Discover the secrets to the classic American dinner with Momma’s meatloaf recipe; easy, flavorful, and topped with the best glaze.

When we think of home-cooked meals that offer comfort and warmth, meatloaf stands out as a quintessentially American family favorite. Our Momma’s Meatloaf isn’t just any meatloaf; it’s a classic that boasts the best flavor ever! Each bite is a perfect blend of rich meat, aromatic spices, and that delectable glaze that ties it all together. While everyone may have their version of this American classic, this particular recipe takes all the best elements and combines them into a dish that’s simply unforgettable.

Meatloaf, as we know it today, has roots in various cultures. Its beginnings can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where ground meat was combined with fillers like bread to stretch the meat further. However, it was in the United States during the 20th century that meatloaf truly found its identity. The recipe evolved, influenced by the Great Depression and World War II, when families needed economical meals that were still filling and nutritious. Over the years, each family added its own twist, passing down their unique recipes through generations.

Slice of meatloaf on mashed potatoes all on a white plate.

Tips for the Perfect Meatloaf

  • Mixing: Avoid overmixing the meat, as this can make the meatloaf dense. Gently combine the ingredients until they’re just blended.
  • Shaping: For even cooking, try to shape your meatloaf consistently. A dome shape is preferable as it allows the glaze to cover more surface area.
  • Glaze: For an added depth of flavor, consider adding a dash of apple cider vinegar or a sprinkle of smoked paprika to the glaze.

Substitutes and Variations

  • The Meat: While ground beef is commonly used, consider a blend of ground meats such as pork, veal, or lamb for varied flavor and texture.
  • Binders and Fillers: Ingredients like bread crumbs are added to both stretch the amount of servings and to hold the meatloaf together. Consider using oats or crushed crackers instead. Gluten-free bread crumbs and crackers are acceptable substitutes.
  • The Liquid: Milk soaks the breadcrumbs, adding essential moisture. If you prefer not to use milk, opt for low-sodium beef stock, chicken stock, water, or a non-dairy milk substitute.
  • Flavorings: Fresh herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and minced garlic can add layers of flavor. Worcestershire sauce, mustard, or even a splash of soy sauce can add depth.
  • The Glaze: While a ketchup-based glaze is traditional, consider BBQ sauce, teriyaki, or even a salsa topping for a twist.
  • Veggie Delight: Incorporate finely chopped bell peppers and mushrooms for added texture and flavor.
  • Cheesy Center: Before shaping into a loaf, place a strip of cheese in the center for a gooey, cheesy surprise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay for my meatloaf to be a bit pink inside?

The color isn’t a reliable indicator of doneness. Check the internal temperature to ensure safety. If it’s 160°F, even if slightly pink, it’s cooked and safe to eat.

How do I make mini meatloaf?

Using Mini Loaf Pans: Divide the meat mixture into lightly greased 6-inch mini loaf pans, pressing gently to shape. Since these are smaller than a full-sized meatloaf, they’ll need less cooking time. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F.

Using a Muffin Tin: Scoop the meat mixture into the cavities of a lightly greased muffin tin, or line with paper cups, and press down slightly to mold. These mini meatloaves will cook faster due to their smaller size. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F.

How do I double this recipe into one large meatloaf?

Begin by simply doubling all the ingredients listed in the original recipe. When combining the ingredients, ensure that they are mixed thoroughly but avoid overmixing to maintain a tender texture.

When shaping the loaf, the diameter or thickness of the meatloaf will determine the baking time. After the initial 45 minutes at 350°F, check the meatloaf’s progress using a meat thermometer. Aim for an internal temperature of 160°F. If it hasn’t reached this temperature, continue baking and check every 10 minutes. You may need an additional 30 to 45 minutes before applying the glaze and baking an additional 15 minutes at 400°F to allow the glaze to caramelize.

Any tips for a gluten-free or dairy-free version?

Certainly! For a gluten-free version, replace breadcrumbs with gluten-free breadcrumbs or ground oats. For dairy-free, use a non-dairy milk substitute.

What can I use instead of milk in meatloaf?

Milk soaks the breadcrumbs, adding essential moisture. If you prefer not to use milk, opt for low-sodium beef stock, chicken stock, water, or a non-dairy milk substitute.

Meatloaf sliced and on a white plate.

Make-Ahead Freezer Instructions

You can mix the ingredients and shape the loaf, then freeze it. When ready, defrost in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours until completely thawed and bake as instructed.

Smaller portions will freeze and defrost more easily. Consider using a muffin tin!

  1. Portioning: Scoop the meat mixture into the cavities of a muffin tin, pressing down slightly to mold.
  2. Freezing: Put the entire muffin tin in the freezer. After the mini meatloaves are fully frozen, pop them out and place them in a resealable freezer bag. Keep stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Baking Mini Meatloaves from Frozen:
When you’re ready for a fresh meatloaf dinner, preheat your oven to 350°F. For small loaf pans, place the frozen meatloaves on a baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes. For muffin tin sizes, start checking around the 25-30 minute mark.

This make-ahead method ensures that the meatloaf tastes freshly made every time you bake them. Perfect for busy nights, or when you just need a touch of comfort without the wait!

Leftovers Storage and Reheating Instructions:

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Warm single servings in the microwave, checking every 30 seconds until heated.

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Video Demonstration

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve got you covered with a full video tutorial where we’ll demonstrate the entire recipe from start to finish.