Easy Meatloaf

Given a choice, I’ll take meatloaf over steak every single time. It’s my favorite way to eat ground meat.

Over the years I’ve read (and made) dozens of meatloaf recipes. Most of them are good, and a few are great. One thing that unites my favorite meatloaves is their ease. If you’re looking for a reliably crowd-pleasing meatloaf recipe that you can pull together with a few pounds of ground beef and basic pantry staples, this is your recipe.

What Makes a Great Meatloaf?

Don’t tell the younger version of myself this, but at its heart, meatloaf is simply a less decadent, beefier version of a rustic pork-based country pâté. They both use spiced ground meat and breadcrumbs, eggs, and dairy as a binder. The big difference is that pâté is richer and has a polarizing requirement: liver. I adore both.

My ideal meatloaf is delightfully middle of the road: flavorful but not over-seasoned. It holds its shape when sliced and is neither tough nor squishy nor crumbly. It has a burnished ketchup topping that complements the meatloaf itself instead of overpowering it. And don’t worry: there’s no liver in sight.

The Best Meat for Meatloaf


For cost and quality, I’m for ground beef all the way. Besides, I grew up on all-beef meatloaf, and that’s what I like. Can you use a mix of ground pork and/or ground veal here? By all means, yes. But if you want to try turkey or meatless grounds, which are leaner, I suggest using our Turkey Meatloaf or Vegetarian Meatloaf recipes.

Ground chuck, which is 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat, is my go-to ground beef for a juicy meatloaf. Yes, the fat does render out to some extent, but a long bake time helps prevent that. If you love gravy, you can use the rendered fat in the pan as a base for a quick gravy to serve with this recipe.

Since a lot of folks can only get ground beef in 1-pound increments, I call for 2 pounds in this recipe, leaving no half-pound of beef for you to use up later. Besides, a bigger meatloaf means more leftovers. And meatloaf is all about the joy of leftovers.

Meatloaf Binders

Eggs help meatloaf keep its shape. The yolks add a little richness as well.

Starch also binds the meatloaf. We’re using dry breadcrumbs, but you can use crushed crackers, fresh breadcrumbs, well-smashed tortilla chips, or matzo meal. Or try rolled or quick oats (pulse rolled oats in a food processor first).

If you use fresh breadcrumbs or breadcrumbs that are not fine, mix them with the milk first and let them sit for about 10 minutes. This will help prevent big blobs of bread goop in the finished meatloaf.

Trivia time! In classical French cuisine, the mixture of breadcrumbs and milk used to bind a mixture of ground meat is called a panada.

For Juicy Meatloaf, Add Liquid

Adding liquid is the key to a meatloaf that’s moist, not rubbery. This can be milk, water, salsa, stock, tomato juice, or wine (any kind) mixed with water. You can get pretty creative here. Once again, a steady and low bake helps the meatloaf retain this liquid so you’re not digging into a desiccated log of sadness.

Ingredient Swaps

Meatloaf is just about the most substitution-friendly dish there is. If you’re missing something or feeling creative, try one of these swaps.

  • Ketchup: Use barbecue sauce or steak sauce instead of ketchup.
  • Milk: You can sub stock, salsa, tomato juice, or even water for the milk. If using a tomato product, skip the ketchup.
  • Worcestershire sauce: Use soy sauce or half the amount of Maggi sauce instead.
  • Onion powder: Use the same volume of dried minced onion, but rehydrate it in a little boiling water first. Or grate half a medium onion.
  • Garlic powder: Omit it, or grate a garlic clove in the mix.
  • Mustard: Use whole-grain or Dijon, prepared horseradish, or 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder in place of the yellow mustard. Hate mustard? Leave it out.


Making adjustments to ingredients can change the amount of salt. To taste for seasoning, cook a small test patty in a skillet and cool slightly, then taste and add salt or any other seasonings as needed.

A Serving of Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli on a Plate Next to a Bowl With More Broccoli and a Bowl With Minced Parsley

Switch Up the Shape

For this recipe, we’re going with a 9×13-inch pan to hold a freeform loaf. It’s great because you can form a flatter loaf, which bakes faster than a deep loaf packed into a loaf pan. The high sides of the pan, meanwhile, keep all the drippings under control, which won’t happen if you use a rimmed sheet pan.

But one of the best things about meatloaf is that you can form it into whatever size and shape you like. Here are some alternatives, with times as guidelines; always cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meatloaf registers 160°F.

  • 9×5-inch loaf pan: Baking time will be 1 hour or longer.
  • Muffin tin meatloaves: Divide the mixture between about 16 greased standard-size muffin tins and bake for 25 minutes; let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  • Skillet mini-meatloaves: Make half the recipe and form into 8 patties, then cook (without the ketchup topping) over medium-high heat in a large, lightly greased nonstick skillet. Flip every 3 minutes or so and cook a total of 10 minutes per side.
  • Microwave: Pack the meatloaf evenly in a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate (The round shape of the pie plate microwaves more evenly) Microwave without the topping on high power for 12 minutes, then add the topping and microwave another 3 to 5 minutes; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Easy Meatloaf

PREP TIME10 mins
COOK TIME80 mins
REST TIME:10 mins
TOTAL TIME100 mins
SERVINGS8 servings
YIELD1 large meatloaf, or 2 smaller ones


For the meatloaf

  • 2 pounds ground chuck (80/20)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk

For the topping

  • 1/2 cup ketchup


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

    Position a rack in the center of the oven.

  2. Mix the meatloaf:

    Electric mixer: Combine all of the meatloaf ingredients except the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed just until the ingredients are blended, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour in the milk. Do not overmix. The meatloaf mix should be slightly sticky.

    By hand: Combine all of the ingredients except the milk in a large bowl and mix together with your hands until combined. Then add the milk and work it in until the mixture is homogeneous.


    Using a mixer keeps your hands from getting cold and assures the ingredients are well distributed.

    Mixer Bowl With Easy Meatloaf Ingredients (Minus the Milk)
    Milk Poured Into the Mixer Bowl With Easy Meatloaf Ingredients (Mixer Bowl Still on the Stand Mixer)

    Meatloaf Mixture in a Mixer Bowl Still Attached to the Stand Mixer
  3. Form the meatloaf:

    Turn the meatloaf mixture into an ungreased 9×13-inch pan. With your hands, shape into a 10×5-inch freeform loaf. Evenly spread the ketchup on top (an offset metal spatula is great for this if you have one). If you prefer, you can bake the meatloaf in a 9×5-inch loaf pan (it may take longer to bake).


    Want your meatloaf to bake faster? Divide the mix in half and form two smaller loaves side by side in the same pan. Begin checking the temperature after 40 minutes.

    Meatloaf Shaped and Placed on a Baking Tray

    Ketchup Spread Onto the Meatloaf on the Baking Pan, Using a Silicone Basting Brush

  4. Bake and rest:

    Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers 160°F, about 1 hour and 20 minutes (begin checking after 1 hour).

    Let the meatloaf sit for 10 minutes before slicing. If you like, pour off the fat and juices to make a gravy (there will be plenty of fat, but not enough liquid; you’ll need to supplement with stock or milk).

    Digital Thermometer Showcasing 160F, and Underneath It, the Cooked Meatloaf on the Baking Pan

    Baked Meatloaf on the Baking Pan

  5. Store or freeze:

    Cool leftovers completely, then wrap well in plastic or foil and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

    Cooked meatloaf freezes well. Wrap in plastic, then in foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

    Easy Meatloaf on a Platter and Surrounded by Two Bowls of Sides (One Mashed Potatoes and Another Broccoli) and a Sage Kitchen Towel


What is Easy Meatloaf?

Easy Meatloaf is a classic comfort food dish made from ground meat (commonly beef or a mixture of beef and pork) mixed with various ingredients such as breadcrumbs, eggs, onions, and seasonings. The mixture is then shaped into a loaf and baked until cooked through. It’s a simple and satisfying dish that’s perfect for family dinners or gatherings.

What ingredients are typically used in Easy Meatloaf?

The ingredients for Easy Meatloaf often include ground meat (beef, pork, or a combination), breadcrumbs (or crushed crackers), eggs (to bind the mixture), finely chopped onions, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce (for flavor), salt, pepper, and sometimes additional seasonings like thyme or parsley. Some recipes also call for ingredients like ketchup, mustard, or barbecue sauce to add moisture and flavor to the meatloaf.

Can I customize Easy Meatloaf to suit my preferences?

Yes, Easy Meatloaf is highly customizable, allowing you to tailor the ingredients to your taste preferences or dietary needs. You can experiment with different types of ground meat or substitute ground beef with ground turkey or chicken for a lighter option. Additionally, you can add vegetables such as grated carrots, diced bell peppers, or spinach to add moisture, flavor, and nutrition to the meatloaf. Feel free to adjust the seasonings and spices according to your taste.

How do I prevent Easy Meatloaf from becoming dry?

To prevent Easy Meatloaf from becoming dry, it’s important to use a combination of ingredients that add moisture and flavor to the mixture. Adding ingredients like finely chopped onions, minced garlic, eggs, and Worcestershire sauce helps bind the meatloaf together and keep it moist during baking. Additionally, using a mixture of ground meats with varying fat content can also contribute to a juicier meatloaf. Avoid overmixing the ingredients, as this can result in a denser texture.

How long does Easy Meatloaf need to bake?

The baking time for Easy Meatloaf can vary depending on the size and thickness of the loaf, as well as the oven temperature. In general, a standard-sized meatloaf will take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours to bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C). To ensure that the meatloaf is cooked through, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature—it should reach 160°F (71°C) in the center of the loaf. Let the meatloaf rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.


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