A little about the dish
This oven-baked meatloaf recipe is a classically American one with a hint of French influence (see mirepoix). American meatloaf is a descendant of an old German-American dish called ‘scrapple’ made by forming a loaf out of pork scraps and trimmings with cornmeal, flour, and seasoning then frying individual slices. Meatloaf was a significant dish during the great depression as it was cheap to make and allowed families to stretch their food budget.
Flavor & Seasoning
Because meatloaf is well, a loaf of ground beef, seasoning is important not just for flavor but also texture. Obviously salt and pepper are a must. Condiments like Worcester sauce, mustard, and ketchup add flavor and help keep the meatloaf moist. A mirepoix (the french version, not cajun) is a combination of diced onion, carrots, and celery. It’s used as a flavor booster for countless soups, stews, sauces, and other dishes. Sauteeing the mixture with some minced garlic and chili brings a whole new level to homemade meatloaf (remember to season with a touch of salt). For this recipe, we’re also using fresh thyme leaves and fresh, chopped parsley.
A large egg and 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs won’t just help keep the meatloaf together, it’ll help retain moisture. Keep in mind too much of either or both binders will make a dense meatloaf. Around the world, other binders like oatmeal are quite common but for this classic, we’re sticking with breadcrumbs and the egg. A common complaint about meatloaf is chunks of bread inside. This should only be an issue if you haven’t mixed the ingredients properly. Another sure way to avoid this is soaking them in a bit of warm water for a few minutes (especially if you’re using homemade bread crumbs).
Meatloaf is easy to dry out particularly when you’re using low-fat ground beef, so I suggest using at least an 80/20 ratio of lean beef to fat. If you’re looking to use beef with a lower fat ratio there are ways you can keep your beef from drying out. Adding 1/4 cup of ketchup to the beef, baking it covered with foil, using a glaze, and basting it occasionally with something like beef stock. That being said you can’t beat the moistness and flavor of the fat that comes naturally in beef.
Why does my meatloaf crumble?
Apart from dry meat, there are a couple of other issues you could run into when making this recipe. You want your meatloaf to be moist and tender, but not crumbly. Meatloaf the crumbles will be hell to cut and serve and the likely culprit will be that you didn’t combine the ingredients well enough (another would be a very dry meatloaf).
How to bake a meatloaf
Should I cover my meatloaf? The short answer is yes. While there are tons of recipes out there that tell you shouldn’t (some of them justifiably to let a glaze caramelize) when you bake something like ground beef for that long in the oven you’re better off covering it, removing it from the oven to glaze it, then finishing baking it uncovered. This will ensure your glaze doesn’t burn, and that your meatloaf doesn’t dry out.
Should I use a loaf tin? it depends on how you like it. Using a baking tray will give you crispier edges and leaves a slight char on the outside. If that’s your thing (it certainly is mine), then use a baking tray. Using a loaf tin will help with shaping the meatloaf (although it’s really not hard to do yourself).
How long do I bake my meatloaf? This will vary depending on how big your meatloaf is if you’re free-forming it or using a loaf tin, and the oven setting. For the fastest results use a fan oven at 350°F and bake for up to an hour. Finished beef will read an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove the meatloaf from the oven when an inserted thermometer reads between 155 and 160°F, when you rest your meatloaf it will keep cooking slightly.
Should I rest my meatloaf? Yes. No question about it, like you’d rest any other cur of meat you should rest your meatloaf. If you remove it from the oven slightly before that 160°F mark (155°F) then cover it with foil and rest it for 10-15 minutes your meatloaf will finish cooking itself and result in super moist, perfectly cooked meat.
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 chili, minced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 ½ lbs ground Beef
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup of Bread crumbs
- 1 large Egg
- 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- ¼ cup of Ketchup
- 1 tbsp distilled Vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the chili, garlic, carrot, onion, and celery. Sautee the mirepoix for 4-5 minutes with a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl with the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, eggs, Worcester sauce, herbs, sauteed vegetables, and mustard. Use your hands to combine it thoroughly into as big meatball.
- Place the seasoned beef onto a baking tray and form a loaf shape with your hands.
- Bake the meatloaf for covered with some foil for around 35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining a quarter cup of ketchup with 1 tablespoon of distilled vinegar and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
- Remove the meatloaf from the oven, brush with the glaze then bake for a further 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven when the internal temperature reads around 155°F.
- Cover the meatloaf with foil and rest for 10 minutes before serving.