Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s Quick Trick for Better-Tasting Meatloaf

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(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshot: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

I’ll be honest: There are plenty of things I picture Ina Garten cooking for her husband, Jeffrey (show-stopping chicken and towering cakes), but something as humble as meatloaf is not one of them.

Still, I was intrigued when I discovered her recipe. Just like the other four popular meatloaf recipes I tested, Ina’s came with high praise from home cooks, which caught my eye. It’s as classic as it comes and is fit to feed a crowd. And if anyone could elevate the classic, it’s probably Ina, right? Here’s what I thought after I cooked through it myself.

Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Meatloaf

How to Make Ina Garten’s Meatloaf

You’ll start by preheating your oven to 325°F. Then you’ll sauté lots of chopped onions with some fresh thyme in a skillet. Once translucent, you’ll take the skillet off the heat; stir in Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste; and let it cool slightly.

Once this onion mixture has cooled down a bit, you’ll dump it in a bowl with ground beef, breadcrumbs, and a couple of eggs and mix everything together. You’ll then ditch the traditional loaf pan, instead shaping the mixture into a loaf, and placing it on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Spread ketchup over the top and then bake the meatloaf for about an hour.

(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshot: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

What I Thought of the Results

Before I made Ina’s meatloaf, I had always made meatloaf in a loaf pan. While the results on a baking sheet would hardly win a beauty contest, I really enjoyed it cooked this way. There was much better browning on all sides of the meatloaf — instead of just the top — which allowed for better flavor and texture throughout.

I also really liked that the topping wasn’t complicated. I grew up eating meatloaf without extra toppings and instead served it simply with plenty of ketchup for dipping. There was no brown sugar or mustard in the topping — common additions in other recipes — to get in the way of the ketchup flavor here, so it tasted the closest to what I grew up enjoying.

One hiccup, however, was the onions. Ina calls for 3 cups chopped yellow onions, which she says is about 3 onions. My grocery store carries pretty large onions so it took only about 1 1/2 large yellow onions to equate to 3 chopped cups. Also, I found that simply chopping them led to large-ish pieces in the meatloaf that made it difficult to slice cleanly. I felt that finely chopping the onions would have solved this problem.

(Image credit: Sheela Prakash)

If You Make Ina Garten’s Meatloaf …

1. Chop the onions finely. Give the onions a fine chop so that they mix into the meatloaf mixture better and sauté them for the full 10 minutes so they’re nice and soft.

2. Follow Ina’s tip to prevent the top from cracking. This meatloaf is definitely not the prettiest to look at and will crack on the top if you’re not careful — it’s another factor that will inhibit clean slicing. Ina recommends placing a pan of hot water in the oven, under the meatloaf, to prevent this. I didn’t follow her advice and wish I had, especially if I’d been serving this to company.

3. It serves 6 to 8 people. Ina says her meatloaf serves 6 people, but I think it can easily serve up to 8 if you’re enjoying it with a couple of sides like mashed potatoes and green beans.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Ina’s meatloaf was a taste of true nostalgia for me — and cooking it on a baking sheet instead of a loaf pan boosted flavor and texture. (I’m taking away one point because it was difficult to slice because of the chopped onions and the cracked top, but I now know how to solve these issues the next time I make it.)

Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Meatloaf

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