Make it big or make it small; this is a traditional old fashion meatloaf like your grandma would make from memory. It is super moist and easy for even the beginner. It will become that go-to recipe that everybody needs for meatloaf.
We all need everyday recipes for great comfort food and leftovers at times. This is it. It is not complicated and uses minimal common ingredients you already have at home. Just follow these easy step by step photos for some great old fashion comfort food.
We have enjoyed this at least monthly for 40+ years. This is my wife's recipe, and the only variation is that I actually measured things so I could publish this. Please enjoy one of our standard recipes that has had decades of development.
Nothing less than a five will do. I do love meatloaf, and I'm very picky. This is super moist with great taste.
What is Meatloaf?
Meatloaf is a dish of ground meat that has been mixed with other ingredients. During the Great Depression, it was a way for families to stretch their budget by using inexpensive ground meat and leftover ingredients like bread or cereal. It is then formed into the shape of a loaf, then baked.
When a starch like bread or grains are combined with an added liquid that forms a "panade," which is then added to ground meat and keeps the results moist.
The number of ingredients
I have eight, and I can remember them. Even though this is my wife's recipe and perfected over the years, I always do a little research looking at some other recipes. To my horror, almost all of them had 15-20 ingredients.
Meatloaf should be fast, whip it together in 5 minutes meal. Even if you had all 20 ingredients without the trip to the store, it would still take 30 minutes to get everything out and measured. MY GOD... how stupid.
Any ground meat can be used, but I suggest ground chuck. Meatloaf is not health food. You can use lower-fat ground beef, but it will be dryer.
You can mix in some ground pork or other ground meat to make it your own. Or you can just make it with ground chicken or turkey.
Seasoning: The reason this recipe is so easy is that the seasoning salt and ketchup provides the spicing and taste. So the quality of those ingredients becomes important.
For the ketchup, I only recommend Hunts or Heinz. Please do not use generic, or your taste buds will pay the price. While I claim some expertise in ketchup, the seasoning salt is up to you, but Lowery's is my choice.
The vegetables: I suggest mainly diced onions. But carrots and celery are commonly added. But go wild and use things if you like. But they need to be cut small.
The egg: You will need one egg per pound of meat. It helps hold it together.
The “panade” is made of bread or crackers soaked in milk and is usually about ¼ to ⅓ of the volume of the meatloaf. You can use other things like oats for the starch, and, of course, you can substitute for the dairy.
I'm super simple here. Just a nice coat of the ketchup. Many recipes fancy this up with brown sugar, mustard, or even top with bacon or BBQ sauce. I like it simple.
⏰🌡️Time and Temperature
A two-pound meatloaf will about 1 to 1 ¼ hours with an oven temperature of 350°. That is assuming the loaf is about 1 ½ inch thick. Thicker takes longer and thinner cook faster. So sometimes it will take 1 ½ hours.
A one-pounder will probably be 30-40 minutes. And a three-pounder will take 1 ½ up to 2 hours. But always cook to the final internal temperature, never by time alone since there are variables.
The main variables for how long to cook a meatloaf is related to the oven temperature and the weight and thickness of the meatloaf. There can be other variables, so only some generalities can be given.
You can use a higher temperature or convection. The higher the temperature, the more the surface will cook and brown before the center reaches the final temperature. So 375° is generally fine and will be a bit faster and more browning. Using convection, it will be like adding 25° to the internal temperature.
Ground beef is safe at 160°, and the egg does not change that. If you use ground poultry in the meatloaf, it needs to be 165° to be safe.
A rule I have seen is 35-45 minutes per pound. I don't find that very useful. Please cook to the final internal temperature.
This is an easy recipe to adjust down to the amount you want, but we love leftovers in our "for two" household. Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, and it will freeze well for 3-4 months.
This can be cut down to a 1 pound meatloaf and should take 35-45 minutes to bake depending on the thickness you make. Or you can also do a cupcake pan for smaller servings, and it should take 20-30 minutes depending on the tray material, size, and how full you make it. Of course, you are cooking to a final temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a shallow baking dish with PAM.
Chop a medium onion.
In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients minus ¼ cup of ketchup for topping. Mix well, being sure not to leave any chunks of burger not mixed. I use clean hands for this. Officially, use a wooden spoon.
Place in the baking pan and cover top with ketchup.
Place in the preheated oven and cook to an internal temperature of 160 — about 1 to 1 ¼ hour.
Remove from the pan for serving.
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 egg
- 1 onion - medium - minced
- ¾ cup bread crumbs
- ¾ cup ketchup - divided ½ cup plus about ¼ cup on top
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Lawry's Seasoning salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 350. Spray a shallow baking dish with PAM
- In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients together. Mix well, be sure not to leave any chunks of burger not mixed. I use clean hands for this. Officially use a wooden spoon.
- Place in baking pan and cover top with ketchup.
- Place in oven and cook to 160 internal temperature. This will be about 1 to 1 ¼ hours..
- Remove from the oven. Move to a serving plate. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
- Cheap ketchup would probably spoil this, so I always use Hunt's or Heinz.
- This is a very easy recipe to adjust. You need one egg per pound of meat.
- This can be cut down to a 1 pound meatloaf and should take 35-45 minutes to bake. Or you can also do cupcake pan for smaller servings and it should take 20-30 minutes depending on the tray material, size and how full you make it. Of course, you are cooking to a final temperature not by time estimates.
- Ground beef is safe at 160°, and the egg does not change that. If you use ground poultry in the meatloaf, it needs to be 165° to be safe. We like a final internal temperature of 165.
- I like to use a 7-8 inch spatula to remove the meatloaf from the pan.
- Reheats well in a microwave when cut into slices but good cold for sandwiches.
- You can cut this recipe down, but we usually do about 2 pounds since the leftovers are great.
- Lots of handwashing, please. We have raw ground meat and eggs, so the risk of contamination is relatively high.
- We usually put a couple of baking potatoes in the oven with this. Cooking time is a good match.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days. Good frozen for 3-4 months. You can also make ahead and hold in the refrigerator for a day before cooking or freeze for a few months. If frozen the thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally published on February 17, 2010. This is a completely redone post from the second month of this blog. I was using an early Kodac digital camera that was beyond its prime; my writing was bad and my blogging skills minimal. Everything has been updated except the recipe itself.