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How to Make the Best Meatloaf

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Winter has arrived and comfort food is key. I’m sharing my tips on How to Make the Best Meatloaf so you can enjoy this classic diner dish at home.

Keep reading for a few pointers that will help you serve a perfect meatloaf to your family. Then indulge in a meatloaf sandwich for lunch the next day! Read on for all my tips and a few favorite recipes!

Slice of Boarding House Meatloaf on a square white plate

How to Make the Best Meatloaf

My mom’s meatloaf was simple. Only using ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs and a few slices, it disappeared quickly. But over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to help make a perfect meatloaf.

What Ground Meat is Best for Meatloaf?

  • Though I grew up with a beef meatloaf and graduated to an mixture of equal parts ground beef, pork and veal. I’ve evolved to a mixture of just ground beef and pork.
  • My new ratio is 75% ground beef and 25% ground pork. The pork adds some needed fat and the beef provides the classic flavor.
  • Use 85% lean ground beef. Any leaner will make for a dry meatloaf.
  • Veal was thought to add tenderness to the mixture, but research has shown the effects are negligible.
Two bacon wrapped meatloaf muffins on a round white plate

Tips for Mixing and Baking a Perfect Meatloaf

  • Do not over-mix your meatloaf. I use my hands (feel free to use food safe plastic gloves) to gently combine the ingredients.
  • Each ingredient provides an important role. Bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs or oats) help provide binding and structure as do eggs.
  • The herbs and flavorings you add are up to you. I find that dried thyme and marjoram remind me of my mom’s meatloaf, so that’s one of my most favorite combos. Worcestershire is a popular addition and it provides that umami, that savory taste from glutamates, that can’t be beat.
  • Soaking the bread in milk is a technique called panade and found in most meatloaf recipes and contributes to the moistness your meatloaf.
  • Adding aromatics like onions and garlic are definitely encouraged. If you’d like, add some finely minced vegetables like carrots,  celery and even bell pepper. They all keep your meatloaf moist.
  • A topping or glaze is tasty along with giving your meatloaf a finished look. I enjoy a thin coat of ketchup before adding bacon, another one of our favorite toppings. BBQ sauce is another option.
  • Most meatloaves are done after about an hour in the oven. Check the internal temperature which should read 155-160º so you don’t overcook.
  • Let your meatloaf cool for about 30 minutes before slicing. Cover with foil to retain the heat. My friend, Shelli, serves her meatloaf with a shallot sauce, but my hubby prefers a side of ketchup!
Bacon Topped Meatloaf - Pure comfort food with a retro flavor profile!

Shaping Your Meatloaf

  • I like to shape the meatloaf into a rectangular loaf with my hands and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. You can also use a loaf pan as a mold and flip the shaped meatloaf out of  the pan onto a baking dish.
  • Alternatively, you can gently press your meatloaf mixture into a greased muffin tin for individual meat loaf “muffins.”
  • If you make meatloaf muffins, you can line your muffin tins with partially cooked bacon for a more elegant presentation and flavor enhancement.
  • You can also bake your meatloaf in a loaf pan, though this method does not give the juices, including excess fat, any means of escape. This was the way my mom made meatloaf and we certainly never complained! There are also specialized meatloaf pans with an insert for easy removal and drainage.

How to Make a Meatloaf Sandwich

Everyone has an opinion on their favorite toppings for a meatloaf sandwich, but here are a few tips.

Start with good old-fashioned white bread. Remember this is diner food, and artisan breads were not the norm. Some mayonnaise smeared on the bread is key, but adding a little ketchup, mustard or even horseradish gives that je n’ais se quoi. A crisp lettuce is needed, like iceberg or romaine.

And finally, according to Bon Appetit, another addition to cut through the richness, like sliced pickles, a slice of red onion or even pickled onions. Don’t forget a little salt and pepper sprinkled on your slice of meatloaf to perk up the flavor of your meatloaf sandwich!

Meatloaf Muffins and More

I’ve shared my favorite meatloaf recipe on the blog before. Just recently, I made half the recipe, lined 8 muffin tin wells with partially cooked bacon before pressing in some of the meatloaf mixture. These were baked at 350º for about 30 minutes. It was a fun presentation with an excellent bacon to meatloaf ratio! The top photo is from a new recipe for Boarding House Meatloaf adapted from the Creme de Colorado Junior League Cookbook.

I hope I’ve inspired you and taught you a few new tricks on how to make the best meatloaf. More meatloaf recipes that caught my eye include Ina Garten’s 1770 House Meatloaf, Best Classic Meatloaf with BBQ glaze, and these Mini Honey Mustard Meatloaves. And if you’re looking for more comfort foods, you might enjoy this flavorful Sausage and Chicken Gumbo, these Instant Pot Baby Back Ribs, Corned Beef Sliders or Pot Roast with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Red Wine.

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Slice of Boarding House Meatloaf on a square white plate

Boarding House Meatloaf

A flavorful meatloaf filled with vegetables and a delicious combination of ground meat and spices.

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Meat, Entree
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

1/2 cup minced red onion or shallots*

3/4 cup minced green onions

3/4 cup minced celery

1/2 cup minced carrots

1/2 cup minced green bell pepper

1/2 cup minced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup ketchup

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs, made from fresh bread and allowed to dry

Bacon, partially cooked, optional

Instructions

In large skillet, saute  onions, celery, carrots, green and red peppers and garlic in butter until soft. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir seasonings into cooled vegetables. Mix in half-and-half, ketchup, ground beef, ground pork, eggs and bread crumbs.

Gently form into a large loaf on a shallow baking dish. Top with partially cooked bacon slices if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Adapted from Creme de Colorado.

*Mince very small or alternatively, place all the vegetables into a food processor and process until mixture is very finely chopped

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20 comments on “How to Make the Best Meatloaf”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing the tips! Looks so good with bacon :-))

  2. I love meatloaf especially when they are topped with bacon! Making mini muffin ones sound like a very good idea.

  3. This looks and sounds fantastic! I know my family would love this Liz! Happy New Year!

  4. My husband adores meatloaf and this recipe sounds perfect for him! Love your muffin tin idea – so smart! Pinned 🙂

  5. Oh great recipe darling
    xx

  6. You sure know how to make meatloaf look good! That bacon on top….yum! Happy New Year, Liz!

  7. I’m a sucker for a good meatloaf and this one is a keeper! Love the veggies added!

  8. I love the added bacon in this recipe!

  9. Thank you so much for the tips! It was SO good!

  10. I love that there’s a bit of pork in this meatloaf recipe!

  11. A great classic meatloaf.

  12. This looks like a wonderful meatloaf recipe and thank you for all the tips on how to make it. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  13. The veggies in this are a game changer!

  14. Thank you for this meatloaf manifesto, Liz!! We love meatloaf and I can’t wait to try out your expert tips!!

  15. Happy New Year Liz! The meatloaf looks awesome, and I too like mixing beef and pork…thanks for the tips, I will try next time when making meatloaf. 
    Have a wonderful rest of the week!

  16. We love meatloaf! Even cold, sliced up in a sandwich! I love how you placed the bacon on top; not only delicious, but so pretty! Definitely comfort food this time of year!

  17. Great tips! I love meatloaf sandwiches the next day! Best part

  18. Great tips! I used to add a lot of grated vegetables when my kids were young, and it all works. I also always use ground pork. When I have to leave town, I always make a meat loaf because it’s something that my husband is capable of heating in the microwave! I make a big loaf for him, but I do love the muffin tin idea!

  19. I would kill for a meatloaf sandwich right now! I grew up with meatloaf on the menu. My Mom made it often. Fifteen or twenty years ago I spotted a meatloaf recipe in Gourmet magazine that I still use to this day. Pork to beef was even %’s. A popular caterer in Aspen even asked for the recipe, gave it some tweaks and still has it on her menu list. La De Da! I don’t think the caterer thinks Ketchup is chic enough for her meatloaf. As far as I am concerned, if a meatloaf recipe doesn’t include Ketchup, it’s not authentic meatloaf.

  20. I learned the hard way that meatloaf isn’t just throwing ground beef in a bowl with bread crumbs and eggs. Thank you for the tips and I’m looking forward to an awesome meatloaf sandwich.

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