Everyone has very strong opinions about the perfect meatloaf. Everyone.
It’s almost frightening how passionate people are about an entree that’s really just a humble heap of ground beef.
How do I know this? I have bona fide credentials, I promise you:
I’ve been a serious meatloaf eater for most of my life, and have gathered unique perspectives on this recipe over the years from family members, friends, acquaintances, and people I hardly know.
Yup, I definitely asked one of my sales reps at my other job, someone I talk to once every few months on the phone, what she thought of this comfort food classic – which was a weird digression, and 100% unrelated to why she called.
But she still enthusiastically obliged with her family recipe. Win!
All of these stories form a colorful collection of opinions: mostly good, some interesting, some bad… and some utterly merciless.
Has anyone ever told you, with terrifying sincerity, that the secret to the best meatloaf is tossing it in the garbage?
Or that ketchup is one of America’s worst condiments, and to use hoisin sauce instead?
While these are the more extreme opinions gleaned from what I’ve heard, there are countless other sentiments, conflicting advice, and recipe requirements:
Green peppers or none at all. Ketchup glaze or totally plain on top. With gravy or without. Cheese or no cheese.
All beef or a mixture of beef, pork, and veal. Add fresh salsa or gochujang to the mix. Dry breadcrumbs or fresh crusty bread.
Loaf pan or freeform on a baking sheet. Hand mix or use a stand mixer. Apply a delicate touch or show no mercy when mixing.
For me, someone who has enjoyed eating versions throughout the years, I wholeheartedly welcome every different recipe, and every unique opinion.
Why? While I do like learning everyone’s tips and tricks for preparing the perfect version, I love soaking in all the thoughtful storytelling behind these meatloaf memories.
I like to call them meatloaf-eries.
According to the Dictionary of Nikki-isms, a “meatloaf-ery” is a recollection of when a plateful of meatloaf seamlessly joins with an unforgettable moment in one’s life.
I have endless meatloaf-eries, from childhood family dinners eating Mom’s homemade recipe served over a bowl of steaming white rice (my dad’s usual request), to the very last meatloaf sandwich on sourdough bread that Mom made for me the day I left home for college.
So you’ll understand my excitement to add yet another meatloaf-ery: the very first time I made my own version of a classic meatloaf in my own home, inspired by what my mom would make us for dinner.
I prefer not to add too many bells and whistles to either the ingredient list or the technique. My recipe is a simple hand-mixed combination of ground beef, pork, and fresh breadcrumbs mixed with garlic, onion, ketchup (try our homemade version!), and a little Worcestershire sauce.
While there’s no ketchup glaze on top (Mom would never glaze it!), I serve my recipe with a heaping ladleful of homemade gravy and a side of kale mashed potatoes.
It’s moist, savory, flavorful, and comforting. A tasty homage to Mom’s recipe, and a delicious nod to all of the recipe ideas I’ve collected over the years.
But you know the other famous Nikki-ism: one man’s meatloaf is another man’s poison. Go forth and make your own special version that will remind you of home!
Just please don’t throw this one in the garbage.Print
Need a basic meatloaf recipe that’s tender and flavorful? Try Nikki’s version of the classic comfort food dish with onion, garlic, and a tangy glaze.
For the Meatloaf:
- 2 cups lightly packed fresh breadcrumbs*
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 pound ground beef (preferably 85% lean/15% fat)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Gravy:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups beef or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Meatloaf:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Transfer breadcrumbs to a small bowl and stir in the milk. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the beef, pork, onion, garlic, egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper with your hands.
- Add the breadcrumb mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Place the meat mixture on the prepared baking sheet and form into a tight loaf with your hands, about 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 155°F.
- Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into slices and serving with the gravy.
For the Gravy:
- While the meatloaf is resting, make the gravy by melting the butter in a medium sauce pot over medium heat.
- Add the diced onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute until slightly golden, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well to evenly coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.
- Add the stock and whisk until thoroughly combined. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes to slightly thicken the mixture.
- Season with the remaining salt and black pepper, and serve with the meatloaf.
To make the breadcrumbs, place 2-3 slices of thick white bread in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Category: Meatloaf
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Comfort Food
Keywords: meatloaf, ground beef, ground pork, ketchup
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Set out the beef and pork, and the egg. Measure the milk, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Freshly cracked is best!
Step 2 – Combine the Breadcrumbs and Milk
In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and milk. Allow to soak for 5 minutes while you complete the next step.
Step 3 – Make the Beef and Pork Mixture
In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, onion, garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix until incorporated.
I love getting dirty and using my hands, but you can also use a sturdy spoon or spatula to combine the ingredients.
Step 4 – Add the Breadcrumbs
Add the breadcrumb mixture to the meat mixture. Thoroughly mix with your hands until completely incorporated.
Don’t be afraid to mix well! You want the loaf to be able to hold its shape without falling apart as it cooks.
Step 5 – Form into a Loaf
Place the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and form it into a loaf that’s about 9 inches long and 5 inches wide.
Aww, do you miss the ketchup glaze? You can sub in the same amount of sweet-and-tangy glaze that’s call for in our recipe for Balsamic Turkey Meatloaf. Delicious!
Step 6 – Bake
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers between 155 and 160°F.
I prefer to remove it from the oven at 155°F, since the internal temperature will continue rising due to residual heat after the loaf is removed from the oven.
Insert the thermometer probe directly in the center of the loaf without touching the pan to get the most accurate reading.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and let it rest for 15 minutes. To keep the interior moist, don’t skip the resting step!
Step 7 – Make the Gravy
While it is resting, prepare the gravy. Start by melting the butter in a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt, cooking until slightly golden, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well to coat them evenly. Cook over medium heat, stirring continually, for about 2 minutes.
Add the stock and whisk everything together until completely combined, being sure to whisk up any bits that are stuck to the bottom to properly deglaze the pot. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes to slightly thicken the mixture, stirring constantly. The time required will vary, depending on how thick you would like your gravy.
Season with the remaining salt and black pepper.
Step 8 – Serve
Once the meatloaf has rested (well done, patience!), you can now cut it into slices and serve them with the gravy and your favorite side dishes. Enjoy!
You’ll Actually Love Your Leftovers!
Yes, I stand by that statement! Cold leftovers might be the one thing that is even better than a warm slice of meatloaf pulled right straight from the oven.
I love crumbling the cold leftovers and enjoying it as the protein in a big green salad, and making epic sandwiches with a thick slice of meatloaf, a juicy tomato, crisp lettuce, and a thick slather of mayonnaise.
But I’ve also just picked pieces with my fingers straight from the Tupperware container. Many times.
However you like to enjoy your leftovers (even the embarrassing ones), I’m so curious to learn what your best tips are for the classic meatloaf recipe! Love it or hate it, there are so many tasty personalized versions. Let’s chat in the comment section below.
Looking for more comfort food favorites? Chow down on some of our meatier favorites next, like these:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by on October 5, 2010. Last updated on Saturday, February 20, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.