Pizza may be Americans’ favorite food to eat in times of stress, at least according to a recent Harris Poll, but when it comes to classic comfort food, nothing beats meatloaf. For many, a plate of meatloaf conjures up cozy childhood memories. When made right, it’s hearty, savory, and delicious.
Unfortunately for meatloaf lovers, this dish can also go awfully wrong. (Just check out this collection of meatloaf fails if you don’t believe us.) For every person who’s obsessed with his or her mom’s best meatloaf recipe, there’s another who can’t stand the stuff, probably because slices of subpar meatloaf were forced upon them in the past. Whether it’s dry, flavorless, or greasy, a bad meatloaf is hard to choke down. And then there’s the name, which doesn’t do the dish any favors.
“I’ve decided that it’s actually the word ‘loaf’ that has contributed the most to meatloaf being such a maligned food,” Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman writes on her blog. But once you get over the name and start thinking about what goes into a traditional meatloaf, it’s easy to see why it’s a food so many people love. “Focus, instead, on the simplicity of the ingredients: a beautiful meat mixture bound together with bread and eggs,” Drummond suggests.
While there are virtually endless varieties of meatloaf you can make, including those with turkey, pork, and veal, Drummond’s meatloaf recipe is simple and traditional. It calls for ground beef, white bread, fresh herbs, and Parmesan cheese. Then, it’s topped with bacon and a sweet, ketchup-based sauce.
Best Meatloaf Recipe
Not only is this meatloaf recipe from The Pioneer Woman delicious, but it’s also very easy to make. Prepping the loaf takes about 15 minutes, and you don’t even need a loaf pan. Instead, it cooks on a broiler pan, which helps to catch the drippings, avoiding the problem of soggy, greasy meatloaf. Serves 8.
For the meatloaf
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 slices white bread
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 heaping cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- Fresh-ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- 4 whole eggs
- 10 slices thin or regular bacon
For the sauce
- 1½ cups ketchup
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- Tabasco to taste
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the bread slices in a bowl and pour the milk over. Set aside and let the bread soak for several minutes.
Combine the ground beef, milk and bread, Parmesan cheese, seasoned salt, salt, black pepper, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then pour over the meat mixture. Wash your hands. Then, mix the ingredients by hand until combined. Form the meat mixture into a loaf on a broiler pan. You’ll want to line the bottom of the broiler pan to catch the drippings. Lay bacon slices over the top of the loaf, tucking them under the meatloaf.
Make the sauce. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and hot sauce in a bowl. Pour one-third of the mixture over the top of the bacon. Use a spoon to spread evenly over the loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes. Pour another third of the sauce over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes. Slice and serve with remaining sauce and mashed potatoes.
Making a good meatloaf doesn’t require any fancy cooking skills, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you get started. Most important is picking the right kind of meat.
Lean meat equals a dry meatloaf. For an all-beef loaf, Bon Appétit recommends choosing a grind with at least 15% fat to avoid pulling a tasteless, dried-out brick from the oven. Consider grinding your own meat at home or have your butcher do it for you since Epicurious says it reduces the risk of contamination with bacteria like E. coli.
When mixing up your meat, bread, and eggs, use your hands, and take care not to overwork the beef, or you’ll end up with a dense and rubbery final product. When you take the meatloaf out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. “This gives the juices time to redistribute and settle,” The Kitchn explains. “Slice into your loaf too soon and the juices will seep out, leaving you with a drier meatloaf.”