The Meatloaf Recipe That’ll Turn You Into a Meatloaf Lover

5 from 10 votes
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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!

homemade meatloaf with peas

Looking for the best meatloaf recipe out there? I’ve got you.

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 like a big meatball you share.

A good recipe like this one is why meatloaf is so popular in America.

onion, worcestershire sauce, parsley, remaining salt, and the pepper.

How to make meatloaf taste really good.

Two things guarantee a meatloaf that tastes amazing:

  1. Proper browning. 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.
  2. Proper 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.

You could alternatively try my tasty 3-Ingredient Meatloaf Glaze.

fried onions and salt

What is the secret to moist meatloaf?

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs in milk to lock in moisture. The crumbs can hold a lot of moisture that meat simply can’t. 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.
  2. Cook to 160ºF. Overcooking the meatloaf is a culprit in having it dry out. Ground meat should always reach 165ºF for food safety, but it will continue cooking beyond this as it rests (this is called carryover cooking). Here’s my food scientist’s guide to key meatloaf temperatures for cooking and for doneness.
  3. And on that note, resting the meatloaf is also very important to let the juices reabsorb into the meat to make sure the meatloaf stays moist. If you cut into it immediately, the juices will all run out.
breadcrumbs with milk

How to make the very best meatloaf

  • Stir together breadcrumbs and milk. let stand to absorb.
  • Cook onion and garlic. Cool for a few minutes, then scrape into breadcrumb mixture.
  • Stir some ketchup into the breadcrumb mixture, along with Worcestershire sauce, parsley, remaining salt, and the pepper.
  • When mixture is cool, stir in the eggs then the ground meat. Use your hands to gently but thoroughly work the mixture together.
  • Scrape the meat mixture onto a prepared baking sheet and use your hands to shape it into a loaf shape.
  • Dollop on the remaining ketchup, using a spoon to spread it out evenly.
  • Bake in until center reads 160ºF.
  • Allow meatloaf to rest on pan for 10 minutes before slicing.
adding the egg to the meatloaf mixture

How do I keep my meatloaf from falling apart

  1. Choose the right recipe. Often if meatloaf falls apart, it is 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.
  2. Rest the meatloaf 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.
  3. Use breadcrumbs. They call simply hold more juices in that the meat can, including the egg binder. This makes the meatloaf beautifully tender while sturdy enough to form and slice.
shaping the meatloaf

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.

meatloaf covered with ketchup

What are some of the best meatloaf side dishes?

Don’t miss my collection of 31+ of the most delicious meatloaf side dishes or 35+ best healthy meatloaf sides.

What do I do with leftover meatloaf?

Leftover meatloaf is delicious in meatloaf 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.

Here’s the lowdown on how to reheat meatloaf (so it stays moist and juicy!, how to freeze meatloaf, and how long meatloaf lasts in the fridge.

Ultimate Meatloaf Recipe

FAQs



Is it better to add milk or water in meatloaf?

Without question, it is better to use milk in meatloaf. The added fat adds richness and moist texture to the meatloaf, and the added milk proteins encourage additional browning reactions (which means more flavor).

When baking meatloaf do you cover it with foil?

No, when baking meatloaf you should not cover it with foil. If you do, it will steam instead of roast, making a grey and soggy, unappealing meatloaf. Baking it uncovered means lots of browning and caramelizing, which is key for amazing flavor and texture in the meatloaf. Cover it only toward the end if your ketchup topping is getting too dark.

Why is my meatloaf always dry?

Your meatloaf may be dry because you’ve chosen the wrong recipe (try this one, it’s a definite gem), you’ve over-baked it (see my notes on what temperature to cook it to) or you haven’t allowed it to rest before slicing, which allowed the juices to run out instead of being reabsorbed into the meat. You may have also missed the breadrumbs-soaked-in-milk trick that is my true secret.

What can I put in meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs?

Instead of putting regular breadcrumbs in your meatloaf, you could panko, gluten-free breadcrumbs, or quick-cooking oats. Whichever you choose, be sure to do my soaking trick to lock in amazing moisture.

What can I put in meatloaf instead of eggs?

If you want to make this recipe egg free, no problem! Here are my favorite egg substitutes for meatloaf (that really work!).

You’ll Also Love Meatloaf with Brown Gravy: tender, savory meatloaf with the tastiest easy brown gravy. Total comfort food!

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5 from 10 votes

The Best Meatloaf Recipe Of Your Life

The best-ever meatloaf recipe, topped with a sticky, caramelized ketchup topping. The ultimate comfort food. My secret, easy trick keeps it moist and tender without falling apart. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • cup whole milk
  • 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
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Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and milk; 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 9×5″ 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.

Video

Notes

  • Soaking the breadcrumbs in milk is key to locking moisture into this delicious meatloaf. 
  • Cook to 160ºF. It won’t dry out and will continue to cook by carryover cooking as it rests.
  • Resting the meatloaf is very important to let the juices reabsorb into the meat to make sure the meatloaf stays moist. If you cut into it immediately, the juices will all run out.
  • A baking sheet is far superior to a loaf pan for making really tasty meatloaf, because there is more surface area exposed to the heat. All of the surface gets browned and caramelized, meaning more delicious flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 1061mg | Potassium: 482mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 263IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 55mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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33 Comments

  1. Michell says:

    What is the measurement in cups for 0.67 in the milk??

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Hi Michell, it looks like you accidentally clicked the “2x” button at the top of the recipe card. If you tap the “1x” again, you’ll see 1/3 cup. The recipe card automatically calculates the recipe quantities when you click the button to scale up and 0.67 cups is the doubled amount.

  2. Do na says:

    5 stars
    I put mine in a pie plate from a circle and put a glass upside down in the middle. When taken out of the oven let rest for at least 10 min. The glass creates a vacuum and the grease gets sucked up on the inside of the glass. Don’t remove glass until you remove all meatloaf from pan. Works like a charm.

  3. Dave Roberts says:

    5 stars
    Great taste and texture!

  4. Isora Orue says:

    Too much sodium for my family. How can we make it less salty?

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Hi Isora! You’d have to just reduce the quantity of salt to suit your needs.You could try using half?

  5. Jeanna says:

    5 stars
    First time ever making meatloaf but Jennifer’s recipe looked so yummy 😋
    Not only yummy but so easy to make – bonus I had all the ingredients!!!

  6. Kristi says:

    5 stars
    So yummy! I left off the ketchup on top, just because I like to serve it on the side for dipping. But that’s just a family thing. Great recipe!

  7. Gwen says:

    5 stars
    You were not lying, this meatloaf recipe is the best one I’ve ever tried!!

  8. Butch says:

    This is a good recipe for a guideline. I have been making meatloaf for over 30 years and have never used a recipe, admittedly each time my meatloaf is slightly different but still great. The way I make my meatloaf is quite similar to your recipe. I never sauté my onions, never use olive oil. Use 80% ground beef instead, use soda crackers or ritz crackers and very rarely use any milk. Country sausage, I found, adds a nice, tasty flavor.
    Meatloaf sandwiches are the frosting on the cake.

  9. Angela says:

    But guys, did the meatloaf remain together and a good slice??

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Sure does!

  10. Pam Wood says:

    5 stars
    I was happy to find this recipe. I am fond of typical beef only meatloaf with green peppers, but my (adult) daughter doesn’t like mine well enough for me to make for just us two. This recipe was a hit with her because it is sans the peppers and included the sausage. Thank you!

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Glad you enjoyed!