How long to cook meatloaf is a loaded question if you're not aware of all that goes into making the perfect meatloaf from start to finish. Here we give you the meatloaf lowdown, so you can not only cook meatloaf just right but do everything it takes to get the taste, texture and filling right as well. In its infinite variety, the deceptively simple meatloaf ranges from the sublime to the inedible.
Use these tips to make it a memorable one.
Use the Right Meat for Your Meatloaf
Ground chuck is the grade of choice for the most flavor and it's cheaper too. Also, the higher the grade of ground meat, the less fat and shrinkage will result. However, keep in mind that less fat means less flavor and moistness.
Topping the loaf with bacon strips or salt pork adds moisture, flavor, and tenderness. Those watching fat content might want to use turkey bacon or other low-fat alternatives. If you like a mixed-meat loaf (beef, pork, and veal is classic), feel free to experiment with different ratios as long as the total weight of the meat remains the same.
The Best Meatloaf Add-ins and How to Add Them
Use about 1/2 cup filler per pound of meat. This filler can be bread crumbs, mashed moist bread, oat bran, grated potato, grated carrot, mashed potatoes or wherever your experiments take you.
Add a cup of grated cheese to the meatloaf mixture before baking, and another 1/2 cup over the top of the loaf during the last 15 minutes of baking.
Add 1/3 cup of vegetable juice, wine, beef broth, or beer to the mixture for added flavor.
Soft bread crumbs make a more tender, juicier loaf than dry crumbs. You can briefly soak dry crumbs in a bit of milk before adding. Add tomato sauce to the meat mixture for added moisture.
Get the Right Texture for Your Meatloaf
For a firmer texture to your meatloaf, use ground meat that has been run through the grinder at least 2 or 3 times.
Plus, do not overdo the breadcrumbs. Too much will make the loaf spongy.
Do not over-knead the mixture or texture will be lost. Mix just enough to combine the ingredients. In place of bread crumbs, add a mashed wet slice of white bread and a tablespoon of salad oil inside the mixture.
Proper Meatloaf Baking in the Oven
Meatloaf baked in a standard 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-inch loaf pan is baked at 350 F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. To minimize cracking, smooth the top of the loaf by rubbing in a little cold water.
For individual servings that bake quickly, mound meat mixture into greased muffin tins, which should be done in about 20 minutes.
The internal temperature of the meatloaf should register 170 F for beef or 185 F for pork. To help this happen, let meatloaf stand about 20 minutes or longer after removal from the oven before serving. During this time the meatloaf will cook internally. This also helps it set and makes it easier to slice.