cools. Overcooking means a lot of the moisture, which helps to hold the meatloaf together, is gone…so it’ll fall apart.
The second reason you’re meatloaf may not hold it’s shape is because you did not use enough binding materials. In order to make sure your meatloaf stays together, you need to add things such as eggs and bread crumbs. These components help the meat stick together in conjunction with the fat from the meat and its natural moisture. Eggs are an absolute must. You can use bread crumbs, crumbled crackers, oatmeal, and even crumbled tortilla chips to help bind it as well.
Sautee Your Vegetables
This step is technically optional but I don’t consider it optional. Sautéing your vegetables will add flavor to your meatloaf as well as help with moisture and texture. Make sure to chop of your veggies and sauté until they’re soft. Then mix them in. If you don’t really feel like chopping up your vegetables by hand then you can use a food processor to do it. But be sure to not over process the vegetables or else you’ll end up with veggies that seem more like a paste.
Glaze Your Meatloaf
Making the meatloaf itself is not enough. Be sure to create a glaze to put on top of your meatloaf. Some people just use plain ketchup which is fine but you can also choose to use barbecue sauce, chili, or even a gravy. I like create my own sauce by jazzing up ketchup with a number of seasonings, sugar, vinegar, and other sauces. The glaze will help keep your meatloaf moist and also add another layer of flavor. Be sure to make enough sauce for serving.
A Little Pink Inside
Sometimes meatloaf looks a little strange when it’s done cooking and you might be hesitant to serve. Just remember color is not indicative of whether or not a meatloaf is cooked. In order to determine this, you need to take its internal temperature. A fully cooked meatloaf should reach an internal temperature of 160 degree Fahrenheit (71 degree Celsius). If you check the temperature and its reached the appropriate heat then it’s ready to serve regardless of a little pinkness.
Let It Rest
You have to imagine that your meatloaf is essentially a roast and this means, just like a roast, you need to allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. Tent some foil over the meatloaf and let it rest. This makes it easier to slice and locks in the delicious juices. Don’t rush it.
Types of Meat for Meatloaf
You can make your meatloaf out of just about any kind of ground meat you can find. There are recipes for meatloaves made of pork, lamb, mutton, venison, fish, chicken, and turkey. But I prefer making mine of beef. Beef often has the highest fat content which contributes to an overall moist finished product. If you plan to use a different type of meat then be prepared to make up for the lack of fat by using cream, extra eggs, and perhaps even mixing in another kind of high fat meat.
Sometimes you can find pre-mixed meat at the grocery store specifically for meatloaf. This usually consists of ground beef, veal, and pork. It’s perfectly fine to use these mixes or mix your own. Personally, my meatloaf consists of both high-fat beef and ground Italian sausage. I like the flavor the sausage adds and it helps with moisture.
Forming Your Meatloaf
After properly mixing the ingredients, but not overmixing, forming your meatloaf into a loaf is probably one of the most important steps. One thing you need to remember is your meatloaf needs space while it’s cooking. Your first inclination may be to press your meat mixture into a loaf pan or a baking dish. The problem with this is that your meatloaf will essentially became a meat brick. If you pack your meat mixture into a pan then the loaf will steam which will result in a less then satisfactory meatloaf. Instead, form your meat mixture into a loaf and then place on a baking sheet or a large baking pan. This will give the meatloaf the space it needs to cook allowing it to caramelize nicely.
As I stated earlier, moisture is the name of the game when it comes to meatloaf and you need to create a glaze. This will cook on the meatloaf giving it another level of flavor and keeping it moist. I always make extra glaze sauce which I serve with the meatloaf. This is the simplest thing you can do. However, you can serve your meatloaf with any kind of sauce you’d like. Some suggestions include barbecue sauce, ketchup, chutney, mushroom sauce, gravy, vodka sauce, marinara, Alfredo sauce, or even steak sauce. The sky is the limit!
What to Serve with Meatloaf
Meatloaf is essentially a giant meat roast and that means you can serve just about anything with it. I like to serve mashed potatoes, peas, and broccoli with my meatloaf. Other potential suggestions for side dishes include mac and cheese, roasted carrots, baked potatoes, baked beans, and definitely dinner rolls. A good guideline to follow is if you would normally serve it with other roast meat dishes then it’ll taste great with meatloaf. Starches and vegetables go great with it!
Usually, a meatloaf will lead to plenty of leftovers which works out perfectly fine. It won’t spoil quickly and can be enjoyed later cold or re-heated. Another great option for leftover meatloaf is to make meatloaf sandwiches. Slice it up, slap it between two pieces of toasted bread along with a little mayonnaise (Duke’s if your in the South), and add some lettuce. It’s a perfect combination.
Now, if you don’t plan to eat your leftover meatloaf in the next two days, then you can always freeze it. It freezes really well and makes a perfectly simple meal on those days when you just don’t feel like cooking. To freeze, you can slice it up, wrap it in parchment paper, and put it in a freezer safe container or freezer bag. Then you can pop it out anytime you need a quick meal. Be sure to eat your frozen meatloaf within three to four months.
The Best & Only Meatloaf Recipe You’ll Ever Need
Now, that I’ve given you more information then you ever wanted about meatloaf and covered all the bases, let’s hop into making a delicious meatloaf. You either read through all that information of jumped to the recipe. Either way, you’re here…and if you have any questions about cooking it, I’ve probably covered it up there. I have tweaked this meatloaf recipe over the course of many years and it is currently exactly what I want it to be. This makes a fairly large meatloaf because I usually want to have leftovers for future lunches and easy dinners. Be prepared for those leftovers and get ready to freeze. Without further ado, here is my meatloaf recipe. Enjoy!
Best Meatloaf Recipe
- 2 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1 onion, small diced
- 3 slices of bread
- 1/2 cup milk, whole milk preferred
- 1/2 lb ground mild Italian sausage
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs or crushed saltines
- 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbs tarragon
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp ground pepper
- 1.5 cups ketchup
- 3 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Melt butter. Add onions and sauté until soft. (About 9 minutes)
- Add the milk to a mixing bowl. Remove the edges of the bread. Soak each side of each slice of bread just until they are wet. Add the bread to a separate large mixing bowl. Discard the leftover milk.
- Break up the raw Italian sausage and ground beef with your hands. Add it to the bowl with the bread. Add the beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, and half the tomato sauce. Mix the ingredients with your hands using a kneading motion until just combined. Do not overmix.
- At this point your onions should be finished cooking. Add them to your meat mixture and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Add paprika, tarragon, garlic powder, and black pepper to meat mixture. Mix in with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be thick enough to form. If not, add 1/2 cup more of bread crumbs and combine.
- Transfer mixture to a parchment paper lined baking sheet or pan. Form it into a loaf with a consistent width except for tapered ends. Use the parchment paper to help you form the loaf if you need.
- Combine the rest of the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, mustard, white vinegar, and brown sugar in a bowl. Whisk together vigorously until sugar dissolves. Taste to ensure sugar is dissolved. If it's gritty, keep whisking until it is smooth. Pour half the sauce over loaf so top is covered and sauce pools slightly on its sides. Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving.
- Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes ensuring the meatloaf's internal temperature reaches 160°F. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice into individual portions. Place portions on plates. Serve with additional sauce on the side. May serve with roasted vegetables and mashed or boiled potatoes.
Check out the meatloaf video below!
Are you ready to give my meatloaf recipe a try?