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The Best Meatloaf Recipe – The Secrets To Making Meatloaf Moist & Tender

Meatloaf is considered a true comfort food dish for many of us, however not all recipes make the best meatloaf that turns out moist and tender every time. In fact, if you have ever taken a bite into a piece that was dry and crumbly you know how disappointing it can be.

Just like there are many different ways to boil an egg, there are countless numbers of recipes for meatloaf. And each one will most likely promise you award-winning results. 

However, in order to get the recipe perfect, you must follow a few tips and tricks. Even if you think you already have the best meatloaf recipe, there are a few helpful hints to make sure that you end up with a moist and delicious meal that the whole family will love. 

moist meatloaf sliced
Moist meatloaf sliced and ready to be served.

Tips To Making The Best Meatloaf That Is Moist & Tender

1. The Type Of Ground Meat Matters

Although most classic meatloaf recipes use ground beef as the base of the recipe, it is actually best to use a combination of meat.

In fact, the best combination of meat is a 50/50 blend of ground beef and pork sausage. The fat in both types of meat is ideal to produce a moist and tender meatloaf.

However, if you choose to make meatloaf with a low-fat cut of meat, such as ground sirloin, turkey or chicken, you must add more liquid to your base recipe.

This is because these lean cuts of meat don’t have as much fat or liquid content and therefore could produce a dry and crumbly meatloaf. 

Therefore, the leaner the meat, the more you must increase the amount of wet ingredients that you need to add to the recipe.

2. Saute Your Vegetables

Vegetables are a wonderful addition to any meatloaf recipe. Not only do they add more flavor, but they also add texture.

However, in order to get the best moist and tender meatloaf you need to saute the vegetables before adding them to the meat mixture. It doesn’t matter if you are using onions, carrots, bell peppers, celery or mushrooms, they all must be sautéed until tender.

saute onions in skillet
Be sure to saute your veggies so that they don’t absorb the moisture within the meatloaf.

Simply heat extra virgin olive oil or butter in a large skillet and then place the small diced vegetables in the pan. Within 5-7 minutes, the veggies should be tender enough to add them to the meat mixture.

This process not only allows the vegetables to break down and become tender. But also they add moisture, rather than absorbing the moisture from the meat when used in their raw form.

3. Soak The Breadcrumbs or Oatmeal

The biggest debate when cooking meatloaf centers around whether it is best to use breadcrumbs or oatmeal.

The only thing that can be agreed upon is that some sort of dry ingredient is needed to help bind the mixture together. However, the problem is that whatever dry ingredient you prefer, it will absorb excessive amounts of moisture when baking.

Therefore, additional moisture is needed to prevent even your best meatloaf recipe from becoming dry and crumbly.

One solution is to soak your breadcrumbs or oatmeal in milk for 15 minutes before adding them to your recipe. However, I typically choose another solution.

Because I always seem to make the recipe at the last minute with little time to spare before dinner, taking the time to soak the breadcrumbs is not an option. Of course, you can do this while you prepare and saute the vegetables, however I typically forget or get too impatient.

Instead, I add 3 tablespoons of chicken stock to my favorite meatloaf recipe. This gives the meatloaf that extra liquid that it needs to turn out moist and tender every time.

mixing meatloaf ingredients with a fork
It is important to not over mix the meatloaf ingredients. One way to do this is to use a fork rather than your hands.

4. Don’t Over Mix The Ingredients!

I am sure that you have all heard by now that the worst thing that you can do is over mix the ingredients when making meatloaf. But do you know why?

When you mix the fibers in the meat the protein fibers begin binding the strands of meat together. This will help the meat stick together during the baking process.

However, if you mix it too much, the fibers become too dense making the meatloaf take on the texture of a hockey puck. Therefore it is important to mix the ingredients just until incorporated.

Most experts would advise you to mix the ingredients with a fork. However, most people prefer to mix the ingredients with their hands, as it is just easier.

Although this is a great method most individuals tend to squeeze and mash the mixture together too much to get the ingredients to be evenly distributed.

Therefore, it is best to mix all the ingredients together before adding them to the meat. Then combine the mixture lightly, just until incorporated, and stop!

I actually prefer to use a utensil to combine the ingredients. Not only is it a great workout, it decreases the chance that the meatloaf will be too dense when baked.

5. Do NOT Use a Loaf Pan

I grew up watching my parents make meatloaf and cooking it in the same loaf pan as we used when we made bread. At the time it made total sense to me because we were making a loaf of meat.

However, as I began to experiment with different methods for making the best meatloaf that is moist and tender, I ditched the loaf pan.

meatloaf on a baking sheet
The best meatloaf recipes do no include a loaf pan. Instead bake it on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Instead, I place my loosely formed loaf on a parchment paper or foil lined baking sheet. This allows the meatloaf to evenly bake rather steam in a pan.

The result will be caramelized edges of meatloaf that have a crispy exterior and a moist and tender interior. 

6. Let It Rest

After removing the meatloaf from the oven it is best practice to let it rest. This will allow the juices enough time to redistribute inside the meat so that you don’t end up with all the juices on the surface of the baking sheet.

Simply cover it with foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. Then slice and serve.

And speaking of slicing, be sure to not cut the meatloaf in thin slices. The thicker the slices, the more moist and tender the meatloaf will be.

With these tips, your meatloaf will be even more delicious than before. Be sure to check out the recipe card below for the best meatloaf recipe that turns out moist and tender every time.

However, if you are looking for a recipe that uses only 1 pound of ground beef be sure to look at our favorite Small Meatloaf Recipe. It too turns out perfect every time!

The Best Meatloaf Recipe

*Complete recipe instructions including specific measurements, cook temperatures and times are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to keep reading for helpful tips and tricks when making this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of chicken stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck, 80% lean
  • 3/4 pound of ground sausage
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). In a medium pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil.

Add the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. Saute until the onions are translucent but not brown.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, and tomato paste. Allow the ingredients to cool slightly.

meatloaf resting on cutting board
Before you slice the meatloaf, be sure to let it rest for 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven.

In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, bread crumbs, and a beaten egg and mix lightly with a fork. Then add the ground beef and ground sausage and mix just until incorporated.

Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper or foil. Spread the ketchup or barbecue sauce evenly on top and let it drizzle down the sides.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the internal temperature is 160°F (71°C). Remove the pan from the oven and let the meatloaf rest under tented foil for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Mary and Jim

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Best Moist Meatloaf Recipe

moist meatloaf sliced

The best meatloaf recipe that will turn out moist and tender every time. A true comfort food recipe that will you feeling satisfied.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of chicken broth
  • 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck, 80% lean
  • 3/4 pound of ground sausage
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). In a medium pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. Saute until the onions are translucent but not brown.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, and tomato paste. Allow the ingredients to cool slightly.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, bread crumbs, and a beaten egg and mix lightly with a fork. Then add the ground beef and ground sausage and mix just until incorporated.
  5. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread the ketchup or barbecue sauce evenly on top and let it drizzle down the sides.
  6. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the internal temperature is 160°F (71°C). Remove the pan from the oven and let the meatloaf rest under tented foil for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Recipe courtesy of Old World Garden Farms

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 411Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 1033mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 25g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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