Meatloaf just might be one of the very best comfort foods. It's the farthest thing from a fancy meal, but it's homeyness is exactly what makes it so wonderful. While the ingredients and process are simple, there are a few missteps that can easily turn this hearty, comforting meal into a less-than-desirable mound of overly dry, bland meat.
Here are five common mistakes to avoid, plus our best tips for making a really great meatloaf!
1. Not using meat with enough fat content.
Making meatloaf with super-lean meat, like ground chicken or ground turkey, can be tricky. Because of the minimal fat content, the meat easily dries out.
Follow this tip: Consider using a meat blend. Any combination of beef, veal, pork, or lamb works really well. If you're using very lean meat, consider blending it with about 30 percent ground pork. The fattier pork will keep the meatloaf moist and tender.
Flavor the meat and add additional moisture with wet ingredients like ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce.
2. Not seasoning the meat enough.
When it comes to seasoning, meatloaf is like any other cut of meat. Forgo the salt and pepper and you'll find yourself with a bland meatloaf. This may seem obvious, but since you can't taste the meatloaf mix, and since you can't see the amount of salt and pepper very well (as you would when seasoning the exterior of a steak) it can be hard to judge the right amount.
Follow this tip: Before mixing the meat, season it with salt and pepper. Also, consider adding some of your favorite dried herbs or spices.
3. Not using cooking vegetables.
Vegetables are a wonderful addition to meatloaf — they add both flavor and texture — but it's best to use cooked vegetables instead of crunchy raw veggies.
Follow this tip: Whether you use a classic blend of onion, carrot, and celery, or go for a blend of different veggies, give them a quick sauté with some olive oil first. Not only will the vegetables be more tender and flavorful, but they'll also add a little more moisture to the meat.
4. Not soaking the bread.
Stale bread is an essential ingredient in meatloaf, as it works to bind the meat together. But blending in dry bread will take away some of the moisture from the meat.
Follow this tip: For a more moist meatloaf, soak the bread in milk until it becomes thick and mushy before blending the mixture together.
5. Not resting the meat.
Just like other types of meat, it's best to let the meatloaf rest before cutting into it. This gives the juices time to redistribute and settle. Slice into your loaf too soon and the juices will seep out, leaving you with a drier meatloaf.
Follow this tip: After removing the meatloaf from the oven, let it rest for five minutes before cutting into it.
Try These Meatloaf Recipes!
What are your best tips for making meatloaf?
Do you have a favorite recipe?
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)