Rich, moist, succulent. Savoury, flavourful, comforting, and it slices beautifully - this seriously is the best meatloaf recipe. You'll achieve some awesome bargaining power with your family if you make this tasty meatloaf on a regular basis. (Skip to recipe.)
Meatloaf has been one of our favourite family meals over the years. I can't think of how many meatloaves I've made in my life so far. Next time I have trouble sleeping, I'll just picture a long line of lumpy brown meatloaves floating by in front of me, and start in on the count. Who wants to count cute fluffy sheep anyway?
In the beginning, my meatloaves used to be catch-alls for emptying whatever bottles of sauces or condiments I had in the fridge, or any bits of leftovers hanging about. Last dregs from the ketchup or mustard bottles - in they went. One lonely pickle in the jar - minced, and in it went. That strange bottle of hot sauce a friend brought as a gift from who knows what country - let's shake in a glug of that. A spoonful of leftover mashed potatoes - might as well. You see how it goes?
The meatloaves were always tasty, and always devoured by the family (four hungry kids will eat anything in sight), but some were definitely better than others. And some were much more easy to slice than others. Crumbly meatloaves can still be scooped out with a serving spoon, but if you like meatloaf sandwiches like we do, then a nice sliceable meatloaf is appreciated. Over the years I've perfected our family-favourite meatloaf until I've got it down to the ingredients that work best together. I figured out a few tricks that turned out consistent winners, and since then, great meatloaf every time.
My Three Top Tips for the Best Meatloaf
1. Some pork in the mix. Using only ground beef makes a tasty meatloaf, but one which can sometimes be a bit loose in texture. As soon as you substitute some of that ground beef with ground pork - you've turned the loaf into something much better than the sum of its parts. (Think: why are most sausages made with pork in the mix?) You can use half beef and half pork or 2 parts beef to 1 part pork. The pork binds much better with the beef and holds together well to make that nice light-textured loaf that still slices beautifully. It also adds a more complex flavour and moistness to the meatloaf that you don't get with beef alone. So, pork, people. Pork.
2. Quick Oats as the binder. I've always used oatmeal as a binder in my burgers, meatballs, and meatloaves - because that's what my mom used. I think it adds a nice wholegrain touch, too. (I make sure to use certified gluten-free oatmeal, now.) I've tried using old-fashioned rolled oats - the large-flake ones. In a pinch, they're okay, but the quick cooking rolled oats are cut finer and make a smoother mixture, getting into the little spaces between the crumbles of ground meat and binding everything together better. They've got more surface area than the large-flaked oats, and they're a little stickier than breadcrumbs (think porridge), making for a beautiful meatloaf indeed.
3. Season your mixture well. Meatloaf should be much more well seasoned than burgers would be, or even than meatballs, which are usually served in some kind of a seasoned sauce. Use enough salt and pepper and other savoury seasonings that the meatloaf can stand up on its own, flavourwise, that you don't need a gravy or sauce to help it along. You'll really appreciate that the next day, too, when you pack a tasty meatloaf sandwich for your lunch. I like to use onions and garlic, and a bit of dry mustard. Sweet paprika adds a lovely mild flavour and gives the meatloaf a touch of warm colour, which really helps its visual appeal, both when served warm and when sliced cold.
Easy Peasy Meatloaf
I've served this meatloaf to guests countless times, always to rave reviews. I sometimes feel a bit sheepish about serving meatloaf to company, especially when I see their attempts to cover their initial doubts as I announce what's for dinner. But it never fails that skepticism turns to lip-smacking enthusiasm (and plates held out for repeated helpings) when they taste this simple but delicious loaf. This is NOT the flavourless, crumbly meatloaf they've had in their childhoods. This one is moist and zesty and full of flavour. It's got the savoury base notes of aromatic onion and garlic, with the lilting sweetness of the paprika and the welcome zip from a bit of mustard. Then there's the sweet, salty counterpoint of the sticky glaze and bacon on top. Meatloaf score!
Meatloaf Sandwiches are the Best
I like to make a big enough meatloaf to have lots left over for sandwiches the next day. Slice the cold loaf nice and thick (about as thick as a pencil), butter two slices of a good wholegrain bread, slather on some mayonnaise and a good dollop of ketchup. (Yes, ketchup. It really does make a meatloaf sandwich great.) Plonk the meatloaf between the bread slices and devour. It's tempting to eat it right there, standing at the counter, but sit down and enjoy. Or pack it in your lunch and you'll work twice as hard all morning so the time goes by quickly and you can tear into that sandwich as soon as it's time to eat.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The ketchup glaze on top of the meatloaf is simple but effective for adding a sweetly spiced touch, though if you choose not to use it, the meatloaf is still fantastic without it. Topping the meatloaf with bacon is optional, but it adds a great flavour and helps keep it moist.
You can just pack the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan and bake it, but I like the rustic look of a free-form loaf and I find the outside bakes to a more brown and crispy finish.
Serves 6 (or serves 4 with great leftovers)
- 1 lb (454gms) lean ground beef
- 1 lb (454gms) ground pork
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup (65gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats), gluten-free if necessary
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup (60ml) ketchup
- 3 slices bacon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Get out a 9x13" or 8x10" glass baking dish.
Put the ground meats into a large bowl. Mince the onion finely in a food chopper, food processor, or by hand. Press the garlic through a garlic press, grate it on a microplane, or mince it finely by hand. Add the onion, garlic, eggs, rolled oats, paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper to the ground meat. Mix everything well with your hands.
Plop the seasoned meat mixture into the glass baking dish. Shape it into a loaf, about 9 inches (23cm) long and 4 inches (10cm) wide. Alternately you can pack the meat mixture into a 9x5" loaf pan. Spread the ketchup on top of the loaf. If using the bacon slices, cut them in half and lay them side by side over the loaf, to cover the top completely.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the meat reaches a temperature of 160°F/70°C on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Cut into thick slices (1 inch/2.5 cm) to serve.
Serves 4 plus a few leftovers for sandwiches the next day.
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Larger-Sized Meatloaf to Feed the Crew
Serves 8 to 10
- 2 lbs (900gms) lean ground beef
- 1 lb (454gms) ground pork
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup (100gms) quick oats (small-flake rolled oats)
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) dry mustard powder
- 2¼ teaspoons salt
- 1¼ teaspoons pepper
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) ketchup
- 5 slices bacon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Get out a 9x13" (23x33cm) glass baking dish.
Put the ground meats into a large bowl. Mince the onion finely in a food chopper, food processor, or by hand. Press the garlic through a garlic press, grate it on a microplane, or mince it finely by hand. Add the onion, garlic, eggs, rolled oats, paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix everything well with your hands. Scrape the meat mixture into the baking dish.
Shape it into a loaf, about 12 inches (30cm) long and 4 inches (10cm) wide. Spread the ketchup on top of the loaf. If using the bacon slices, cut them in half and lay them side by side over the loaf, to cover the top completely.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the meat reaches a temperature of 160°F/70°C on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Cut into thick slices (1 inch/2.5 cm) to serve.
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