The best meatloaf recipe topped with a sweet and tangy glaze. Learn how to make a meatloaf from scratch that’s fork-tender and juicy by adding a panade. For maximum flavor, the beef is mixed with breadcrumbs, garlic, onions, celery, parmesan cheese, and savory seasonings, then baked until golden brown.
Meatloaf is all about easy weeknight meal preparation and comfort food satisfaction. We’ve all grown up with our own versions that our parents used to whip up to feed the family. I’ve taken a classic meatloaf recipe and used simple pantry ingredients for convenience while boosting the flavor and juiciness of each serving.
When on a budget, using ground beef can create a tasty dinner solution that shines on the plate without the high price tag. Meatloaf is an attractive dish to prepare because once it’s mixed, the oven does the larger part of the cooking while you prepare the sauce. The combination of savory beef and a thick sweet tomato-based glaze that gets slathered over the top makes for wide eyes and rumbling stomachs.
The key to tender and juicy meat
A panade is a mixture of bread or breadcrumbs that is combined with broth or milk to create a paste. The starchy mixture that’s formed and combined with the ground beef coats the proteins and then sets into a gel once cooked. The gel prevents the proteins from binding together too tightly which is the shrinking that you see when meat is cooked. The panade keeps the moisture in the meatloaf while retaining most of its shape.
For this recipe, I use flakey panko breadcrumbs, chicken broth, and eggs to make the panade. I let the breadcrumbs soak until most of the moisture gets absorbed, ensuring that the starches hydrate. I prefer the size of the larger Japanese breadcrumbs versus the Italian style, as it creates softer texture in the meatloaf. The eggs also add extra fat to the meatloaf, preventing the meat from drying out, something I’m sure we’ve all tasted before.
How to make a simple meatloaf taste better
Using fresh vegetables, aromatics, and pantry ingredients that contain glutamates are the easiest way to naturally enhance the flavor potential of boring ground beef. Sauteing the onions, garlic, and celery lightly browns the produce which enhances the sweetness and taste. Pre-cooking the vegetables guarantees more flavor, even before the meatloaf is cooked.
Tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and Worcestershire are rich in glutamates, molecules that are high in umami and savory notes. These are added to instantly increase the beefy, savory flavors of the ground meat. Chopped parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, and paprika are herbs and seasonings that add an earthy taste to the recipe, as the beef by itself is bland.
Tips for cooking the best meatloaf
- Select ground beef that is about 80 to 85% lean meat. The fat adds flavors and moisture.
- Use a loaf pan to create a compressed, domed shape so excess juices get collected in the bottom of the pan.
- Baking at a moderate temperature of 350-degrees gently cooks the meat and prevents drying out.
- Add the tomato-based glaze at the end of cooking so that the sauce clings to the surface and creates a flavorful sticky crust.
Add a glaze for extra flavor
One of the highlights of digging into a piece of meatloaf is grabbing an edge with the tangy sauce. Most recipes use a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar, for a barbecue-like flavor. However, I reverse engineered a version to use many of the ingredients that are already in the meatloaf mixture so you don’t have to buy extra stuff.
My recipe glaze is a combination of pure maple syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce balance nicely. To set the glaze on top of the meatloaf, the glaze is brushed on the surface multiple times then briefly roasted at 500-degrees to quickly thicken the sauce. This process gets repeated a total of three times, to ensure that the glaze is rich and flavorful.
Serve this with
When my family comes home to the smell of meatloaf baking in the oven, they can’t wait for it to be ready. I like to serve it with and side of fluffy mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and crispy green beans. It’s a feast that makes for satisfied and happy eaters!
More beef recipes
How to successfully bind the meatloaf together
Don’t serve up dry meatloaf or one that doesn’t hold well together. In order to keep the huge ground beef patty together, incorporating a starchy breadcrumb panade, melty cheese, and eggs keeps the meat sliceable. The egg proteins and starches in the bread will solidify as they cook, keeping the moisture from escaping while adding structure to the meatloaf.
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (120 ml) unsalted chicken broth
- 1 cup (75 g) panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (10 g) minced garlic
- ¾ cup (115 g) finely minced yellow onion
- ½ cup (65 g) finely chopped celery
- 2 pounds (908 g) ground beef, 85% lean ground beef
- 2 ounces (58 g) parmesan cheese, finely grated, about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon (3 g) finely chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) soy sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) paprika, sweet or smoked
- 1 teaspoon (7 g) kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chopped thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ⅓ cup (79 ml) pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup (52 g) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Set oven rack to the middle position, preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together eggs and chicken broth.
- Add breadcrumbs and whisk to combine and allow to absorb all of the moisture.
- Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, once hot add garlic then saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add onions and celery, saute until tender and the moisture is released and evaporated, 6 minutes.
- Cool the vegetable mixture before adding to the meatloaf by transferring to a small plate and placing in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl add ground beef, breadcrumb mixture, cooked vegetables, Parmesan cheese, tomato paste, parsley, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, pepper, and thyme.
- Use hands to gently mix meatloaf ingredients until combined, about 1 minute, being careful not to overmix.
- Transfer meatloaf mixture to a lightly greased 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan.
- Press meatloaf into the bottom and sides of the pan, then use hands to make a smooth and slightly domed surface.
- Bake in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 135 to 140ºF (57 to 60ºC), about 45 to 55 minutes.
- Carefully remove meatloaf from the oven and carefully drain off excess juices from the bottom of the pan.
- To make the glaze, preheat oven to 500ºF (260ºC).
- In a small bowl whisk together glaze ingredients; maple syrup, ¼ cup tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
- Use a brush or spoon to spread an even layer of glaze on the top and sides of the meatloaf, bake for 3 minutes.
- Brush a second layer of glaze, bake for 3 minutes.
- Brush a third and final layer of glaze, bake until sauce is lightly browned and bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Allow meatloaf to cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
- Once slightly cooled, cut into even sized slices. Serve with extra glaze on the side.