Meatloaf is an old-school recipe that everyone should know how to make. It might not be the sexiest piece of food, but beauty is in the eye of the behold and damn, is it delish—especially in a sandwich the next day OR with a fried egg on top! Here are our tips for achieving the best possible meatloaf:
1. Cut your veggies small. And cook them first!
Big chunks of vegetables will ultimately lead to a crumblier meatloaf. We want you to take that extra 3 or 4 minutes and really try to get a fine dice or mince going. Any piece bigger than 1/4" will inevitably get caught in your knife's path when you go to slice, ruining that clean cut as you plate. If you'd rather break out the food processor, go ahead and toss in your roughly chopped veggies and give it a few pulses to help you break them down further without more knifework. (The trade-off here is more dishes to wash.)
You could get away with mixing raw onion, carrots, and celery into the meat before baking (they'll technically cook in the oven), but you’ll get way more flavor by sautéing them first. The time in the pan with oil and heat will help them caramelize, which will concentrate their flavor and vegetal sweetness, leading to a tastier loaf.
2. You need eggs.
Trust us, don’t skip them. The eggs help bind the meat, bread crumbs, and vegetables together into an actual loaf. They also make the meatloaf moist, tender, and even more flavorful. Without them, the beef would be dense and dry. No one likes dense and dry!
3. You can substitute the bread crumbs.
Ground beef can be overwhelmingly heavy in its fattiness, especially when baked in a loaf pan where the rich juices have nowhere to escape. Bread crumbs help lighten the richness up by absorbing that fat and gelatinizing it in place while simultaneously making the loaf more structurally sound. We usually use plain bread crumbs, but seasoned, panko, or fresh and homemade bread crumbs work too. You can even use almond flour, like we did in our Bacon-Wrapped Keto Meatloaf—it's a great way to add a nutty flavor and cut down on some carbs.
4. Season generously.
Under-seasoning food is unfortunately a very common kitchen mistake. Generally speaking, you want about 1 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of meat. Just keep in mind that you’re seasoning your mirepoix (cooked carrot, onion, and celery medley) too, so don't exactly go overboard with the salt either! Find the balance, or, just make double the sauce and serve with extra glaze!
5. Use a meat thermometer.
Meatloaf tends to look done on the outside before it’s actually ready and fully cooked on the inside. And it won't hold together properly unless it's fully cooked! So even if you like a medium-rare burger, you do not want a medium-rare meatloaf. Use an instant-read meat thermometer and don't pull the meatloaf until it reaches 155°.
6. Let it rest.
Before slicing your meatloaf, let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Otherwise, it’ll be harder to get clean slices if you cut into it while it's still warm. Since it was in the oven for over an hour, you won’t risk it going cold too quickly.
If you've made this recipe, drop us a comment down below and let it us know how it went!
Editor's Note: The introduction to this recipe was edited on December 9, 2021 to include more information. This recipe was edited on September 30, 2020.
onion, finely chopped
carrot, finely chopped
stalk celery, finely chopped
fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
clove garlic, minced
large eggs, lightly beaten
packed brown sugar
Freshly chopped parsley, for serving
- Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9"-x-5" loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 minutes. Add thyme and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Turn off heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Let cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine vegetable mixture, ground beef, bread crumbs, and eggs. Press into prepared loaf pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup and brown sugar.
- Brush meatloaf with half the ketchup mixture and bake for 45 minutes. Brush with remaining ketchup mixture and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the middle of the loaf reaches 155°. Let cool 15 minutes.
- Slice and garnish with parsley to serve.