Meatloaf

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Impress the family with a simple gourmet meatloaf topped with sweet and tangy glaze. No dried-out brick here. This recipe yields fork-tender and juicy slices!

two slices of meatloaf on a plate served with mashed potatoes
Table of Contents
  1. The key to tender and juicy meat
  2. Making a panade
  3. Saute the vegetables
  4. Meat selection
  5. Seasonings to enhance the meat flavor
  6. Don’t overmix!
  7. Pan selection
  8. How long to cook meatloaf
  9. Add a glaze for extra flavor
  10. Serve this with
  11. FAQ
  12. Meatloaf Recipe

With a few enhancements, creating a gourmet dinner using ground beef is possible. A classic meatloaf is easy to prepare because once mixed, the oven does the larger part of the cooking process while you mix the sauce. My recipe uses simple pantry ingredients to amp up the flavor and juiciness of each serving.

To tackle the biggest challenge of dry and crumbly pieces, I add a panade. You’ve most likely used it before when making meatballs, but it’s so much more than just a binder. It locks in moisture and keeps each slice tender. The combination of savory beef and a thick sweet tomato-based glaze delivers flavorful results. Pile on top of creamy mashed potatoes, and you’ve got a satisfying meal and hopefully a few leftovers.

The key to tender and juicy meat

Adding a panade to the ground beef mixture will lock in more moisture while helping to retain the shape of the meatloaf. It’s a combination of breadcrumbs combined with broth or milk to create a starchy paste.

When combined with the meat, it coats the beef proteins and sets into a gel once cooked. The gel then creates spaces that prevent the beef proteins from binding together too tightly. Without a panade, you often see the meat shrink and become dried out.

whisk mixing a panade in a bowl

Making a panade

I use flaky panko breadcrumbs, chicken broth, and eggs to make the panade. Let the breadcrumbs soak until most of the moisture gets absorbed, ensuring that the starches hydrate. The eggs add extra fat for richness, preventing the meat from drying out. Something I’m sure we’ve all tasted before!

I prefer the size of larger Japanese-style breadcrumbs because they’re more coarse and porous. These granules have more oversized air pockets to absorb the liquid for a softer meat texture. You can use traditional smaller and finer breadcrumbs. However, they’ll yield a denser texture. When I have homemade bread crumbs on hand, I use them because they tend to be larger and more similar to panko.

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Saute the vegetables

Chopped vegetables add a nice variety of flavor and texture to the meat mixture. However, don’t add them raw! Pre-cooking them guarantees more flavor, even before the meatloaf is cooked. Sauteing the onions, garlic, and celery lightly browns the surface, enhancing the sweetness and taste. It also draws out the moisture, preventing soggy slices later.

sauteed onions and celery in a pan

Meat selection

Use a high-fat ratio for the ground beef because the lipids act as protective coatings to prevent the meat from drying out during prolonged bake time. My top choice is 85% lean ground beef, which is 15% fat. This type has just the right amount of beef and flavorful fat that renders and keeps the meat juicy.

You can use an 80% ratio. It will still be delicious, but the loaf will slightly shrink more. Don’t go above 90% lean. It will yield the most meat but have way more chew.

Seasonings to enhance the meat flavor

Use a mix of fresh foods and pantry ingredients to enhance the flavor of plain ground beef naturally. Tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and the anchovies in Worcestershire sauce are rich in glutamates and nucleotides, molecules that are high in umami and savory notes.

These ingredients instantly increase the beefy flavor of the ground meat. Chopped parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, and paprika are herbs and seasonings that add an earthy taste to the recipe to keep the beef from tasting bland.

ingredients to make meatloaf placed in a metal mixing bowl

Don’t overmix!

Have you ever wondered why grilled burgers or meatloaf turn out tough? Often the problem is overmixing. When beef is ground down, then mixed, sticky soluble proteins are released. If overworked, this creates a tighter bond that squeezes out the juices when cooked, yielding a rubbery and tough bite. Mix just enough to combine, and no more!

Pan selection

I use a 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pan. This type of material cooks the bottom and sides faster because it needs less time to heat up. If using glass, you may need more bake time as it takes longer to heat, but it retains heat better, so if using, don’t let it sit in the pan too long, or it will dry out.

When adding the meatloaf mixture, lightly press it down to fill in any gaps. Create a dome shape on the surface for a more attractive presentation.

raw meat mixture inside a loaf pan before going in the oven

How long to cook meatloaf

Bake at a moderate temperature of 350ºF (177ºC) for about 45 minutes. The long exposure to the heat gently cooks the meat, and then when the surface temperature reaches 300°F (149°C) it will turn golden brown due to the Maillard reaction

New flavors and aromas develop for a better-tasting meatloaf. I cook until the internal temperature reaches about 135 (57ºC). This is considered medium doneness and will continue to cook when you add the glaze to get closer to well done without getting dried out.

Add a glaze for extra flavor

One of the highlights of digging into this meatloaf is grabbing a piece along 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 already in the meatloaf mixture, so you don’t have to buy extra stuff.

My recipe glaze is barbecue-style without the need to cook it down. It’s a combination of pure maple syrup, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce that balances nicely. To set the glaze on top of the meatloaf, brush it on the surface multiple times, then briefly roast at 500-degrees to thicken the sauce. This process gets repeated a total of three times. You can also make a pan gravy if you prefer a more savory taste.

brush applying a tomato-based glazed on top of a meatloaf

Serve this with

FAQ

Should you cover meatloaf when cooking?

Covering the meatloaf will make it steam and turn mushy. Before reaching the desired internal temperature, you do not need to cover unless the surface starts to brown too quickly. Loosely tent with foil to prevent burning if needed.

Do you have to add egg to meatloaf?

The albumin in the egg whites coagulates and helps to bind the meatloaf better together. The fat in the yolks adds extra richness to the mixture for a more flavorful and moist taste.

What is the best filler for meatloaf?

A panade using dried bread crumbs. Make sure to hydrate the starches with broth so that they can turn into a gel-like matrix. A panade makes the meat much more tender.

Do you drain the grease from meatloaf?

Yes, the high level of fat will pool at the bottom. Drain as much as possible before adding the glaze to prevent the meat from getting soggy.

How to remove the meatloaf from the pan

Use a spatula to release the sides and bottom of the meat from the pan. Use a spatula on one side and your hand to lift it out, or two forks poked on both ends, which works better once cooled down more.

close photo of meatloaf slices with red tomato-based glaze on the edges

How to successfully bind the meatloaf together

Don’t serve up dry meatloaf or one that doesn’t hold well together. Incorporating a starchy breadcrumb panade, melty cheese, and eggs, keep 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 loaf.

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Meatloaf

Impress the family with a simple gourmet meatloaf topped with sweet and tangy glaze. This recipe yields fork-tender and juicy slices!
Pin Print Review
4.38 from 125 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Meatloaf

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken broth, or stock
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¾ cup minced yellow onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 pounds ground beef, 85% lean
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated, about 1 cup
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or dried

Glaze

  • cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Set oven rack to the middle position, preheat to 350ºF (177ºC).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken broth. Add breadcrumbs, whisk to combine, and allow to absorb all of the moisture.
  • Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onions and celery, saute until tender and the moisture releases and evaporates, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small plate and refrigerate until cool, about 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, add the ground beef, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumb mixture, cooled vegetables, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, parsley, soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and thyme.
    Use hands to gently mix meatloaf ingredients until combined, about 1 minute, being careful not to overmix.
  • Lightly grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil. Press the meatloaf mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan, then use your hands to make a smooth and slightly domed surface.
    Bake until the internal temperature reaches 135 to 140ºF (57 to 60ºC), about 45 to 55 minutes.
  • Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, ¼ cup tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • Remove the meatloaf from the oven and carefully drain off excess juices from the bottom of the pan. Increase the oven temperature to 500ºF (260ºC).
  • Use a brush or spoon to spread an even layer of glaze on the top of the meatloaf, bake for 3 minutes. Brush the 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 before removing from the pan, at least 15 minutes on a wire rack. Cut into even-sized slices and serve with any extra glaze on the side.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Beef selection: Use between 80% and 90% lean ground beef. The higher the percentage, the chewier the texture.
  • Broth: Unsalted beef broth or stock can be substituted for a meatier taste.
  • Breadcrumbs: Traditional breadcrumbs can be used. However, they will have a slightly denser texture unless using homemade breadcrumbs that are less fine.
  • Storage: Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It’s easier to reheat sliced pieces.

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Nutrition Facts
Meatloaf
Amount Per Serving
Calories 416 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 11g55%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 12g
Cholesterol 132mg44%
Sodium 799mg33%
Potassium 527mg15%
Carbohydrates 16g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 26g52%
Vitamin A 403IU8%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 150mg15%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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85 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Doug & Debra says

    Delicious! Only had 1 pound of hamburger so cut recipe in half. I should have thawed more hamburger. I shouldn’t have 1/2ed the glaze either so tasty. We were having a snow day on the farm; Thursday which is our regular day for groceries so had to do a few subs. Stove top stuffing for panko breadcrumbs, no celery lots of onions, no tomato paste use ketchup instead. Used the last of the maple syrup for Christmas baking so good ol’ Aunt Jemima in glaze. Total hit here!

  2. Maria Terry says

    When I was growing up I HATED meatloaf. Somewhere along the line I had good meatloaf. I tried your recipe and it was delicious. Not the least bit dry. The glaze is a wonderful addition. We’re having meatloaf sandwiches in a couple of days. Meatloaf sandwiches were the worst thing I could eat after liver. Made with this meatloaf they’re comfort food. Happy to make this again. Another winner.

  3. Dave says

    Jessica,

    OMG, this is so flavorful! I thought our old family recipe cold not be matched let alone beaten. I stand corrected. I made mine with milk, used 3 pounds of 80/20 ground beef (next time, I’ll use 4) and then added proportionately more of everything including two large, green bell peppers. Since it was a bit wet for my liking from the additional peppers, I added a couple handfuls of old fashion rolled oats to dry it out a bit. I like to shape mine into a rounded, rectangular loaf then place it into a blue enameled roasting pan sprayed with non-stick; reshape and center it, so it does not touch the sides of the roaster. I stick a leave-in thermometer probe in the center of the loaf, cover, and alarm it for 160°F. Perfect and sooooo flavorful! A quick 5-miute trip under the broiler to brown the top a bit and done! Great recipe! A keeper!

  4. Annie Barrs says

    I make meatloaf a couple
    of times a month trying to replicate my mother’s recipe so I had to give this a try. Followed it to the letter! FANTASTIC!!!! My husband said it was the best I’d ever made and was mad that I gave him a serving then froze the rest for another meal. He wanted leftovers right away!
    It must have been the panade which I’d never tried or the wicked maple syrup topping?
    Thank you Jessica!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow! Great job making the meatloaf, thrilled to hear that the family enjoyed it. Yes, the panade works wonders for the texture and the sauce is a great way to enhance the flavor.

  5. Jill Zinner says

    We are only 2 people in our household. When I cook it is always, of course, knowing the meal will be a “leftover” and I don’t have a problem with that…actually I like it…HOWEVER…your recipe is for 8 people. Could you cut it down for me? Do you cook the glaze separately in a bowl and then after it’s cooked add to the raw meatloaf and then bake the meatloaf? Or cook/bake the glaze in the oven and put on meatloaf AFTER it comes out of the oven and is cooling? Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Jill- If you look in the recipe card under “servings” however your mouse over the number of servings, that will give you a slider to increase or decrease the recipe yield. The glaze isn’t cooked, it’s whisked together, then brushed over the cooked meatloaf, then broiled a few times, adding more sauce in between, to create a glaze that sticks on top.

  6. Cathy Mcclure says

    Hi Jessica..I’ve never commented on a recipe before but I love this meatloaf! I’ve made it several times over the years and it’s always wonderful..I do double the glaze and increase the fresh thyme to about a Tablespoon. I love trying new recipes so seldom repeat recipes except for this one. Thank you..Cathy

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for leaving a comment, Cathy! I love hearing about your cooking experience, thrilled to find that you are enjoying the meatloaf. Extra source and herbs is always a good addition!

  7. Michele Cipressi says

    I made this today for my boyfriend and oh my goodness, so absolutely delicious! Best meat loaf ever and I’ve been making a good meatloaf for years. Thank you!

  8. Diane says

    Would it be possible to convert this recipe to a slow cooker version?
    My family LOVES this, but our oven will be temporarily out of commission due to a renovation.
    We’re hoping we can still enjoy it during the chaos!
    Thanks in advance!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes! You can line the slow cooker with foil and then grease it with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Cook on low for about 6 hours, or until cooked through. Let me know how it goes!

  9. Brad says

    Jessica,

    I never post like this, but have been looking for the perfect meatloaf recipe for a long time, and this one is it! I’ve never been able to slice my meatloaf without it crumbling, but following these directions, this one came out perfect. My slices looked like they were done for a photo shoot!

    The only thing I changed – and I suggest everyone try it – is I took a cue from Alton Brown and a couple others and used the loaf pan just to shape the meatloaf, then turned it over onto a Pam sprayed, foil-covered cookie sheet so that I had more edges to glaze and get crispy. So fantastic this way, and you don’t have to drain anything or worry about getting it out of the pan.

    Anyway, thanks so much for this recipe. So amazing!

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