The concept of meatloaf kind of makes me raise an eyebrow because, well, it’s a loaf of meat. But when it’s executed well it’s just so good. So filling, so cozy, and so delicious that I look forward to eating the leftovers over the next few days (hello meatloaf sandwich, I’m looking at you). This Classic Homemade Meatloaf recipe is the traditional meatloaf that we all know and love—tender, juicy, full of flavor, and with the perfectly tangy tomato glaze on top. It’s so perfect when paired with mashed potatoes and green beans. Like a plate of pure comfort!
The Secret to Good Meatloaf
Milk. The secret to good meatloaf is milk. It sounds weird, but it makes a HUGE difference. Milk hydrates the breadcrumbs that are used as a binder in meatloaf, which keeps the loaf super moist and tender.
During the testing phase for this recipe, I made one without the milk just to see if really made a difference and I’m here to say that the difference was ENORMOUS. The meatloaf without milk was dense, a little tough, and notably drier than the meatloaf made with milk. So don’t skip it! P.S. I’m sure that non-dairy milk would have the same effect.
Loaf Pan or Baking Sheet?
There are two camps when it comes to meatloaf: baking in a loaf pan or on a baking sheet. I’m team baking sheet, but I think ultimately it’s going to boil down to personal preference. I find that loaf pans don’t allow for quite enough evaporation so the bottom can get a little soupy. Baking sheets allow for a little more evaporation, leaving the meatloaf perfectly juicy and flavorful.
But if shaping is difficult for you or you want those perfect square edges, you might prefer a loaf pan.
How to Keep Meatloaf from Falling Apart
There are a couple of tricks to making a meatloaf that holds together in nice slices. Here are a few tips:
- Use a recipe that has the right amount of binders (egg and breadcrumbs). This is essentially the glue that holds the meat together.
- Use ground beef with a finer grind, or that has been double ground. Really coarse ground beef won’t mix as thoroughly with the binders and may crumble when sliced.
- Mince the onion as finely as possible. Large chunks of onion will prevent the loaf from holding together as well.
What to Serve with Meatloaf
My favorite pairing for meatloaf is what I have pictured here, Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Green Beans. It’s so simple, classic, and balanced with the meatloaf and its tangy glaze. But here are some other good side dishes for meatloaf:
- 1/2 cup ketchup ($0.40)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.02)
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.06)
- 1 tsp yellow mustard ($0.03)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, milk, and Worcestershire sauce. In a separate small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mince the onion.
- Add the ground beef, egg mixture, breadcrumb mixture, and minced onion to a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until evenly combined. Avoid over mixing.
- Place the meatloaf mixture on a rimmed baking dish and shape it into a loaf that is approximately 4-inches wide, 8-inches long, and 2-inches tall.
- In a separate small bowl, stir together the glaze ingredients (ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard). Spread the glaze evenly over the top and sides of the meatloaf.
- Bake the meatloaf for 50-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Allow the meatloaf to rest for 5-10 minutes after baking, then slice and serve.
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How to Make Classic Meatloaf – Step by Step Photos
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Start by pre-mixing some of the ingredients for the meatloaf so there will be less mixing required for the meat (overmixing the meat can make meatloaf tough). In a small bowl, whisk together ⅓ cup milk, one large egg, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. In a separate bowl, stir together ½ cup breadcrumbs, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Mince about a ½ cup onion. Make sure to chop or mince the onion as finely as possible. Chunky onion can make the meatloaf fall apart more easily.
Add the milk mixture, breadcrumb mixture, and minced onion to 1.5 lbs. ground beef (85/15). Mix with your hands until everything is evenly combined. Avoid overmixing.
Place the meatloaf mixture on a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish and shape it into a loaf that is approximately 8″ long, 4″ wide, and 2″ tall.
Next, combine the ingredients for the glaze. Stir together ½ cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon yellow mustard, and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.
Spread the glaze over the top and sides of the meatloaf.
Bake the meatloaf in the preheated 350ºF oven for 50-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.