Mom's Basic Meatloaf

Meat loaf dinner
LauriPatterson / Getty Images
  • 70 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
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This basic meatloaf will remind you of your mother's or grandmother's meatloaf. Be it ever so humble, the dish is considered one of America's favorite comfort foods. And it's easy on the budget!

There are all kinds of things you can do to gussy up an everyday meatloaf. For some extra flavor, add about 1/4 cup of finely chopped bell peppers and a shredded carrot to the meat mixture. For a moister loaf, saute the vegetables briefly in about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or butter. Meatloaf is best made with a beef mixture of about 80/20. Leaner beef could mean a dry, less flavorful loaf. If your ground beef is particularly lean, add about one-quarter to one-third 90/10 ground pork. 

Instead of crackers, use fine dry bread crumbs. Or use some quick oats instead of bread. Top the meatloaf with extra ketchup, chili sauce, or barbecue sauce.

Double the recipe and cook it in two loaf pans for a larger family. It can even be cooked in a slow cooker. See the meatloaf making tips below the recipe for instructions.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup, finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

How to Make It

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C/Gas 4). 
  2. In a large bowl mix the ground beef with the milk, cracker crumbs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, onion, salt, pepper, and beaten egg. Blend well but do not overmix.
  3. Form into a loaf and place in baking dish or 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
  4. If desired, spread more ketchup (or barbecue sauce) over the top of the meatloaf.
  5. Bake the meatloaf in the preheated oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  1. The minimum safe temperature for ground meat is 160 F, ground poultry 165 F.

Meatloaf Making Tips

  • Slow Cooker Instructions - Follow the instructions for mixing the ingredients. Line a 4 to 5-quart slow cooker with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray or brush the foil with vegetable oil. Shape the mixture into a round or oblong loaf and place it in the center of the slow cooker. If desired, spread the top with ketchup or barbecue sauce. Cook on the low setting for 3 to 4 hours, or until an instant-read food thermometer registers at least 160 F. Use the edges of the foil to lift the loaf out of the slow cooker. Slice and serve.
  • Avoid excess grease by using a meatloaf pan with an insert rack or carefully pour off excess grease just before the meatloaf is done.
  • Mix ingredients gently. Overmixing or packing it in the pan too tightly will make the meatloaf tougher.
  • To check the seasoning balance, fry a small meatloaf patty and taste it. Adjust the seasonings accordingly.
  • For a moister loaf, use a food processor to mince the vegetables and then saute them briefly in a small amount of butter or oil.