An Easy, Traditional Meatloaf Recipe to Make at Home

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Like casseroles and shepherd’s pie, meatloaf as a concept began as a way to make use of kitchen scraps and leftovers. Its versatility makes it a creative way to stretch proteins, feeding more people with less meat. To some, this gives it a harsh reputation, especially if the school cafeteria served a less-than-ideal loaf. Still, to others, its history turned it into a household staple or even a timeless tradition. It’s also not uncommon to find it on the menu at restaurants, as it’s undeniably a classic American comfort food.

Meatloaf is the centerpiece of a simple meal that’s budget-friendly with minimal fuss. However simplistic it may be, it’s certainly not bland.

Here we’ll share a recipe for an uncomplicated, traditional meatloaf with variations and tips to help you take your loaf to the next level.

What makes a really good meatloaf?

Lean ground beef is one of the secrets to a tasty meatloaf. While you may be thinking lean meat would result in a drier meatloaf, some ingredients in this recipe, such as the eggs, milk, ketchup, onion, and garlic, add in moisture. This way, the finished product is tidier and less greasy. The best meatloaf recipes – like this one – will always take moisture into account.

You also want to give your meatloaf a bit of room in the pan and avoid stuffing it in. A loaf pan that’s too small may get overcrowded. That’s not to say you can’t make mini-loaves in muffin tins, but no matter which pan you choose, be sure to press in the meat gently and leave some room for it to breathe. 

Additionally, the glaze is an essential step to making an excellent meatloaf. In this recipe, the glaze goes above and beyond plain ketchup to include various spices and a hint of sweetness. If you ultimately decide to switch up things after making it a few times, try swapping out the ketchup with your favorite barbecue or chili sauce. If you’re missing some of the ingredients, you can use the sauces alone.

How to make a good meatloaf

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This recipe makes eight servings. It takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare with one hour of cooking time and an estimated total time of one hour and 15 minutes.

Ingredients

Meatloaf ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef, 85-90 percent
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika

Meatloaf sauce ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving extra hanging over the sides. Doing this will help with cleanup and make removing the meatloaf a breeze.
  2. Ensure your oven rack is in the middle before preheating the oven to 375˚F.
  3. As the oven preheats, combine the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl using your clean hands until the contents are just mixed. Avoid overmixing to keep your meatloaf airy.
  4. Gently press the meat mixture into the pan, making sure it’s even.
  5. Place it in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
  6. When the 40 minutes are almost up, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  7. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and spread the sauce on top.
  8. Return the meatloaf to the oven to bake for another 15-20 minutes until the glaze appears caramelized.
  9. Let it stand for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  10. Drizzle the baking juices from the pan over the top (optional but recommended).
  11. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, and your meatloaf will stay fresh for three to four days.

Nutritional Values

Per one serving

Calories 344, calories from fat 162

Fat 18 grams

Saturated fat 7 grams

Cholesterol 118 milligrams

Sodium 910 milligrams

Potassium 507 milligrams

Carbohydrates 18 grams

Sugar 11 grams

Protein 24 grams

Vitamin A 410 IU

Vitamin C 4.5 milligrams

Calcium 65 milligrams

Iron 3.3 milligrams

Meatloaf making tips

Here we’ll go through some tips on how to achieve the optimal meatloaf. One of the most crucial things to remember is to avoid overmixing so that the loaf’s texture remains tender. If you aren’t sautéing your onions and garlic, ensure that they’re finely chopped for consistent quality. Use parchment paper to line the bottom of your pan and leave enough on either side to easily remove the loaf. Additionally, before serving, let it rest for 10 minutes. Doing this helps the flavors seep in and makes the loaf easier to slice.

Meatloaf variations

Healthy meatloaf recipe variation

For meatloaf that’s a little lighter, you can swap the ground beef for ground turkey or chicken. You can also opt for sugar-free ketchup and use one tablespoon of raw honey and one tablespoon of dijon mustard in place of the brown sugar. Cooking directions for this variation would stay the same.

Gourmet meatloaf recipe variation

If you’re looking to add a gourmet touch to your meatloaf, swap half a pound of the ground beef with half a pound of bulk Italian sausage. Regular or spicy will do, depending on your taste. It’s an excellent way to add a pop of flavor without much additional effort. So exceptional, in fact, that it may just become your secret, coveted recipe.

Simple glaze meatloaf

Whether you want to cut back on the preparation time, or you’re missing a few ingredients, you can use a can of condensed tomato soup in place of ketchup in the meatloaf and glaze the top with the rest of the can. It gives it a fantastic tomatoey taste and adds moisture to the meatloaf.

Meatloaf making FAQs

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Should meatloaf be covered when cooking?

Cooking the meatloaf uncovered is recommended, as the ingredients in this recipe add plenty of moisture to the mix.

What does milk do in meatloaf?

The breadcrumbs soak up the milk, adding moisture to the loaf. If you’re looking for a non-dairy substitute, try beef broth, chicken broth, or water.

How do you make a juicy meatloaf?

To make a juicy meatloaf, avoid skipping wet ingredients such as milk, ketchup, eggs, and onions. Also, avoid using beef that’s too lean. Look for ground beef with a leanness around 85-90 percent.

What happens if you put too many breadcrumbs in a meatloaf?

Too many breadcrumbs will undoubtedly make your meatloaf crumbly, and as a result, it will fall apart. Avoid this by double-checking your measurements of crumbs, beef, and egg.

How long does it take to cook meatloaf?

For this recipe, the cooking time for the meatloaf is one hour total, with the oven set to 375˚F. The internal temperature of your meatloaf should be 160˚F.

Try it, you’ll loaf it

With this recipe, both you and your guests are going to want second helpings. What’s more, leftover meatloaf is enjoyable as-is for an effortless dinner, or you can add it to a sandwich or taco for variety. 

No matter how you wind up serving it, with this meatloaf recipe, you’re bound for a nostalgic, delicious trek down memory lane. 

Recipe adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen

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