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Easiest Meatloaf Ever - meatloaf recipe with variations for award winning meal variety

Updated on December 13, 2016

FINISHED MEATLOAF

Finished Meatloaf
Finished Meatloaf | Source

THE POINT OF MEATLOAF

Meatloaf is an American tradition. My mother never made it for us, but everyone else I knew had meatloaf a couple times a month. As an adult I have made meatloaf for my family only more recently (last few years). I think that is because it is an economical alternative and my kids like it, my husband will eat it but prefers salisbury steak instead.

There are many things you can do with meatloaf once you get the basic loaf concept down to an art. The most important part of making the meatloaf is knowing when it feels right. You can make any recipe, but if it does not feel right then you need to know what to do to make it come out perfect every time. Knowing what you want the recipe to be like when you start out and when you finish is the key to being comfortable with anything you cook.

Just remember to relax, cooking should not be a chore. I know lots of you are busy moms and even though meatloaf takes an hour, it actually frees you up to multi-task other things while cooking and is a great dish for the kids to help you with because they can get their hands dirty and it is ok.

GROUND BEEF OR CHUCK

Raw meat
Raw meat | Source

INGREDIENTS FIRST

The ingredients you choose equal the final outcome. If you choose very lean meat you need to add more moisture to avoid having a dry meatloaf. That is actually science, the science of cooking. The main meatloaf recipe here uses either 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef or chuck.

Although I have shown a pre-sealed package here, my favorite source of meat is Kroger's (my local grocery store) family packs of ground beef. It is always leaner than stated and very fresh, but still has enough fat and moisture to keep the meatloaf at a moist consistency. Grocery stores that package their own meat try to only make up enough packages to meet the demand for that day so that none are left by mid evening (around 7-8pm) so don't shop late if you like that kind of meat. You can purchase a 5lb package and save half for another night.

If you are new to cooking or not good at guessing measurement when it comes to ground meat then by all means, purchase the pre-packaged pack of meat looking for 2.25 to 2.5 lbs and this recipe will come out just fine for you.

This is not rocket science, but a little finesse goes a long way. I will list alternatives with their corresponding moisture needs later.

MEATLOAF INGREDIENTS

INGREDIENT
AMOUNT TO USE
GROUND BEEF
2.25 TO 2.5 LBS
BREAD CRUMBS, PLAIN
2 CUPS
EGGS, LARGE
3
KETCHUP
3/4 CUP
LIPTON BEEFY ONION SOUP MIX
ONE PACKAGE
BROWN SUGAR
2 TABLESPOONS
GROUND BLACK PEPPER
1/4 TO 1/2 TSP
MILK, 2% OR WHOLE
1/4 CUP
Standard ingredients

GLAZE INGREDIENTS

INGREDIENT
AMOUNT TO USE
KETCHUP
1 CUP
BROWN SUGAR
1 TABLESPOON
Glaze ingredients

VARIATIONS

At the bottom of this page before the comments I will list some variations and alternative ingredients.

ASSEMBLE EVERYTHING

Next you should pre-heat your oven to 350º and get your utensils out. You will need:

  • a 2-cup measuring cup with smaller measurements marked inside or see through with measurements on the outside
  • a tablespoon measuring spoon or large spoon from your dining silverwear is fine
  • two loaf pans or 8x8 pans (glass or non-stick work best) If you must use a metal pan, check out my other hub on using baking soda to clean it afterwards.
  • a large bowl for mixing. If the kids are helping then make it a really big chip bowl.

You should also have a small rubber scraper to get all the ketchup out of the measuring cup.

GET IT IN THE OVEN

You will divide it in half and put each half into a loaf pan. Press the meat down till it fills all the corners and the pan is about half full. If you are using an 8x8 pan then shape the meat into a loaf shape and place into the middle of the pan. Press down lightly to spread it out slightly. It should have about two inches of space on each side and fill the middle of the pan from side to side.

Place the pans in the oven on the middle shelf with even space on all sides. If you are having baked potatoes with the meal you should also put them in at the same time. They can be spaced around the pans or on the shelf right below the pans. Same procedure for baked sweet potatoes or squash. If you are baking a side dish like Au Gratin Potatoes then you should place the two loaf pans one behind the other on one side of the oven rack and place the pan with your side dish in it on the other side of the rack.

Set a timer for 1 hour or note the time.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

You should put the meat in the bowl. Add the bread crumbs and soup mix to the bowl. Also add in the black pepper, three eggs, ketchup and brown sugar. Get the milk ready but only add half of the milk at first.

Do not substitute skim milk unless you can add some fat. It is needed when the milk is absorbed by the bread crumbs. The best substitution is 2 tablespoons of flax because that has a nice concentration of Omega-3 in it.

Next, you will mix it all together with your hands. You will continue to mix until every thing is thoroughly incorporated and it feels like a cold loaf of bread dough. If you are having a hard time getting all the bread crumbs to get damp add the rest of the milk. Add more milk by one tablespoon at a time if it still feels dry. It should hold all together but have a damp sheen and can even feel a little loose but not sloppy or falling apart. If it is sloppy just keep kneeding it and add 1/8 to 1/4 cup more bread crumbs to tighten it up.

WHILE IT ALL COOKS

You will also make a glaze of 1 cup of ketchup and two tablespoons of brown sugar. You can add a teaspoon of beef bouillon granules if you like, but the ketchup with brown sugar is our favorite. Just put it in a bowl and mix together and heat it in a microwave oven for one minute. You can use a small saucepan and heat through on stove top if you do not have a microwave oven. Let it sit till you need to use it.

When the timer goes off take out side dishes if they are done and pour off fat from the meatloaves if any has collected in the bottom of the loaf pans. At this point the loaves should be 165º internal temperature. The first time or two that you make this you should check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Spread half of the glaze on each loaf and return to the oven. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and turn off the oven. You can leave the loaves in the oven till you have assembled everything else on the table.

This recipe can serve 5 people easily with an extra loaf to freeze or use another day. We usually have it the next day in lunches taken to work or meatloaf sandwiches made up similar to meatball sandwiches. Our senior in high school also has a microwave oven available for use so it can be taken in a school lunch as well (if they are old enough to use the microwave). It can remain in the refrigerator several days since it is thoroughly cooked through and slices can be reheated quickly for family members who have other activities that encroach on your usual dinner time.

I have not calculated the caloric content or even checked the fat versus protein ratio. But if you follow this recipe each person for a family of five would have four ounces of meat for their main course (precooking weight).

VARIATIONS TO THE BASIC RECIPE - IN ANY COMBINATION

INGREDIENT
OPTION
OPTION
OPTION
GROUND BEEF
GROUND CHICKEN
GROUND TURKEY
10oz EA GROUND VEAL & PORK
BREAD CRUMBS
QUICK OATS
QUICK RICE
FLAVORED BREAD CRUMBS
EGGS
5 EGG WHITES + 1 TBSP OLIVE OIL
EQUAL VOLUME EGG SUB + 2TBSP OIL
EQUAL VOLUME HEAVY CREAM
KETCHUP
BARBEQUE SAUCE
KIKOMAN TERIYAKI SAUCE
3/4 CUP APPLESAUCE + 1/4 CUP MARMELADE OR APRICOT JAM
LIPTON BEEFY ONION SOUP MIX
LIPTON ONION SOUP MIX
PACKAGE OF GRAVY MIX (DRY)
SLOPPY JOE SEASON PACKAGE
BROWN SUGAR
HONEY
OMIT
OMIT
GROUND PEPPER
PAPERIKA TO TASTE
CURRY TO TASTE
RED OR WHITE PEPPER TO TASTE
MILK - 2% OR WHOLE
SKIM MILK OR RECONSTITUTED DRY MILK + 2 TBSP GROUND FLAX (BOXED)
HALF AND HALF
EVAPORATED MILK + WATER
You may combine these in any way you like but remember to add moisture if it is not wet enough

AFTER DINNER

After dinner
After dinner | Source

Comments

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      We make a good meatloaf but yours sounds really good. We use katsup which most recipes don't seem to call for but we love but the brown sugar in it could be really good. Will try this real soon. Thanks for sharing.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 4 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Well, that must be some good meatloaf! Your family ate the color right off your roasting pan! LOL! ;D

      My "meatloaf" is even easier than this! I just cook a slab of frozen hamburger as if it were a roast! Just line the roasting pan with sliced onions, celery and garlic, set a pound of frozen hamburger on top, surround it with small baking potatoes (red ones are good) and large chunks of carrot. Sprinkle Worchestershire sauce over the meat and pour melted butter over the veggies. Sprinkle everything with seasoning salt and pepper, cover and bake at about 400 degrees for an hour. Poke the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done. If not, cover and bake a little longer. When the potatoes are soft, uncover, pour some catsup or BBQ sauce over the meat if you want to and roast for about 10 or 15 minutes more to brown the veggies and the top of the meat.

      Good recipe! Voted up and useful!

    • Marla Neogra profile image
      Author

      Marla J Neogra 5 years ago from Parkersburg, West Virginia

      You are most welcome.

    • Marla Neogra profile image
      Author

      Marla J Neogra 5 years ago from Parkersburg, West Virginia

      Glad I could be of help.

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 5 years ago

      You reminded me that I haven't made meatloaf for awhile. You certainly provided a lot of options for me to choose from.

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      I can smell this meatloaf! Thank you.