Meatloaf: Back to Basics

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Dear Home Ec 101 Ladies,

I was talking to my sweetie yesterday about my inability to make a meatloaf. I have tried everything. I once bought a pan with holes in the bottom that would drain the grease into another pan – this was to make my meatloaf grease free but delicious. It was nasty. I’ve tried my Mom’s recipe, my stepmom’s recipe, Betty Crocker’s recipe, and some church lady’s recipe. Nasty. I once made a meatloaf so dense that it tasted like a gigantic, flavorless hamburger patty. My family nicknamed it ‘Meat Brick”…this is not good! I’ve tried different grades of beef, swapping breadcrumbs for crushed captain crunch cereal (not too bad), tomatoey loaf, barbecue loafs, I’ve tried it all.

Can you please provide me with a perfect meatloaf recipe and step-by-step instructions on exactly how to make and bake it? I would be forever grateful and my family would be giddy.


~Loafless in Louisville

Heather says:

This is a question I can really sink my teeth into. Memorable meatloaves are less about individual recipes than they are about technique and ratios.

This is a great recipe that lends itself to many variations.

Easy Recipe and Technique for Making Meatloaf

Basic Meatloaf

  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (or sage, basil, oregano, or my favorite Cajun!*)

Optional Glaze

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard

*reduce the salt if using a premixed spice that contains sodium

Preaheat the oven to 350°F.

Gently crumble the meat into a large bowl. The key to a tender meatloaf is to handle the meat as little as possible. To ensure easy mixing, gently seperate the ground bits and make a well (depression) in the center.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, you can substitute crushed crackers or stuffing mix if desired, evenly over the contents in the bowl.

In a second bowl, stir together the milk, beaten eggs, and seasoning. Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well you created in the meat. With clean hands fold the meat toward the center. Do this by grasping the side of the bowl with one hand, to hold it steady. Slide the other under the meat and fold it toward the middle. Rotate the bowl and repeat. Only repeat this step until the meat is just mixed.

I prefer to cook my loaves free form. Gently pat the meat into a loaf shape on a clean baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for approximately an hour, but check the temperature after 45 minutes and spread with the glaze, if desired. Cook for 10 – 15 more minutes. The meatloaf is done when it reaches 160° in the center.


  • If using pre-seasoned bread crumbs, reduce the salt in the recipe.
  • Try using 1/2 bulk Italian sausage and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning.
  • Some swear by a 50:50 mixture of ground pork and ground beef.
  • I like to add grated vegetables such as carrot or zucchini into the mix.
  • Finely diced bell pepper is a nice touch.
  • When making variations that call for cheese or wet ingredients like BBQ sauce, reduce the milk.

Finally, I love leftover meatloaf even more than the original meal. It makes a great sandwich or an excellent addition crumbled into vegetable soup.


Best Meatloaf Recipe
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11 thoughts on “Meatloaf: Back to Basics”

  1. Line your loaf pan with foil – makes it easier to pop out and clean.

    Chop 1 red onion, 1 red bell pepper and one chili if you like it spicy.

    Mix with a pound of lean ground beef, one egg, and half a cup of quaker oats. I add a few dashes of garlic salt or occasionally some Lawry’s seasoning salt as well. Some people make theirs with a splash of worchestershire.

    Bake at 350 for an hour, and during the last ten minutes, cover the top with ketchup or half ketchup with half heinz 57 sauce.

    Comes out sooo yummy!

    My ex mother-out-law makes hers with lipton onion soup mix, which is nice, but if I do that, I use french onion soup instead (canned french onion soup is great for adding to roasts for cooking as well).


  2. I use oats instead of breadcrumbs too. Sometimes I use Saltines. I don’t do milk, I do an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce.
    I’ll have to try the ratio method… I do “two handfuls of oats, a shake of garlic, splash of ketchup” cooking and sometimes the meatloaf falls apart (it’s still good though!)

    Something I’ve found out the hard way: You cannot make meatloaf by substitutin ground turkey for any part of the ground beef. Only four legged animals seem to make good meatloaf!

    Mama Says

  3. I use ground turkey instead of ground beef, eggs, and stuffing instead of breadcrumbs. I also use mushroom gravy in the mix and on top. I use a stoneware mini-loaf pan, and they turn out pretty well. One mini-loaf is enough for me and my husband, so I freeze the other three. Later, I thaw out a loaf and cut it up into square “meatballs” for spaghetti. I think I found the recipe in “Taste of Home” a few years ago.

  4. I also agree. maybe you can treat yourself to like, an in-home massage or something to make up for it. :).Since I am a man I will not submit an idea of how you should indulge yourself. But, I will say that he better bring you back a sandwich!

  5. Yummy! We add shredded zucchini in our meatloaf- it's a veggy filler that hubby didn't even notice was in there until I told him :D. I'm thinking I should get a mini loaf pan, so I can make these portable for lunch. 1/2 ground sausage sounds delicious. Thanks for the helpful hints on seasoning and preparation! 😀


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