Moist Meatloaf Recipe

4.60 from 45 votes

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This really is the BEST Meatloaf Recipe out there! It has never received less than a 5-star rating and receives RAVE reviews from everyone who tries it. Moist and delicious, this easy-to-make meatloaf with sweet ketchup glaze will leave you wanting more. Delicious served with mashed potatoes and maple glazed carrots.

A close up of a plate of Meatloaf

Why You’ll Love This Moist Meatloaf Recipe

You’re ten simple ingredients away from making the best meatloaf ever! This is a classic recipe that is easy to follow and the sweet ketchup glaze is quite literally the icing on the top. If you’re hesitant about cooking or have never made meatloaf before, worry not! Read through this post to get all my tips and tricks for a delicious meal. Pay special attention to my milk and bread crumbs tip because THAT is the KEY to this tender meatloaf.

Ingredients in a white plastic bowl

Moist Meatloaf Ingredients

  • Ground Beef– I like to use ground beef with a slightly higher fat content for this recipe. By doing so helps make this meatloaf moist and tender. I aim to find 80/20.
  • Onion
  • Bread Crumbs– seasoned bread crumbs
  • Eggs
  • Milk– adds moisture. Whole or 2% is preferred.
  • Seasoning (Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Italian Seasoning)
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire
  • Ketchup + Brown Sugar (for glaze on top)

What is the secret to moist Meatloaf?

Well, there are a number of things that I do to keep a meatloaf moist, tender and delicious! Here are the basics:

  • Fat Content. Using a ground beef that has a slightly higher fat content can definitely help keep your meatloaf moist and tender. A lean or extra lean ground beef (like 90/10 or 93/7) makes a tough meatloaf because it lacks the fat. Try to aim for 80/20.
  • Add Sautéed Veggies. I like sautéing some onions in olive oil until they are brown and adding this to the meat mixture. This not only adds flavor but extra moisture to keep your meatloaf tender and juicy.
  • Add Milk. I know this seems like a weird ingredient, but milk makes a huge difference! Milk adds moisture and it helps keeps the meat tender.
  • Use Breadcrumbs. Seasoned breadcrumbs add another layer of flavor and act sort of like a ‘filler’. But it has an important job! Breadcrumbs absorb the milk as well as the fat from the meat as it cooks, helping to lock in moisture, keeping your meatloaf delicious.
  • Do NOT Overmix. To avoid a dense meatloaf, combine the ingredients JUST until incorporated.
  • Season the Meat Well. This recipe makes a large meatloaf, so it needs plenty of salt and pepper. At least a tablespoon of each. Also, Worcestershire adds depth of flavor, so don’t forget it!
  • Add a Glaze. Whether you brush on a homemade glaze or use plain old ketchup, this adds a sweet flavor which compliments the savory meatloaf and yes, you guessed it, helps hold moisture in.
  • Cover the Meatloaf When Baking. Again, retaining moisture is the name of the game, so while this meatloaf recipe is in the oven, be sure to cover it with foil. In the last 15 minutes, feel free to remove to get that glaze nice and sticky. Yum!

Why Do You Put Milk in Meatloaf?

Like I mentioned above, milk adds moisture and fat that the breadcrumbs absorb that keep this recipe moist and tender. I use the same method with meatballs and even turkey burgers. Milk is a magic ingredient that makes a big difference. Try to use whole or 2% milk where you can. Of course 1% or skim milk works just fine! A nondairy substitute would also work in place of the milk as well.

How to Make Moist Meatloaf

Here is my ultimate guide on how to make this easy meatloaf recipe. For full recipe details, including ingredients measurements, see the printable recipe card down below. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you make the best meatloaf ever!

1. Preheat and Prep

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a half sheet pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Do I Need a Special Pan For Meatloaf? No! You may have seen a special ‘meatloaf pan’ out there which look like a cross between a loaf pan, a springform pan, and a colander. But let me be the first to tell you, you don’t need it to make moist, flavorful meatloaf. With my recipe, you only need a baking sheet lined with foil. A glass baking dish also works in a pinch. You can also just use two plain loaf pans that you would use for bread, but I personally don’t like all the fat collecting in the pan; I like forming it into a loaf shape on a sheet pan and letting any extra fat cook out and end up on the pan instead of in the meatloaf.

2. Make Meatloaf Mixture

In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil until tender and browned. Pour into a large bowl.

To the onions, add in ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, salt, pepper, seasonings, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well until completely combined. Don’t forget to season well with salt and black pepper.

Pro Tip: To test for seasonings, pinch out a small amount of the meat and form a thin patty. Cook in a pan on the stovetop, then taste. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

raw meatloaf on a tinfoil lined baking sheet being glazes with ketchup

3. Form Your Meatloaf Log and Add the Glaze

Form into a long log on the prepared baking sheet and flatten the top. It should fill the pan lengthwise.

Whisk ketchup together with brown sugar and spread over the top of the meatloaf.

What Can I Put on Top of Meatloaf Instead of Ketchup? I kept things easy by glazing this meatloaf recipe with a combination of ketchup and brown sugar. Ketchup is a simple yet traditional topping to meatloaf that locks in the moisture while also providing its signature sweet vinegary taste. If you don’t like ketchup or for whatever reason don’t want to use ketchup as a glaze, here are a few other options: BBQ sauce, Grated Cheddar Cheese, Marinara Sauce (for an Italian meatloaf), Salsa (for a Mexican inspired meatloaf), Strips of Bacon or Cream of Mushroom Soup.

4. Bake

Bake covered with foil at 350° F until cooked all the way through to at least 160° F. Feel free to remove the foil after about 40 minutes of cooking to really caramelize that glaze. Top with chopped fresh parsley if desired and serve.

Meatloaf Cooking Time

The general rule of thumb here is to cook a meatloaf 30 minutes per pound of beef. This is at the oven temperature of 350° F. Cooking times will vary because no two ovens are alike. Plus the thinner and flatter you make your loaf the quicker it will cook. I baked mine for about an hour, you may need more time.

What Internal Temperature is Meatloaf Done?

Use an instant read meat thermometer to check for doneness. If it reads 160° F or more, you’re good to go. Over baking can dry it out though, so be careful.

close up of the top of meatloaf sliced

Storage Directions

Lucky for you, this meatloaf recipe saves well! Cover leftover meatloaf with plastic wrap or airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, simply warm in the microwave or oven. 

To Freeze

You can also freeze this meatloaf recipe. With this method, it can last up to four months in the freezer. After baking, let your loaf cool to room temperature. Cover in foil, then seal it in a plastic freezer bag.

Reheat. Let thaw for 24 hours in your fridge before baking. Then bake at 350° F until the internal temperature reaches 160° F.

Make Ahead Instructions

Besides measuring ingredients and mixing them together, the only other thing you have to do is saute onions. This is why this meatloaf recipe is such an easy one. It is perfect for any night of the week and can even be made ahead of time!

Simply mix the meat mixture together in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use. When you’re ready, uncover it and let it come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Form that log shape on a prepared pan and top it with the sauce right before baking.

Meatloaf vs Salisbury Steak

While you might think meatloaf and salisbury steak two are basically the same dish, they are definitely not my friends. Yes, the ingredients are mostly the same, but the differences are in way they are cooked and what is added to the top. Meatloaf is obviously formed into a loaf and either baked in a loaf pan or on baking sheet, in the oven. Meatloaf usually has a tomato (ketchup) spread or glaze added to the top. Salisbury Steak is cooked in skillet on the stove top in patties, and usually served with a brown mushroom gravy.

Meatloaf Recipe FAQ

Why is my meatloaf falling apart?

To keep your loaf from falling apart make sure you follow the written recipe correctly. All of the binding ingredients (like breadcrumbs and eggs) are key. Another reason the meatloaf can fall apart is if you sliced into it while it right out of the oven piping hot. Let it rest for ten minutes before cutting to help it keep its shape.

Why is my meatloaf tough?

You could have a tough or chewy meatloaf for two main reasons: (1) you used a ground beef with a lower fat content and/or (2) you over baked it. To avoid this, use 80/20 ground beef and use that instant read meat thermometer to help prevent this.

Why is my meatloaf mushy?

The main reason you’d have a mushy meatloaf is if the portions of binding ingredients to meat is off. If you have too many onions, breadcrumbs, eggs and milk can create a mushy meatloaf. Any meatloaf recipe that has more breadcrumbs than ground beef is a sign you’ll most likely have a mushy meatloaf.

Why did my meatloaf crack?

This happens because the outside cooks faster than the inside. To help prevent a crack in your meatloaf, be sure to top the outside with ketchup, bake at a lower oven temperature (350° F) and cover with foil.

What to Serve With Meatloaf

This Meatloaf recipe deserves to be served with the best side dishes. So I’ve rounded up a few that go perfectly with meatloaf.

Love Meatloaf? Try These Recipes

I know you’ll quickly see why this recipe has become a family favorite of mine! Add it to your monthly meal planning rotation! The printable recipe card is below. Have a great day, friends! 🙂

If you make this recipe, I would really appreciate it if you would give it a star rating and leave your review in the comments! If you have a picture of your finished dish, post it on Instagram using the hashtag #laurenslatest and tagging me @laurens_latest.

A close up of a plate of Meatloaf
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4.60 from 45 votes

Moist Meatloaf Recipe

This is the BEST Meatloaf Recipe out there! Moist and delicious, this easy to make meatloaf will leave you wanting more.
servings 12 people
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

for the glaze

Equipment

  • half sheet pan

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line half sheet pan with heavy-duty foil, spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil until tender and browned, about 10 minutes. Pour into a large bowl.
  • To the onions, add in ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, salt, pepper, seasonings, 1 cup ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and parsley. Mix well until completely combined.
  • Form into a long log on the prepared baking sheet and flatten the top.
  • In a small bowl, whisk brown sugar with remaining 1 1/2 cups ketchup to form glaze.
  • Spread glaze overtop prepared meatloaf and bake covered with foil 45 minutes to 1 hour or until cooked thoroughly and registers at least 160° F. Rest meatloaf covered lightly with foil for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Top with more chopped parsley, if desired, and serve.

Video

Notes

Leftovers. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezing. After baking, let your meatloaf cool to room temperature. Cover in foil, then seal it in a plastic freezer bag.
Reheat. Let thaw for 24 hours in your fridge before baking. Then bake at 350° F until the internal temperature reaches 160° F.

Nutrition

Calories: 440kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 649mg | Potassium: 581mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 434IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy meatloaf recipe, how to make meatloaf, Meatloaf, meatloaf recipe

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Recipe Rating




67 Responses
  1. John Brennan

    5 stars
    I made this last night with a blend of beef, veal and pork, and it was delicious! I can see how much moisture is built in so that using 90% lean beef would not have turned out dry. A note on the “salt to taste” That’s tough to tell before it’s cooked. I made the recipe at 2/3 scale because I only had 2lb meat, and used 1/2 tsp kosher salt and probably less ketchup on top, but the right amount in the mix. The salt level was perfect.

  2. Peggi

    5 stars
    Great recipe, we just ate supper and it was well received by hubby and I – love the real meat flavor. I don’t like store bought ketchup so I usually avoid recipes calling for it but I used my homemade ketchup to top it and it was delicious. Thanks for sharing the great tips, too!

  3. Hey Momma! What's For Supper? #99 Comfort Food for Exam Week

    […] – Classic Sunday Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Butter Beans, and Southern […]

  4. Carla

    5 stars
    I made this yesterday and it turned out great! My husband says it’s fine, filling, and just as expected. That’s good to hear because he ate a lot of meatloaf growing up and I was hoping to make one that’d taste just as good as he remembered. =) I only made a few slight adjustments like just 1 cup of onion, minced, as my husband requested, Almond Breeze unsweetened original almond milk to be dairy-free, and gluten-free breadcrumbs and Worcestershire sauce. I did 1 full tsp of salt with about 6-7 cracks of black pepper. The recipe said to taste but that’s hard to know when making it for someone else so this is what I did if it helps anyone. I can say that it turns out just fine made in a loaf pan. It makes 2 loaves that needed to bake at 400 for 45 minutes in our oven anyway. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  5. Julie O

    I’m looking forward to trying this! My husband can’t stand onions (even when they are diced small and cooked) so do you recommend anything to substitute for the moisture? Thanks!

  6. Amber Miller

    This is going to be our dinner tonight! I prepped everything this morning into two loaf pans. I’m hoping it’s a winner with my family because they aren’t fans of my current meatloaf lol. Congrats on your ten years!

  7. Margi

    This is going in my dinner list for this week. I normally use a small can of tomato sauce in my meatloaf so using ketchup will be interesting. But my mom’s topping was ketchup, brown sugar and yellow mustard which of course gives you a sweet component. For us mashed potatoes is a must and maybe some German green beans. Looking forward to this as meatloaf is one of my favorite meals.

  8. Karen

    5 stars
    Tried this recipe after years of not eating meatloaf and it was a hit for me and my family! Definitely will be part of our recipe repertoire!

  9. Stacy

    This looks really good! Funny I never loved meatloaf as a kid, and as an adult I want to make it and love it, but my picky family doesn’t. I’m thinking I”m just gonna pull a surprise meal on them, lol.

  10. Sommer Lynn

    5 stars
    Absolute best meatloaf recipe hands down. My 14 year old who “hates” meatloaf actually loved this one! Will be making again and again ❤

  11. Trilby C.

    Ohhhhhh meatloaf. It’s one of those foods that I’ve never made it the same way twice, yet it turns out so fantastically delicious every time! We’re trying this recipe tonight! (P.S. Happy blogging anniversary! I’ve been a longtime reader and have made so many of your recipes! Congrats on this milestone!)

  12. Nancy Vazquez

    5 stars
    Hello, Lauren, I made your meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner yesterday. I must say it all was a hit here. My husband could not stop talking about how delicious it was. He was raving on how it tasted just like an old fashioned meatloaf just how his mom would make it. I also used your mashed potato recipe and those were hands down my favorite mashed potatoes yet. I look forward to trying out more of your recipes Lauren. Happy 10 years on doing what you were born to do. I just wish I had found your blog since then because there is nothing better than some good old recipes to make me fall in love with cooking again. May God Bless you with many more years of continued success.

  13. Kelly

    My family LUVS meatloaf & this recipe looks a lot simpler than mine so I’ve printed it out to try for Sunday dinner!! Thank you!!

  14. Amber Bishop

    Yummy! I cannot wait to make this tomorrow night. I love the directions, that are detailed!!! I am not a great cook and have yet to be able to master a good meatloaf

  15. Cheryl Newton

    I big puffy heart love meatloaf. Don’t know if my family is as enthusiastic as I am about it, but since I’m the chef around here, my tastes kind of dictate what I make. Plus, it always makes me think of my mom (God rest her soul), and her love of leftover meatloaf sandwiches.

  16. Carolyn S Cheeseman

    5 stars
    Can’t wait to try this. I love your homestyle old school recipes like this (like those amazing stuffed peppers!) You know the way to my midwestern heart!

  17. Marybeth

    5 stars
    Wow! This recipe is so simple and so good! I have a special needs teenage girl and her favorite dinner is MEATLOAF! She loves it and so does our whole family!

  18. Kristen

    I love meatloaf! I am making this for dinner tomorrow night. It seems like the perfect fall dinner. Can’t wait and I love that you posted a meatloaf recipe!

    1. Sue

      Does the ketchup in the meatloaf make the cooked
      meatloaf look red? I’ve always put ketchup on the top
      and sides after I have formed my meatloaf, but I have
      never mixed ketchup into the loaf.

  19. Kim Bass

    I miss my mom’s meatloaf recipe. She has been gone almost 7 years and I still crave it. I never knew how she made it, but I am excited to try this recipe. It looks amazing!

  20. Melissa Hughes

    5 stars
    I made this recipe this past Sunday. Hands down the best meat loaf recipe I’ve ever used. My husband has been eating the leftovers for lunch all week. Thank you!!

    1. Judy gutschenritter

      My daughter mixes ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and puts on top of loaf. Bake as ordered When done sprinkle with parsley

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