Introduction: Meatloaf Recipe

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

Everyone loves meatloaf: it's easy, cheap, and delicious when made well, and there's nothing better than leftover meatloaf.  However, it's easy to come up with a dry, bland meatloaf undeserving of the name.  This recipe will solve your meatloaf problems for good: it's moist, delicious, and packed with flavor without overpowering the taste of good ground beef.

Despite the long ingredient list, this meatloaf is still quite speedy to assemble.  Feel free to tweak the ingredients and seasonings to fit your taste - all of my recipes are intended as a baseline or general guideline for you to use as a starting point.  I worked up this recipe by combining an old NYTimes recipe for Oliver Clark's Meatloaf (p. 554 of The Essential NYTimes Cookbook), my mom's recipe, and the contents of my refrigerator; it's going to be my own starting point over the next few years as well.  

This meatloaf gets high marks from both foodies like ewilhelm, and from hungry toddlers.  How can you go wrong?

Step 1: Tools & Ingredients

large mixing bowl
small fry pan
heatproof spatula
knife & cutting board
8x11 inch baking dish

small handful garlic (~10 cloves or to taste), finely minced
5 large white mushroom caps, stems removed, minced
1 1/2 onions, finely minced
1/2 onion, finely minced
3 Tablespoons cranberry dijon mustard (or regular dijon; this is just what I had)
1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons mayonnise
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (parmesan, dry jack, aged gouda, etc)
3 Tablespoons cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs (I'm trying to use minimal breadcrumbs, but they help keep the loaf shape; you do need some)
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
3 eggs
2 pounds ground beef (~85% fat)
1 pound ground pork or mild pork sausage meat

(This Instructable's pictures actually show a 5-pound meatloaf, but I've scaled down to a more normal-sized recipe.  Scale away to fit your pan and crowd.)

Step 2: Chop & Cook Aromatics

- Chop garlic and mushrooms.
- Sweat the garlic in a bit of butter or lard over medium heat, with a pinch of salt.  
- When garlic is soft, add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
- dump into big mixing bowl.

- mince onion
- add a bit more butter/lard to the fry pan,  and dump in onion
- add a pinch of salt, and cook until onions are soft
- dump into big mixing bowl

Step 3: Add Other Seasonings

Add everything but the meat & stir together ti mix thoroughly.

Step 4: Add Meat & Mix

Add the meat, and combine evenly.

Get in there and use your hands!  No, really: there's no other way to properly incorporate ground meat and seasonings adequately.  Even a stand mixer is likely to leave unmixed pockets, and will turn the meat mixture a bit gummy.

Squish everything together, flip it over, and squeeze some more.  You really want this slop to be totally and thoroughly mixed.

Step 5: Form a Loaf

Dump the meat mixture into a pan, and hand-form into a long, flat loaf.  The thickness (height) will determine cooking time, so try not to go more than about 3" tall.

At this point you can cover the meatloaf and store it in the fridge overnight like I've done here.

Step 6: Bake

Bake at 375F for about an hour, until the top just starts to turn crispy brown and the internal temperature reaches 145F.

Rotate as necessary to assure even cooking (ovens vary), likely once at the 30-45 minute mark.

As soon as you remove the meatloaf from the oven, baste with the nice greasy pan juices to keep it super-moist.  

Some people like to add a light coating of ketchup or barbecue sauce over the top of the meatloaf in the last 10 minutes; I prefer to put all the flavor inside the meatloaf. But don't let my prejudices stop you from tweaking this recipe to fit your tastes.

Step 7: Serve

Let the meatloaf sit for about 10 minutes, or until it's cooled enough to slice nicely and serve.  It goes well with most any vegetable side dish, including a big green salad for super-easy dinners.

If you don't eat it all, refrigerate the rest for some of the best leftovers ever.  Cold meatloaf slices beautifully; just be sure to scoop some sauce over the cold slices before you stick it in the microwave to keep things moist.  Chunk off a bit of the coagulated fat and stick it on top as well - that's what makes things taste good.