“All we are saying is give meat loaf a chance.”
In the middle of a Midwestern Boston Market almost 10 years ago now, these words, printed on an oversized button that was pinned to an employee’s shirt, caught my eye, and it was the first time it ever occurred to me that there are people in this world that don’t like meat loaf. It was inconceivable. Who on earth doesn’t like meat loaf? Clearly, these people had never eaten my mom’s cooking.
Meat loaf was a staple of my childhood, one of the many loved recipes that came from our well-worn copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. We ate it frequently, and I’ve enjoyed it as far back as I can remember. The meat was always moist and flavorful, and the simple glaze of ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar never disappointed. I’ve played around with various toppings over the past several years, but nothing is as homey and comforting as the original sauce.
The recipe I’m sharing today is nearly identical to the one my mom used to make, though I have made a few modifications since it’s seemingly impossible for me to follow a recipe as written. Panko bread crumbs take the place of finer ones, and ground pork is swapped in for some of the beef, providing a nice boost of flavor and moisture. The ingredients here are simple, and the method is straightforward – it’s the perfect easy dinner at the end of a long day (so long as you’ve planned ahead to allow for baking time, of course!).
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 88% lean, 12% fat)
- 1 pound ground pork (I used 80% lean, 20% fat)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons ketchup
- 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, pork, eggs, panko, milk, onion, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Use clean hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients, then transfer the mixture to an 8x8 glass baking dish, pressing it into an even layer.
- Bake the meat loaf for 50-55 minutes, until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees or the juices from the center of the loaf run clear when poked. Carefully drain off fat. (The way that I do this - and I'm not saying it's the safest method - is to cover my hands with oven mitts, and use one hand to hold the meat loaf in place and the other hand to lift up the pan so that the liquid can drain into a bowl. I've never burned my hands or dropped the meatloaf on the floor with this method, but it could happen, so please be careful!)
- Mix the ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar together in a small bowl, then spread it over the meat. Bake the meat loaf for 10 additional minutes, then remove it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, and serve.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.
Tips and Tidbits
- As I said above, the original glaze has my loyalties, but if you are looking to change things up, Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce makes for a delicious topping as well. At least that’s what my husband tells me!
- The key to a great meatloaf, in addition to being well-seasoned, is moisture! In this recipe, the fat content of the meat will help keep it from being dry, but it is also imperative that it not be overcooked. Set a timer for 50 minutes, check the doneness, and then let it cook just a few more minutes if needed to get up to temperature. Do your best to ensure the dish gets removed from the oven as soon as the internal temp reads 160 degree or the juices run clear.
- My other tips for keeping the meat moist are: (1) be sure to allow adequate time for the meat loaf time to rest, otherwise the juices will run out when it’s sliced and will be lost forever, and (2) serve the meat loaf straight from the baking pan instead of pre-slicing.
- Lastly, you’ve probably seen the mini meat loaf muffins on the web, right? I’ve tried this variation on a few occasions because I was attracted to the reduced baking time, but in the end, I always come back to the whole loaf. It’s less work to fill a single pan than all those muffins tins, and the final product tends to be – you guessed – more moist.