How to Make Homemade Meatloaf – A Classic

Do you enjoy homemade meatloaf? Every now and then I have a craving for this classic meat and potato dish. It reminds me of my childhood when we’d have meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans at least twice a month.

Classic homemade meatloaf with a tasty sauce on top.

Also Read: Mashed Potatoes, Pan Fried Frozen Green Beans, Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I don’t make it nearly as often, but when I do, I’m reminded of how easy, economical and tasty it is. And the whole family – young and old enjoy it.

meatloaf on plate with potatoes
Pear and pomegranate salad, pan fried frozen beans, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

Do you notice the carrots, onions and oats? This is how my mom taught me to make meatloaf. I think my mom added them to extend the meatloaf – money was tight growing up on the farm and she was a master at stretching our dollars. Not only that, but all those veggies and mushrooms also help keep this meatloaf moist and tender. And a little added veggies never bothered anyone!

meatloaf ingredients in bowl
Carrots, onions, mushrooms, bread crumbs and oats are standard additions to our homemade meatloaf.

Top Tips for Tender Meatloaf

Do not overmix!

By squishing the meat too much you’ll create a very dense or tough meatloaf – so go easy. Combine ingredients and place in pan, that’s it.

Add moisture.

Add veggies, herbs and mushrooms to add extra moisture and flavour. Some of our favourites include onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, bell peppers and parsley. If you want them to be less noticeable, sauté them before adding.

Don’t avoid fat.

It’s no secret that fat is key to flavour and tenderness. Ground beef will provide a more tender meatloaf than ground poultry. Regular ground beef will be more tender than lean ground beef. You decide what to use, just be aware that the more lean your meat, the less tender the final meatloaf.

Another way to add fat is to sauté your veggies in oil or butter before mixing in.

Use breadcrumbs or oats.

Breadcrumb and oats don’t just make the meat go further to save you money, they actually have an important function in keeping meatloaf tender. They help soak up and lock in moisture.

Bake just right.

Bake at 350°F just until it’s done – no higher and no longer. Higher heat will cook the loaf faster, but it can also dry out the meat. And use a meat thermometer to know you’re meatloaf is done just right. Take it out of the oven at 160°F/71°C. If you want to bake and caramelize the sauce on top, put it under the broiler for a minute or two at the very end.

Let it rest.

Once out of the oven, cover and let rest for 10 minutes to let the juices get absorbed inside the loaf. It will also make cutting the loaf much easier. If you cut it right away, it will crumble and juices will be everywhere!

texture of meatloaf slices

Classic Meatloaf Recipe

meatloaf sliced and ready to serve
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Classic Meatloaf

A classic comfort food. This meatloaf is moist, tender and packs additional nutrients thanks to the addition of carrots and mushrooms. This recipe makes 2 loaves so you can feed a big family or freeze one for a quick meal another day.
Prep : 20 mins
Cook : 50 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 10
Author: Getty Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 carrot finely grated
  • 4 white or cremini mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup oat flakes
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper optional
  • Glaze
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.
  • Lightly grease two 8 x 4 loaf pans.
  • Place ground beef in a large mixing bowl and make a well shape in the center.
  • Place finely chopped and grated vegetables on top of the meat, keeping the well in the center.
  • Place bread crumbs and oats on top of veggies, keeping the well in the center.
  • Add egg, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and peppers to the well.
  • Mix together all ingredients. Skip the spoon and use your hands for best results. Wet your hands with cold water (prevents meat from sticking) and mix ingredients just until blended. Over-mixing will cause your meatloaf to become tough.
  • Press meat mixture into prepared loaf pans. Mix glaze ingredients in small bowl and pour onto top of loaves.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a meat thermometer in the center of the loaf reaches 160°F or 71°C.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Allowing it to rest will redistribute all the juices and allow you to slice it without crumbling.

Notes

Freeze the extra loaf – either before or after cooking.
Glaze alternatives: BBQ sauce, ketchup, salsa, pizza sauce, etc.
Makes 2 loaves, each serves 5
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Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 311kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 19g | Sodium: 472mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: comfort food, ground beef, meatloaf
glaze on finished meatloaf
Don’t skip the glaze! In fact, you may want to double it!

Other Classic Comfort Food Ideas

These are some of the classics I grew up with – any of them bring back memories for you?

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Homemade Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas

Spinach Ricotta Pasta Bake

Tofu Shepherd’s Pie

Rhubarb Pulled Pork

Classic Beef and Bean Chili

Beef Stew with Red Wine

When was the last time you had meatloaf? What foods make you feel nostalgic? Let me know in the comments below or via Instagram at #getgettys or Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist. And be sure to rate the recipe!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

First Published in 2014. Updated 2021

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