By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
If you’re craving meatloaf and using a family recipe or riffing with whatever ingredients you already have, you might be wondering what temperature to cook the meatloaf to. Here’s what temperature you should set your oven to, plus the internal temperature your meatloaf should reach when it’s cooked — and a few other meatloaf-cooking tips.
The oven temperature is typically set at 350 degrees F for making meatloaf. That’s the temperature you want to be sure to use so the meatloaf cooks and doesn’t dry out. Too high, and the outer crust will burn before the interior is cooked all the way, too low and you don’t get that delicious crust. But bear in mind that if you set the oven to 350 degrees F and then open the oven door to pop the meatloaf in, you’ll be starting the meatloaf off in an oven that is substantially lower than 350. There’s an easy fix for that: Try start the oven at 425 degrees F and then turn it down to 350 degrees F as soon as you put the meatloaf in the oven. This trick means the initial temperature drop won’t have a big effect on the cooking time.
When making meatloaf, the recipe will tell you about how long to bake it. But it might not also tell you what the internal temperature of the meatloaf should be when it’s completely cooked and safe to eat: 160 degrees F. A recipe won’t necessarily take into account your oven, your pan and how you shaped the loaf. This is where the trusty instant-read thermometer comes in handy. 15 minutes before the recipe says it will be done, pull the meatloaf out of the oven and take its temp. Taking the meatloaf out and closing the door keeps the temperature in the oven more stable, so when you put the meatloaf back in the oven, it won’t take very long to come back to 350 degrees F.
We’re think mashed potatoes go hand-in-hand with meatloaf. Beyond that, all the steamed vegetables are a great option, or any vegetable in a sauce with a little cheese. Because meatloaf isn’t cooked in a pan on the stove, there are no pan drippings to make a gravy, which would be great with those mashed potatoes. Try a recipe for gravy without drippings for the perfect, hearty finishing touch.
Typically, meatloaf is made with a blend of equal parts beef, veal and pork. A form of bread is usually added, often soaked in milk and then squeezed a bit (the technical name for the squishy wet bread is panada). Adding vegetables adds moisture, but they need to be sauteed and cooled before going into the meat mix. Salt, pepper and a seasoning blend of mustard, garlic and onion powders is a great place to start. Think about the flavors your family likes and go from there. Add an egg for every pound of meat — it holds everything together when the meatloaf is baking. And a glaze that’s at least part ketchup is a given.
It’s important to be gentle and not overmix or you’ll end up with a tough loaf. Shaping the loaf and placing it on a foil-lined half sheet pan will give you the maximum amount of browned crust. Putting meatloaf in a loaf pan can cause it to steam and become tough and heavy. Use that pan for banana bread instead.
A meatloaf made from two pounds of meat with all the extras mixed in will bake in about an hour in a 350 degree F oven. Brush half the glaze on the meatloaf before you put it in the oven and the remaining half after it’s baked for 45 minutes. Let the meatloaf rest for ten minutes after taking it out of the oven before slicing.
Meatloaf can be frozen before it is baked. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf and freeze. Thaw in the fridge before baking. It’s also convenient to make mini-loaves. If you’re looking to freeze cooked meatloaf your best bet is slicing it, wrapping each slice individually and using it for sandwiches. Reheating individual slices in a microwave for a short period of time on 50-60% power will give you the best results.
The meatloaf this recipe makes is great, but the sauce…wow. The sugar, pepper and Worcestershire added to the ketchup for the glaze takes it to a new level.
A turkey meatloaf is a little lighter, but just as satsifying. This version won a lot of fans in our test kitchen.
Meatloaf in a slow cooker has two huge advantages: You set it and forget it, and come home to a kitchen that smells amazing.
Why serve more dishes than you have to? Taters in the meatloaf instead of on the side — brilliant.
The gravy for this meatless meatloaf is so good we’ll be making it for more than meatloaf.