Making Meatloaf for the first time

I have a meatloaf question. My brother, who’s an excellent cook, doesn’t use any breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, oatmeal, etc. in his meatloaf.'ve never had his meatloaf, but to me that seems like a recipe for leadloaf. I use breadcrumbs. He says they’re just filler and do nothing to enhance the meatloaf.

So who’s right? Do breadcrumbs lighten the loaf, or are they dispensable filler?

I don’t have a recipe – I just pretty much throw together ground beef, chopped onion, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, an egg, black pepper and something starchy – a slice or two of bread, soaked in milk or water, or maybe soaked crackers, whatever I have around the house and feel like using.

I never put a ketchup or other tomato-y glaze on it. I always serve with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Meatloaf without mashed potatoes is like bolognese sauce without pasta.

I always assumed that the breadcrumbs were there to soak up and maintain the various juices from the cooking process, yielding a moister loaf. I think the amount of bread/cracker etc. most people add isn’t going to “extend” your meatloaf very much.

They help bind the meatloaf, soften it, absorb the liquids, and make the loaf less dense. I use torn up bread, fresh or stale, and/or crushed croutons, and then some fine dry unseasoned bread crumbs to get the consistency just right. Without the bread it’s just a big hamburger.

I’ve had great success with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe. The one they have online isn’t quite the same as the one in the cookbook.

Sounds weird but last time I made meatloaf, I used popcorn crumbs just to be different. Turned out good but my SO doesn’t want me to do that again. :slight_smile:

Thank you. I feel vindicated. :slight_smile:

This is what I make:

Bill Blass Meatloaf

2-1/2 to 3 lbs. ground beef or ‘meatloaf mix’ (some groceries sell this)

2 eggs

1 cup bread crumbs

1 small can (single serving size) V8 juice (spicy is good)

2 TB Worcestershire sauce

Dried thyme and dried marjoram to taste (I usually use a teaspoon of each)

1 TB butter cut into 4 pieces

S & P to taste (you’ll need more P than S)

½ cup finely chopped onion
(add some chopped spinach too if you want to pretend you are making it healthier)

Bacon bits

Bottle of chili sauce

Oven 350F

Gently mix all ingredients except the bacon bits and chili sauce until just combined. Place in a loaf pan. Top with a coating of chili sauce and then spread the bacon bits over that. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I do use a meatloaf pan with a rack. I cut it into 8 slices when it’s done and add more chili sauce to my slice.

As mentioned up thread, stuffing mix is great. There’s a ton of spices in that. I’ve made this one dozens of times and it always turns out excellent.

There’s also a ton of salt in it, so that’s something to consider as well.

Yep! That’s why I like 4:20 in the video when she adds MORE salt. Good 'ol southern cooking!

This is what works for me. It’s an amalgam of several recipes. This is a simplified version of what I make.

2 pounds medium ground beef, give or take
Splash of mustard and hot sauce
Several splashes of Worcestershire sauce
Generous amounts of salt, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, dried parsley
Generous amounts of dried chopped onion, paprika, chili peppers, granulated garlic
An egg or two
Big splash of milk or cream
Optional crushed saltines, fresh breadcrumbs

Put all ingredients into a bowl.
Could sub some beef for pork and/or veal.
Mix and shape by hand into a smooth loaf.
Add more milk, onion, egg or bread if needed so easily keeps shape with no excess liquid
Put onto tray freeform. Use foil or oil spray.
(Loaf pans keep crust from forming, retain liquids, not as good IMHO even with drain).
If desired add glaze: ketchup is best, can add salt, pepper, more sugar, bacon if desired
Bake for an hour at 350 depending on oven
Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serve with more ketchup.

(My version is healthier but uses stuff you may not have. Can sub diced onion for dried onion but flavour will be sharper).

How many people wear plastic gloves to mix everything?

I don’t like getting raw meat on my hands. There’s always a risk of cross contamination on counters, paper towel holder, sink etc.

I stock a box of lightweight food service gloves. The gloves work great and they peel off the hands inside out. Trapping everything inside.

I’ve noticed the posted recipes don’t include veggies in the meatloaf. Thank goodness. Serve the veggies on the plate. Not in my meat loaf.

Veggies are healthy and I sometimes add them. But they destroy the texture if not very finely minced. Dried vegetables and powders actually work better and taste milder.

One of days I want to make a meatloaf with hot salsa.

My go-to lately for oven (I do something else on the smoker) meatloaf is riffing off of Ina Garten’s Food Network recipe. It’s a good baseline that you can add or remove stuff as you see fit. One critical and ‘easy to skip but don’t’ detail is to use fresh thyme. I made this a few times last winter and, after reheating at work, had people follow their noses and ask me what sort of exotic meal I was eating. “Just meatloaf.” I usually add bell pepper and some jalapeno, mostly for color.

I’ve had and made very good meatloaf using a jar of salsa. I don’t recall what the filler was, probably bread crumbs.

lots of great sounding recipes, thanks everyone. But, who knew? Not me obviously, but I’ve been doing a version of meatloaf for years with burgers, a sort of meatloaf burger.

And who says meatloaf aint gore-may fūd!?!

From now on I shall refer to it as Pain De Viande, or possibly il polpettone, perhaps, if I maybe remember to do so. But mark my words, if I do it will be with all the haughtiness and snootiness and smugness I can mustard and I shall be in danger if drowning if its raining as my nose will be so upturned at you ruffians so as to better look down it at you🤓

Anyhoo, now I gotta choose one to try this weekend. I shall report back the success of the fasírt next week. If I fail, done bother sending search and rescue. Just give a nod in remembrance🧐

no the typos weren’t on pirpose bit they’re funny


Ignore your brother. He may be an excellent cook, but the best chefs on the planet use bread of some sort when making meatloaf or Italian meatballs. As mentioned, it’s a binder. Generally, binders are bread, eggs and/or dairy, and you only need two of them when making something like meatloaf. If you use three, you may end up with mush.

Also, a common mistake is overworking the meat mixture, which can also result in a mushy result. I don’t use a bread pan, but rather free-form the loaf on a baking sheet (or form it in a loaf pan and invert it onto a baking sheet). That way you get a nice crust all over and more surface area for the glaze. Rather than just ketchup, I use the following for the glaze, which I think I got from Alton Brown:

½ cup ketchup
1 tsp ground cumin
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash hot pepper sauce
1 TBSP honey

Lots of recipes in this thread, some of which, for my money, won’t give you anything recognizable as meatloaf.

For your first time I’d strongly encourage you to stick with something basic and time tested. For that, you can’t beat the Lipton Soup recipe. This is what most American’s probably grew up with.

I would be careful with these recipes that call for a lot of diced raw veggies inside the meatloaf. Onions, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, whatever…they can screw up the texture and introduce too much water. It is after all meatloaf. I tend to prefer dry spices and dehydrated onions here. I also tend to think the “glaze” that is part of a traditional recipe and presentation is a waste of time and energy. If you’re making a sandwich with it, but whatever you like on the bun, not on the meatloaf. Or use a dipping sauce. Ketchup and meatloaf go together as well as ketchup and fries, so again don’t overcomplicate this.

My understanding is that overworking the meat has the opposite result. It causes the meat to bind too tightly making for a tough, dry and dense meatloaf. Not a mushy one. Kenji agrees (though the topic here is burgers). But the guidance is the same, don’t knead or work the meat any more than is necessary.