Classic Meatloaf Recipe – the best!
Enjoy this classic meatloaf recipe, with a tangy tomato glaze! Perfect for sandwiches the next day, too!
Don’t you love all the new exciting foods and dishes that are available now? Fifteen years ago who would have dreamed we’d be ordering jackfruit on our BBQ sandwiches, drinking açai berry juice, making pudding with chia seeds, or shredding jicama on our salads?
Really, I love to try new foods but sometimes I crave a good old fashioned meal, like this traditional meatloaf. While I am not normally a “meat and potatoes” girl, this classic meatloaf, glazed with tangy tomato sauce, served with mashed potatoes and green beans, really hits the mark with me.
My mom still pulls out her trusty Betty Crocker cookbook with the iconic red and white cover (a well-loved wedding gift more than 40 years ago!) when she makes meatloaf. The basic meatloaf recipe is simple: ground meat, bread or cracker crumbs, an egg, milk, and seasonings, mixed and shaped into a loaf and baked in the oven.
According to Wikipedia, meatloaf is a traditional German, Scandinavian, and Belgian dish, and an American favorite since colonial times, when it usually consisted of ground pork mixed with cornmeal and was called scrapple. Hmmm, I think I’ll just stick to calling it meatloaf–not sure what Ben would say if I said we were having scrapple for dinner!
I’m sure you’ll enjoy this timeless meatloaf recipe! It’s versatile and easy to make. Leftover meatloaf makes fantastic hearty sandwiches, too.
About this meatloaf recipe:
Most meatloaf recipes include ground beef or a combination of ground meats. In this recipe, you’ll use beef, pork, and turkey. You could also use ground veal or ground chicken. It’s smart to use at least one meat that is a little higher in fat because it makes the meatloaf more flavorful. A blend of meat gives a nice well rounded flavor.
You’ll also add lots of veggies (of course!): onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Place the roughly chopped veggies into your food processor and pulse them until they are really finely chopped. Why the food processor? Two reasons: we don’t like big chunks of vegetables in meatloaf, and because the vegetables are so small, they cook right in the meatloaf that way. No need to sauté them before you add them to the meatloaf mix.
Another component of meatloaf is a filler, like breadcrumbs, panko, or oatmeal. For this recipe, you’ll use dried unseasoned bread crumbs. My mom always uses oats. Use what you have in your pantry or what you like the best.
Next we need the glue: milk and egg. These two ingredients hold the meatloaf together, providing structure, taste, and texture.
Additional flavor is added in the form of chopped parsley, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper.
Okay, now you have a big bowl of ground meat, eggs, crumbs, and other stuff. Take off your rings if you’re wearing any. No, this isn’t a hold-up! You’re going to mix that meatloaf with your hands. Sounds kind of gross, but just dig in and squeeze and smoosh, and blend. It’s the only way to get everything nice and mixed together.
I know you’re having fun with this (kind of reminds you of play dough or something), but don’t get carried away. Continue mixing just until the ingredients are nice and blended together. You’ll be able to tell when it’s “bonded”. Don’t over mix or compact the mixture too much.
Shape it into a nice loaf, plop it in the pan, and spread on a tangy mixture of ketchup, brown sugar and red wine vinegar. I like to put half the mixture on right away, and then the rest of it towards the end of the baking time.
Let the meatloaf rest 15 minutes or so before you slice it to let all those juices soak back into the meat.
How to make this classic meatloaf your own:
If you want to customize your meatloaf recipe, there are lots of variations you can try.
- As I mentioned above, you can experiment with different blends of ground meat, or use just one kind.
- Veggies or not? If you would rather not have any, leave them out. Or maybe you like the veggies to be a little more noticeable. If so, dice them evenly, and sauté them until soft before adding them to the meatloaf. I would let them cool a bit first, too.
- Breadcrumbs, oatmeal, cracker crumbs, crushed tortilla chips–they are all great fillers. My mom makes a great meatloaf with ground turkey, crushed tortilla chips, and southwestern seasoning. Use what’s in your pantry!
- Seasonings can be varied. Spice it up by adding red pepper flakes or sriracha sauce. Or add up to 1 cup of shredded cheese for added flavor.
- Don’t like ketchup? Omit the ketchup in the meatloaf mix, and make a different topping, or use barbecue sauce or honey mustard.
FAQs about Meatloaf
Do you cook meatloaf covered or uncovered?
I recommend cooking meatloaf uncovered. This helps the tomato glaze caramelize on top of the meatloaf and ensures the meatloaf browns around the edges. If you find that your meatloaf is getting too brown, you could cover it with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes or so.
You can also bake meatloaf without a loaf pan. Shape the meat into a loaf, and place it on a foil covered baking sheet. Some of the excess fat drains off when you use this method.
You can also make multiple individual size meatloaves this way. Cooking time is greatly decreased and everyone gets their own perfectly browned little meatloaf. Check out this mini meatloaf sheet pan dinner – a complete meal all on one sheet pan!
How do you keep meatloaf from falling apart?
A couple of things: let the meatloaf cool 15 minutes or so before you slice it and use a very sharp knife! If you continue to have problems with falling apart meatloaf, try compacting the raw mixture a little more firmly before you bake it.
How long does it take to cook meatloaf?
Cooking time will vary somewhat, depending on your oven, the size of your loaf pan, and whether you have other food baking in the oven at the same time as your meatloaf. I set my oven for 350°F and it usually takes about 90 minutes for the internal temperature of the meatloaf to reach 165°F. An instant read thermometer is perfect for determining internal temperature.
Why do you need breadcrumbs in meatloaf?
Adding breadcrumbs, panko, cracker crumbs, oatmeal, or even crushed tortilla chips lightens the texture of meatloaf. Without this filler, meatloaf would be like a hamburger, a rather solid piece of meat. Just wouldn’t be meatloaf at all! Quinoa also works! Check out this Italian quinoa meatloaf.
Why do you put milk in meatloaf?
The milk soaks up the dry ingredients (soft or dry bread crumbs, panko, cracker crumbs, oatmeal), binding the meatloaf together, and making it more tender. Some meatloaf recipes instruct you to soak the crumbs in milk before adding it to the meatloaf mixture. Go ahead and do that if you like but I can’t really say there’s any difference and why make extra work for yourself, right?
Is egg necessary in meatloaf?
The egg acts like a binder, holding all the ingredients together. It also adds moisture, improves the texture, and makes it more flavorful. If you would rather not use egg, try increasing the milk (2-3 tablespoons).
How can you tell if meatloaf is done?
Meatloaf is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Again, an instant read thermometer is the most accurate way to determine internal temperature.
Don’t have a thermometer? Take a look at the meatloaf. Is the meatloaf pulling away from the edges of the pan? That’s good, the meatloaf shrinks a bit as it bakes. Is it nicely browned on top? Poke a little hole in the middle. Is the meatloaf firm? Are the juices clear, and not red or cloudy? These are all good indicators that the meatloaf is done.
Reheating and Storage Tips
Lucky you, you have left over meatloaf! It’s so good reheated or eaten cold on a sandwich. Just pop a slice in the microwave briefly to reheat.
If wrapped properly, it should last 3-4 days in the fridge. If you want to keep it longer, wrap securely and place in the freezer for up to 3 months. For best results, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Great sides to serve with meatloaf:
Pretty much anything goes well with meatloaf! Try it with:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and ends cut off, cut into large chunks
- 1 stalk celery, cut into large chunks
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 ½ pounds ground meat (preferably a combination of beef, pork, veal, or turkey 93/7)
- ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, additional for garnish if desired
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9” by 5” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, lightly beat two eggs.
- Place onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to bowl with eggs.
- Add ground meat, bread crumbs, parsley, milk, 1/4 cup ketchup, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Go ahead and use your hands. Don’t over mix; ingredients should be just combined. Press lightly into prepared pan.
- In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup ketchup, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar. Brush meatloaf with half of ketchup mixture and bake for 35 minutes.
- Brush with remaining ketchup mixture; return to the oven and bake for another 55 minutes or until middle of the loaf reaches at least 165ºF when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Internal temperature will continue to rise as the meatloaf rests.
- Let meatloaf rest 15 minutes before removing from pan or slicing.
- Meatloaf can be made with any combination of ground meat, or just one kind of ground meat.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 139mgSodium: 1226mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 21g
RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.
Verdict: I always think I don’t really like meatloaf, and then I eat this, and I’m reminded that I really, really do like it.
Husband’s take: Ben is in the same boat as me. Every time we have this we talk about how good it is.
Changes I would make: None are necessary but it’s a really flexible recipe. Leave a comment and let me know how you make it!