Did you grow up with meatloaf dinners?  Maybe it was Saturday night, maybe Sunday night, but for many families, meatloaf still makes regular appearances on the table.  

Classic Meatloaf

What Kind of Meat to Use

While beef is the most typical meat to use in meatloaf, other ground meats can be used as well, along or in combination.  For this classic, old-school meatloaf, the best version of the meatloaf many of us remember from our childhoods, we use a mixture of mostly beef and some pork.  Don’t use ground meat that is too lean, a higher fat content allows the meatloaf mixture to really hold together without becoming crumbly or dry.  For the beef part, you want to use ground chuck, which as a fat content of about 22 percent.

Classic Meatloaf

How Do You Keep Meatloaf From Falling Apart?

There are several things that you can add and do to keep your meatloaf together, and prevent it from falling apart.  The first thing is to use ground meat with some fat, and very finely minced vegetables and aromatics. 

What does it mean to mince?  It means to chop very finely.  Continuing to chop until you get your onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, and so on quite small. This will allow them to blend into the meat mixture thoroughly and allow the meatloaf mixture to become homogeneous, and hold together during the shaping, baking, slicing, and serving.

I like to shape my meatloaf into a loaf shape.  You can make it more or a rounded rectangle, or an oval. But you do have to make sure the meatloaf is cooked all the way through, even in the very center.  However you shape it, the ends will become more well-cooked than the center. 

The addition of eggs, ketchup, milk and bread crumbs also forms a binder which holds everything together and keeps it moist and juicy as it cooks.

What Temperature Do You Cook Meatloaf?

The most standard baking temperature for meatloaf, and the one called for in this recipe, is 350 degrees.  This allows the meatloaf to cook though without becoming dry, and still allows the outside to get nicely browned and glazed.  It also allow the optional bacon on top to cook through and crisp up, if you are using it.

Classic Meatloaf

Best Pan for Baked Meatloaf

I always bake my meatloaf in a baking pan that is significantly larger than the meatloaf itself, or a rimmed baking pan.  This allows the meatloaf to bake, rather than steam in a loaf pan.  Also, more of the exterior of the meatloaf is exposed to the dry heat of the oven.  Cooking it on a sheet pan or in an oversized baking dish allows all of the surface area of the meatloaf to brown up nicely, and lets the extra fat run off into the pan, rather than remain trapped in the meatloaf itself.

Internal Temp

You are looking for an exterior that is nicely glazed and lightly browned.  The internal temperature of meatloaf should read 160 degrees on an internal thermometer, whether a meat thermometer or an instant read thermometer.  The meatloaf should feel very firm when you press it lightly.  The total cooking time for a meatloaf with two pounds of ground meat should be about 50 to 60 minutes.  

Some of us who like meatloaf quite cooked, and really enjoy that nice glazed, browned exterior — and a little more crustiness to the exterior — will go for the end pieces.  Some of us prefer the juicy, large middle slices.   Slices for everyone!

Leftovers

And the next day — meatloaf sandwiches!  I had an old friend who was a sophisticated cook, but relished a good meatloaf sandwich above almost everything else.  I think of him every time I make one.  Yes, it’s the ultimate comfort food for some.  But, comfort does not mean boring.

White bread is the classic bread of choice for meatloaf sandwiches, but that shouldn’t stop you from playing around with multigrain breads, rolls, sourdough, whatever you have around.  Good toppings are pickled anything (straight pickles, or maybe pickled onions, shallots, peppers…), sliced onions, lettuce, tomatoes, Don’t overlook the condiments!  Mayo (some folks prefer Miracle Whip), ketchup, mustard (Dijon, brown, yellow….), condiments like tapenades and horseradish, and cheese.  Meatloaf sandwiches can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold – all are delicious.

Classic Meatloaf: The perfect meatloaf — rich and juicy and with a lovely glazey crust. A fantastic cold weather comfort food supper!

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Classic Meatloaf

How to Make Meatloaf

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large baking pan or a rimmed baking sheet.   

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, scallions, carrots, and garlic.  Sauté until the vegetables are golden and tender, about 6 minutes, stirring often.  Cool completely to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, salt, pepper, cayenne, eggs and mustard or horseradish.  I like to use my hands for all meatloaf mixings, which allows the ingredients to become blended without crushing the meat.  Thoroughly blend in ½ cup of the ketchup and milk or half and half.  Add the beef, pork, and breadcrumbs to the bowl, and use your hands to gently but thoroughly combine the meatloaf mixture.  Form the mixture into a loaf shape.

Place the meatloaf on the prepared baking dish.  Brush the remaining ½ cup ketchup evenly over the top and side of the meatloaf in a thin glaze.  If using the bacon, place the three strips of bacon diagonally across the meatloaf.  Bake the meatloaf 50 to 60 minutes until the meatloaf is cooked through (160 degrees internal temperature) and the top and sides have become glaze-like and browned up a bit.   

Classic Meatloaf

Let the meatloaf rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Meatloaf Sides:

Classic Meatloaf

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Classic Meatloaf

The perfect meatloaf — rich and juicy and with a lovely glazey crust. A fantastic cold weather comfort food supper!
Yield: 8 people
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup minced onions
  • ½ cup minced trimmed scallions , white and light green parts (or use another ½ cup onions)
  • ½ cup minced carrots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt , or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper , or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard or prepared horseradish
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • 1 cup ketchup , divided
  • ½ cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1 ½ pound ground chuck
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ¾ cup dried plain breadcrumbs
  • 3 strips bacon (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking pan or a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, if you have it, then either way spray the baking sheet nonstick spray.
  • In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, scallions, carrots, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are golden and tender, about 6 minutes, stirring often. Cool completely to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, combine the sauteed vegetables, salt, pepper, cayenne, eggs and mustard or horseradish. Thoroughly blend in ½ cup of the ketchup and milk or half and half. Add the beef, pork, and breadcrumbs to the bowl, and use your hands to gently but thoroughly combine the meatloaf mixture. I like to use my hands for all meatloaf mixings, which allows the ingredients to become blended without crushing the meat. Form the mixture into a loaf shape.
  • Place the meatloaf on the prepared baking dish. Brush the remaining ½ cup ketchup evenly over the top and side of the meatloaf in a thin glaze. Place the three strips of bacon diagonally across the meatloaf, if using, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the meatloaf is cooked through (160 degree internal temperature) and the top and sides have browned up a bit.
  • Let the meatloaf rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 471kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 140mg | Sodium: 671mg | Potassium: 558mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 2117IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 3mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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