Homemade meatloaf is totally manageable

Meatloaf is one of those classic comfort meals that you can really sink your teeth into, literally. It’s a dish that many of us have fond (or not-so-fond) memories of our moms and grandmas making, but it’s as relevant today as it was in decades past.

After all, feeding hungry mouths while pinching pennies is nothing new, and meatloaf make a few bucks go far. I also dig it because it’s so adaptable.

Meatloaf is far from just ground beef, bread crumbs and ketchup baked in a loaf pan. Any manner of ground meat or fowl can be used, singularly or in combination with others. It’s a wonderful meal to make when you need to use that ground meat you got on sale and can’t stand another burger.

To make my own version go the distance, I load it up with grated veggies. This also adds plenty of flavor, texture and visual pizzazz to what can otherwise be a pretty boring thing to look at. In the recipe here I use carrots and zucchini. You can use whatever you like and have on hand. If you’re a fan of mushrooms or caramelized onions, say, then throw them into the mixture.

Homemade meatloaf also rocks because it’s super adaptable for meal planning. The stuff freezes easily (uncooked or cooked), reheats well, and can be eaten the next day in a sandwich hot or cold.

If you’ve never made your own version of this classic dinner, here’s your chance. If you’re an old hand at it, try this version and see if it works in your own recipe arsenal.

Let’s make some meatloaf!

Matt’s Marvelous Meatloaf

(Makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup minced brown onions
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Music to make it by: Meatloaf would be ideal, but I’m settling on Weezer’s Raditude.


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then grab a big bowl and start gathering your ingredients. If you’re not a fan of beef, you can use ground chicken or turkey, but the loaf may end up drier.

Step 2: Dump all the ingredients into the bowl one by one. Use a box grater like the one you use for cheese to grate the carrots and zucchini. If you don’t have a grater, just cut them into pieces as small as you can.

Step 3: When everything’s in the bowl, mix it well with a fork or, even better, clean hands, squeezing the mixture through your fingers. Once mixed, dump into a loaf pan that you’ve spritzed with nonstick spray. Pack the mixture well and pop it in your preheated, 350-degree oven. You can even use a toaster oven for this, as long as the loaf pan fits. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands and any cutting boards, utensils, etc. that the raw meat touched.

Step 4: Cook the loaf until it reaches at least 160 degrees as measured with an instant thermometer and as prescribed by food-safety experts (or at least 165 for poultry). If you don’t have a thermometer, get one; it’s one of the most important tools you can have in your kitchen. Cooking time will vary, but expect about 45 minutes to an hour or more. Start checking the temperature once the top browns, which is also the point that you can slather on additional ketchup or chili sauce if you like.

Step 5: When the meatloaf has reached the safe internal temperature, carefully remove it from the oven, pour off any excess grease that has accumulated, and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. To serve, I find it easiest to just cut slices out while it’s still in the pan. For side dishes, go for garlic mashed potatoes and or veggies like glazed carrots.

Congratulations: You’ve just made meatloaf! Once you get comfortable with this recipe, try your own variations. You can even cook an extra loaf to put in the freezer for when you need a quick meal. After one taste, you’ll understand why this dish gets gobbled up so quickly.

Have your own tips or questions about making meatloaf? Comment below!

9 Comments »

  1. Sonia said,

    January 13, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Matt:

    Can I substitute quick oats for the bread crumbs (and would the amount be the same)? I want to add more fiber and make a little healthier version.

    Sonia

  2. suzie day said,

    January 13, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    Can you substitute ground turkey for the ground beef?

  3. Matt Degen said,

    January 13, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

    @Sonia — You certainly can! In fact, I’ve even made a version using panko crumbs for a bit more texture. Try a similar portion of oats — about 1 cup — and see how that works for you!

    @Suzie — Absolutely on using ground turkey. The end product might be a bit drier, though, because turkey is leaner than beef. For more moisture, you can add more ketchup. I’d add another 1/4 cup ketchup to be safe. Also be sure to cook to an internal temp of at least 165 when using poultry.

    Enjoy!

  4. Faith Hope Bigler said,

    January 21, 2011 @ 10:43 am

    The meatloaf recipe caught my interest because of the veggies in it. Made it two days ago, sorry to tell you this, was dissapointed in the outcome. One
    suggestion I have, use bbq sauce instead of the ketchup. Used it when I reheated the leftover.

  5. Tom Phillips said,

    January 31, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    Loved the loaf. One thing is that it took two hours to cook. Probably because of the vegetables.

  6. Danny S said,

    February 3, 2011 @ 10:01 am

    Thanks, Matt. This is the best meatloaf ever!

    Maybe you can help me with a problem I had. After baking and taking out a slice, the slice sort of fell apart into a few pieces on my plate. I used 85% ground beef from Sprouts. I don’t have a thermometer but baked it exactly one hour as per my Mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook. I had no excess grease to pour off. Did I possibly not mix all the ingredients real well? Did I possibly not let it cool a full 10 to 15 minutes before slicing?

    Thans for any advice.

  7. Matt Degen said,

    February 3, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    Danny — Yes, not mixing well enough and not letting the loaf “rest” after cooking are indeed two factors that can lead to a looser loaf and make slicing it more difficult. Another factor is the amount of bread crumbs and eggs you use. Both of those ingredients are “binders” and help the loaf be more cohesive.

    You can experiment with different ratios to see what works for you to make a more solid loaf.

    Glad you enjoyed the flavor, and I wish you more happy eating!

    -Matt

  8. Margie Donaldson said,

    February 20, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

    Just a quick note. I tried your ho-hum meatloaf and was greatly disappointed. All the work of buying veggies and hunting down your ingredients was all a waste of time. The meat loaf was boring and now my poor husband has to eat it all. Please give us some reeeealy special recipes or forget it. Margie

  9. Matt Degen said,

    February 22, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Margie, and i’m sad to hear it did not meet your expectations. We all have different tastes, and what one person loves another may hate. Food writers are well aware of this, and we realize that every time we share a recipe we open ourselves to both criticism and adoration, depending on an individual’s taste. I invite you to experiment with this dish and try some others on this site to find what works for you.

    Happy eating,

    -Matt

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