Best Meatloaf Recipe
- Preheat oven to 350° and line your loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Mix ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and other ingredients for meatloaf sauce together in a small saucepan and simmer for 6-8 minutes until reduced. Turn off and set sauce aside.
- Heat oil over medium in skillet and sautee garlic and shredded onion until soft.
- In a large bowl, combine the sauteed garlic and onion with the ground beef, beef stock, bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan, kosher salt, herbs and ¼ cup of the ketchup mixture and mash together with your hands until evenly combined.
- Place meatloaf mix into your loaf pan and pour half the sauce over the top.
- Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until your meat thermometer reads 165°.
Meatloaf, like banana bread, is one of the ultimate comfort foods if it’s prepared the right way. However, it might be that when you think of meatloaf, you think of your mom’s meatloaf recipe, you imagine sitting in front of the TV in the 80s, eating dry meatloaf slathered in plain ketchup. And that doesn’t exactly spark within you the inspiration to start making homemade meatloaf.
But meatloaf has had a bit of a foodie resurgence in recent years. Professional chefs all over have taken the classic meatloaf recipe and put their own creative spins on it to make truly amazing meals. I had all but forgotten about meatloaf until I had one of the best meals of my life a few years ago at Hell’s Backbone Grill in the tiny, remote town of Boulder, Utah.I was so surprised by just how amazing meatloaf could be, and I figured that if a James Beard Award finalist chef could be that inspired to make such a seemingly pedestrian dish into something so glorious, maybe I should give it another try.
1. Best Meatloaf Recipe
It seems there are so many meatloaf recipes out there and many varying opinions on how to make meatloaf: whether to use milk or beef stock; whether ketchup or tomato sauce is more true to the classic meatloaf recipe; whether to use just ground beef or a combination of ground pork, veal and beef; whether to use lean beef or meat with a higher fat content.
And really, you can make great meat loaf, regardless of where you stand on any of those things. The key is to achieve a flavorful and moist meatloaf with an amazing sauce. I’ve tried a few different versions of the classic meatloaf recipe and got different results. So this is the version I finally came up with that I think is best!
1 hour and 25 min.
2 lbs ground beef
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup beef broth
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp fresh, chopped sage
1 tbsp fresh, chopped thyme
1 tbsp fresh, chopped rosemary
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cup ketchup
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
*Notes and Tips:
- Homemade beef broth is always best, but most of us don’t have time for that. The second best option is to make it quickly on the stovetop by adding 1 tsp of Better Than Bouillon to 1 cup boiling water.
- You can use tomato sauce instead of ketchup, but you’ll probably want to increase the amount of brown sugar by a tablespoon and increase the apple cider vinegar to ½ cup.
- If you’re short on time and don’t want to toast and break apart bread crumbs, just use a cup of panko.
- The sauce on top will caramelize while your meatloaf is cooking, and I found that it’s always nice to have a little extra to put on while serving, which is why I only put half the sauce on before the meat loaf goes in the oven.
- If cooking for only two, make a mini meatloaf for tonight and freeze one for later! Your cooking times will vary a little with mini meatloaf though. Reduce time to 45 minutes.
- And of course, good knives and cookware are essential to preparing any dish.
2. How Different Chefs Make Meatloaf
Everyone always wonders how the famous chefs make meatloaf. From Martha Stewart to Rachel Ray to Paula Deen to Ina Garten, they all have a different spin on their homemade meatloaf recipe. Whether they add a dash of soy sauce or a teaspoon of chili sauce, they all use a classic recipe and do it just a little differently, but all worth a try!
3. Best Meatloaf Variations
There are endless amounts of interesting and creative variations to meatloaf! The classic recipe with the right ingredients is, to me, the most perfect form of meatloaf, but it’s always fun to experiment, so if you want to change it up a bit, try any of these!
- Turkey Meatloaf Recipe--use ground turkey in place of beef!
- Instant Pot Meatloaf Recipe-- Yep, you can even cook meatloaf in the Instant Pot!
- Philly Cheese Steak Meatloaf Recipe
- Honey Barbecue Sauce Meatloaf Recipe
- Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf Recipe
- Mashed Potato Stuffed Meatloaf
- Mozzarella Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf
- Or just substitute ground pork or Italian sausage for a different taste!
4. Best Sides To Serve With Meatloaf
Probably the most common sidekick for meatloaf is the mashed potato side. And yes, good, creamy mashed potatoes are always the perfect compliment to great meatloaf. But if you want to add a little more excitement to your meatloaf dinner, try any of these side dishes:
- Roasted root vegetables
- Caramelized Brussels sprouts
- Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa
- Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto
- And of course, a side of fresh bread, lightly toasted and buttered with a sprinkle of garlic powder
5. How To Store Meatloaf
You can store your leftover meatloaf in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for a day or two. The best use of leftover meatloaf, of course, is a meatloaf sandwich the next day! Put it on some rosemary sourdough and slather on the extra meatloaf sauce.
You can store wrapped, uncooked meatloaf in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also put it in the loaf pan, put glaze on top, cover and freeze. Remove from the freezer and put in the refrigerator 24 hours before you want to cook it.
6. The History Of Meatloaf
The history of meatloaf dates back to medieval Europe, where it is believed the idea for meatloaf came about as a way to use up leftover food scraps and to keep excess meat and vegetables from going to waste.
It’s likely that the American version of meatloaf evolved from German immigrants making scrapple (ground pork and cornmeal) to the 1870s when the first meatloaf recipe was recorded, to the more modern form of meatloaf that we think of today. Back in the late 1800s however, the kitchen sink of meat and vegetable scraps with the addition of milk-soaked bread and egg, wasn’t eaten for dinner, but for breakfast!
When the meatpacking industry became ubiquitous, meat scraps were widely available to be made into everything from burgers to meatballs to meatloaf.
And, of course, during the Great Depression meatloaf became a staple in American households. Not only was it a way to use up leftover scraps, it was also a way to extend the valuable meat calories and feed more people.
By the 1950s, the Betty Crocker era, housewives across the country were looking for easy recipes to feed their families and meatloaf became even more popular. It has long been considered more of a working man’s food however...more likely to be seen as a blue plate special at a diner than served up with roasted Brussels sprouts in a high end restaurant.
But the foodie and farm-to-table scene of recent years has brought a level of culinary creativity to cooking meatloaf that we’ve never really seen before. What was once a poor man’s dish to make use of meat scraps is now an appropriately appreciated delicious taste of nostalgia.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
How do you make your meatloaf moist?
The beef broth (or milk), ketchup and eggs in your meatloaf is what makes it moist. It’s also important not to overcook it and dry it out. In addition, using a meat mixture or beef that has a higher fat content (15-20%) will also make for a moist meatloaf.
Why is my meatloaf tough?
If you follow the recipe above, it won’t be! Just make sure you don’t leave out any of the ingredients that give it that soft, moist quality (broth/milk, ketchup/tomato sauce, and eggs) and don’t overcook it!
Can I make meatloaf in a baking dish or sheet pan?
Though using a loaf pan is recommended, if you don’t have one, either a baking dish or sheet pan will work. Just shape the uncooked meat mixture into an oval shaped loaf. Also make sure you let it rest for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven so it holds its shape while cooling. It will be less likely to fall apart. However, be aware that your meatloaf will be more susceptible to drying out or cooking unevenly if not cooked in a loaf pan.
Do you cover meatloaf when cooking?
No, it is not recommended to cover meatloaf while it’s cooking. Cooking it uncovered allows the sauce to caramelize on top. However, all ovens are different, so if you notice that it is browning too much on the top, you can cover it with aluminum foil about halfway through its cooking time.
Why does my meatloaf fall apart?
The key to keeping your meatloaf from falling apart is to use the appropriate amount of binding ingredients. Bread crumbs or panko and eggs are the most important. Also, make sure you are firmly pressing your meat into the loaf pan. Lastly, overcooking meatloaf can also make it fall apart. So cook for the recommended time and allow it to rest after it comes out of the oven.
Written by Meredith Sims
Devoted follower of the farm-to-table scene, Meredith is most well-known for her ability to whip up a gourmet meal in the tiniest of spaces, including her camper van.