Meatloaf does not enjoy the very best reputation in the food world. Why? because it can be dry or lack flavor. A well made meatloaf is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches.
Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:
Don’t handle the mixture too much. If you over mix the ground meat it will compact, squeezing liquid out during cooking, resulting in a tougher, drier loaf.
Meatloaf consists of three basic ingredients: ground meat, a binder like bread crumbs or oatmeal and a liquid. Soak the binder in the liquid before adding it to the meat. Then you won’t end up with dry chunks of bread in your meatloaf – one of the most common complaints about meatloaf.
When you’re making meatloaf from ground turkey or chicken, you must add lots of binder or the loaf will be too compact and heavy. For traditional meatloaf recipes, you can use all ground beef or add ground pork to the mixture for a little lighter texture and a more interesting loaf. Make sure your meat mixture is not too lean. Aim for about 15 percent fat.
Adding other ingredients to a meatloaf will help add moisture and flavor and make the texture lighter. Plus you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in each serving! You can add mashed or grated carrots or potatoes, diced and cooked onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked spinach and cheese. The meatloaf might not hold together as perfectly with these add-ins, but it will taste fabulous. And seasonings are so important.
After the meatloaf is cooked (when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees), let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute so the texture is moist and tender.
Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:
2 pounds of ground meat: any combination of beef, pork, lamb, ham, sausage, turkey, chicken
Baking dish, loaf pan or broiler pan and a saute pan for the vegetables
Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables
Binder: dried bread crumbs, fresh bread slices, oats,
Liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, tomato sauce, ketchup, broth
Brush a glaze across the top of your meatloaf to make the meat more moist
An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the cooked meatloaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil; more for the baking pan
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 lb. ground beef, 85-percent lean
- 1/2 lb. ground veal or turkey
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from firm country white bread
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 slices uncooked bacon
Heat the oven to 350°F.
In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the bacon and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.
Oil a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan, turn the meat mixture out onto the pan and shape it into a large oval loaf. Place strips of bacon across the shaped loaf.
Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 60-75 minutes. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Slice and serve.
For a little extra color, sauté 1 cup diced red, green or yellow bell peppers along with the onions and garlic; when cool, fold them into the rest of the mixture.
The simple addition of 1/4 cup shredded basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese will offer another level of flavor or you could add a tablespoon of a favorite fresh herb, such as thyme or rosemary.
Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:
Mushroom Turkey Loaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 small leeks or 1 large, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and dried
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese (4 ounces)
- 1 slice day-old bread, cubed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with the mushrooms and let cool.
Add fontina cheese, bread, egg, and sage to the bowl with the mushrooms and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn out mixture onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf.
Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reads at least 160°F. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra sage leaves, if desired.
- 1- 8 ounce jar sliced roasted red peppers, drained, finely chopped and 2 tablespoons reserved for the top
- 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
- 1/2 large onion finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 ½ cups dried seasoned Italian bread crumbs
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped roasted red peppers, olives, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well.
Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish (8”x4”). Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat loaf registers 160 degrees F.
Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from meat loaf; loosen meat loaf from sides of pan and turn out onto a serving platter. Sprinkle reserved chopped peppers and chopped parsley on top, slice and serve.
Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large zucchini, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
For the Glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, the crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, the 1/2 cup of ketchup and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.
Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush half the glaze over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F.
Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef
- 1 1/4 lb Italian sausage, mixed hot and sweet, casings removed
- 1 egg
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
Heat oven to 350°F.
In large bowl, mix ground beef, sausage, egg, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, the bread crumbs and pepper together.
On a large piece of foil, pat mixture to a 12×8 inch rectangle.
Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese; gently press into meat. Top with spinach leaves.
Starting at the short end, roll up tightly, using the foil to start the roll and tucking in spinach leaves; seal ends. Place seam side down in an ungreased 12×8 inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.
Bake 1 hour. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- Mexican Meatloaf Muffins (lemoinefamilykitchen.com)
- Healthy High Protein Low Fat lean turkey and Vegetable Meatloaf recipe (jerseygirltalk.com)
November 11, 2014 at 9:14 am
Can’t believe I’ve never made meat loaf. Now’s the time to try!
November 11, 2014 at 9:17 am
Wow – what a surprise. You have to try it. Makes great leftovers, especially sandwiches.
November 11, 2014 at 11:54 am
You are so right about the reputation of meat loaf. Let’s just say I screen it carefully before getting too much when it’s served, lol.
November 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm
Oh I am with you on that. I need to know what is in my meatloaf.
November 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm
I am loving the mushroom turkey meatloaf!
November 11, 2014 at 12:45 pm
November 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm
Meatloaf! I’m looking to master a turkey meatloaf so thanks for this, Jovina 😀 Ness got me thinking about meatloaf in connection to getting food on the plate fast. She make hers in muffin tins and calls them meatloaffins: https://nessipes.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/meatloaffins/ YUM!
November 13, 2014 at 6:50 am
That is a good one Angie. You can also cut the recipe in half to make a small meat loaf (1 lb of meat) and check the temperature after 30 minutes. The same with the muffin meatloaves, they can dry out real fast. A technique I like for fast is to make a large meatloaf either after dinner or on the weekend – leftovers heat up so quickly.
November 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Thanks, Jovina! I just purchased some ground Bison and beef that are screaming, “Make me into meatloaf!” I’ve not cooked with bison before, any tips? Wish me luck!
November 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm
Bison is very lean and meatloafmade with it can be dry. I would make it with ingredients similar to one made with turkey, as above. I would also put a few strips of bacon on top before baking.
November 25, 2014 at 8:34 pm
I love eating meatloaf – it was a favorite of my childhood and still is today. Thank you for the great hints and tips.
November 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm
You are welcome and thank you for the comment. Much appreciated.