The best meatloaf recipe you’ll ever try, with a sticky, caramelized topping. Total comfort food. My secret trick keeps it moist and tender without falling apart!
I don’t understand how anyone couldn’t love meatloaf. It’s so hearty, satisfying, and comforting nestled up with a mound of buttery mashed potatoes, a side of steamed beans, and a puddle of ketchup. Ultimate home food, if you ask me.
Perhaps there are some bad meatloaf recipes out there, but meatloaf done right? It’s flavourful, nicely seasoned, tender, and akin to a big meatball you share.
How to make meatloaf taste really good.
The key is proper browning and seasoning. Worcestershire sauce, garlic, parsley, and lots of fresh black pepper are our star flavour builders, plus adequate salt. If you’re unsure about the amount of salt, take a small spoonful of the raw mixture and cook it in a frying pan or microwave so that you can taste it and adjust if needed.
(See my article on how to “season to taste” in raw meat dishes.)
Ketchup has a home in the meatloaf mixture and on top of it. Inside, it adds moisture and tangy flavour. Outside it protects the meat from drying out, and caramelizes under the oven’s heat to create an irresistible sticky, charred layer.
For best browning, I form the meatloaf freehand on a parchment-lined baking sheet. This maximizes the surface area for browning and caramelization of the outer layer, preventing the soggy grey mass that you might have experienced if using an actual loaf pan.
Why does my meatloaf fall apart?
You may have had past anguish over meatloaf falling apart after cooking.
This is usually because there is too much liquid or add-ins (veggies, etc.) in the recipe and not enough binder (eggs act like glue). It’s a tricky balance, because you want a soft, tender loaf, not a tough dry one. A soft tender loaf, however, is more delicate. Try the recipe below, I find it strikes a perfect balance.
The second point is that the meatloaf must be rested for at least ten minutes after it comes out of the oven, to allow the juices to redistribute and the loaf to firm up slightly. That small amount of patience will reward you with beautiful, tidy slices.
Let me back up and tell you that I have this amazing meatball recipe. It’s a long-standing favourite in my house. The secret to those meatballs’ incredible tenderness is mixing bread soaked in milk into the meat mixture. I employ the same trick here, with fresh breadcrumbs in lieu of soft bread. This makes the meatloaf beautifully tender while sturdy enough to form and slice.
What meat should I use for meatloaf?
I used a combination of beef and pork. The beef is more flavourful, the pork is more rich and juicy. You could absolutely just use all beef — I’m pretty sure that’s all I had until I started making it myself. I like it either way.
What do I do with leftover meatloaf?
Leftover meatloaf is delicious in sandwiches or heated up by pan frying until crispy. I also like to crumble it into the leftover mashed potatoes and make potato cakes pan fried in butter (like fish cakes).
This meatloaf recipe makes enough for two full meals (at least) for our family of four. I’d argue that the leftovers might be the best part!
The Best Meatloaf Recipe Of Your Life
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup whole milk or sour cream
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 ½ tsp coarse salt divided use
- 3 large cloves garlic
- ¼ + ⅓ cup ketchup divided use
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried
- 1 ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork or just use 2 lbs total ground beef
- In a large bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and milk (or sour cream); let stand to absorb. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then cook onion with 1 tsp salt until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more. Cool for a few minutes, then scrape into breadcrumb mixture.
- Stir 1/4 cup ketchup into the breadcrumb mixture, along with Worcestershire sauce, parsley, remaining salt, and the pepper. When mixture is cool to the touch, stir in the eggs then the ground meat. Use your hands to gently but thoroughly work the mixture together.
- Scrape the meat mixture onto the prepared pan and use your hands to shape it into roughly 9x5" loaf shape. Dollop on the remaining 1/3 cup ketchup, using a spoon to spread it out evenly.
- Bake in center rack of oven for about 1 hour, or until center reads 160ºF. Allow meatloaf to rest on pan for 10 minutes before slicing.