When you’ve got a craving for meatloaf, you’re dreaming of the hearty, rich main course served hot out of the oven just like your grandma used to make from scratch, not the bland, mushy, microwaved lump the cafeteria lady used to dump on your tray. Let’s face it; it’s hard to beat homemade meatloaf. Both budget friendly and belly filling, it’s the ultimate easy-to-make comfort food that your whole family will enjoy.
So you’ve decided to make homemade meatloaf from scratch. That’s great! But before you can begin, make sure you have everything you need. Chances are, you have many of these pantry staples on hand in your kitchen already, but if not, make sure you add what you need to your shopping list:
This is where things really start to heat up — preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then, line a regular baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper for a non-stick, easy-clean surface.
Note: you could choose to use a pan instead, but cooking meatloaf on a baking sheet instead of in a baking pan actually allows it to cook faster.
This next step involves a little bit of prep: finely chop the two onions and mince the garlic on a cutting board. Then, drop 1 tbsp. of butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add your chopped onions and allow them to saute until translucent, fragrant, and slightly brown around the edges. At this point, reduce the heat to low, and add the minced garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Finally, remove the frying pan from the heat to allow everything to cool down.
In an extra large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, and the sauteed onions and garlic, and mix with your hands. Keep kneading until the mixture is combined, but try not to overwork the meat. Next, shape the mixture into a loaf shape on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Finally, cut a criss-cross pattern on top with a sharp knife. Your meatloaf is ready to bake!
Bake your meatloaf on the parchment lined pan in the preheated oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. While you are waiting for the meatloaf to bake, it’s time to make the sauce.
Note: The total cooking time can range anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on your oven.
Many people would argue that the sauce is what makes the meatloaf, so don’t forget this step! While your meatloaf is in the oven for the first 40 minutes of its total baking time, combine the brown sugar, the spicy mustard, and the ketchup to make the topping. If you love sauce, you might even want to double or triple the recipe! Once you’ve made the sauce, set it aside.
After 40 minutes, remove the half-baked meatloaf from the oven and slather on the sauce you’ve just made with either a brush or a rubber spatula. Make sure it’s even -- think of it as like icing a cake! Once you’ve done that, return the meatloaf to the hot oven and continue to bake for another 30 to 40 minutes or until it’s done. The only way to know for certain if your meatloaf is ready is to check that the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees F.
Your meatloaf might be done, but we aren’t quite finished here yet. There’s one final step after you’ve taken it out of the oven. You’re heard of letting roasts and steaks “rest” after cooking, and before slicing and serving, right? Meatloaf also benefits from a bit of time out. It enables the juices and the temperature to become equally distributed within the loaf. Ten minutes usually does the trick.
When it comes to food pairings, meatloaf and mashed potatoes are a match made in heaven. The starchy potatoes bring out the best of meatloaf’s meaty flavor. Other side dishes we suggest include steamed broccoli or carrots, creamed spinach, sauteed mushrooms, and garlic bread. You can’t go wrong with any of these, so feel free to mix and match!
This meatloaf is so delicious that leftovers are rarely a problem. But if they are, you’re in luck, because the options for leftover meatloaf are limitless. Crumble it up and use it in tacos, in pasta sauce, fry it up in a skillet as a stir fry, add it to minestrone soup, use it in shepherd's pie, or even make a sandwich. And, if you still have leftovers after that? Pop it in the freezer! Meatloaf freezes up great.