The Best Meatloaf

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The Best Meatloaf

Good old-fashioned meatloaf stands alongside hot dogs and apple pie as iconic American foods. That’s not to say any of those dishes actually originated in America, but that hasn’t stopped us from embedding them deeply into our culture and lore, and making them our own.

Meatloaf especially is a product of ingenuity and making-do as thrifty, waste-not home cooks combine low-cost ingredients to make a satisfying main dish that will stretch ingredients and feed a family. Yet, as a highly customizable recipe, meatloaf can be found everywhere from classic diners to high-end restaurants, to everyday dinner tables.

Why This Recipe Works

Meatloaf recipes are typically made of ground meats mixed with vegetables, seasonings, and crushed crackers or fine breadcrumbs, and are held together with a binder; usually an egg or two. This top-rated recipe for Best Meatloaf demonstrates how to make a meatloaf using the most simple ingredients and tried-and-tested techniques:

Meat mixture
This recipe for Best Meatloaf uses extra-lean ground beef, which means the fat-to-meat ratio is about 4 percent fat to 96 percent lean. The low ratio of fat results in a meatloaf with minimal grease. But since fat carries flavor, you’ll want to add some back to keep blandness at bay. By adding a touch of sour cream to the mixture, this recipe benefits from that little extra fat plus a hint of tangy flavor at the same time. Note: adding milk is optional and may only be necessary if you’re cooking at higher altitudes.

Sautéed vegetables
Cooking minced aromatics (a fancy term for the onion and garlic) in butter before adding it to the meat mixture mellows the flavors and ensures you won’t bite into the sharp taste of onion and garlic.
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Flavor boosters
There’s nothing shy about the taste of Worcestershire sauce, and adding it to the mix along with tomato sauce brings sweet and savory flavor to every bite. A top glaze of tomato sauce and ketchup creates a delectable sauce to finish the dish.

Baking technique
How long to cook meatloaf depends on the size of the loaf and the temperature of the oven. Ideally, you want to fully cook the inside to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). This recipe for Best Meatloaf gives you a clever 3-step approach: You’ll bake the meatloaf for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) to fully cook the inside, and then increase the heat to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 minutes to give the outside a tasty crust. Finally, you’ll brush the meatloaf with tomato sauce and ketchup, and bake it for 10 more minutes to caramelize the glaze.

Tips for Success

Don’t overwork the mix
Combine the ingredients until they just come together, otherwise you’ll end up with a dense, compacted meatloaf.

Think small
I’m talking about the size of the solid add-ins. Cut the onions and garlic (or any other vegetables you might add) into very small, uniform pieces before sautéeing them. Crush the crackers and crumble the breadcrumbs until they’re very fine. This helps make a more uniform meatloaf texture.

Let it rest before slicing
Just like with any roasted meat, meatloaf needs to sit for a bit (about 10 minutes) so it can reabsorb the juices before you slice and serve.
  The Best Meatloaf

Read more: 5 Secrets for Making Better Meatloaf

Allrecipes Community Tips and Praise

Home cook Brandi’ Smith raves, “This was the first meatloaf I have ever made and the only real change I made was to use Italian breadcrumbs and a dash of Italian seasoning, and it was phenomenal! I didn’t have a meat thermometer, but the timing was perfect! My husband took one bite and said it tasted like his mom’s! I think next time I will use half ground sirloin and half ground pork as another suggested…”

“I made this tonight for my family and it was a great meatloaf! The only thing I changed on this recipe was I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. Anyway…this turkey meatloaf was absolutely fantastic! Oh yeah…one other thing I did was use a cup of seasoned bread crumbs instead of the sliced bread. My whole family said this was ‘the best meatloaf I have ever made.'” —JoJo

Mandy says, “My husband and I (who are NOT big meatloaf fans) loved the heck out of this recipe. It was painfully simple and simply delicious. I might add some seasonings (perhaps an Italian blend) the next time around just to experiment with the taste a little. It was very moist and a certain keeper in my recipe box. Thanks for sharing it!”

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Editorial contributions by Vanessa Greaves

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