Ree Drummond’s Smart (& Flavorful) Trick for Not-Dry Meatloaf

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(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshot: Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

Please don’t get upset at me for saying this, but bacon is something I could take or leave. I know it’s beloved by many and I totally get why — it’s salty and delicious, of course — but I don’t really need a whole lot of it in my life. So when I saw that Ree Drummond wraps her meatloaf in bacon, I didn’t automatically cheer as some would. Instead, I sort of scratched my head: Meat-wrapped meat?

The Pioneer Woman’s meatloaf recipe is by far the most different of the four popular meatloaf recipes I tested. Reading through the instructions before I made it, I admittedly worried it would be an over-the-top, heavy mess. But I’ve got to say that Ree really did surprise me with this one. And I may actually like bacon more than I thought I did.

Get the recipe: Ree Drummond’s Meatloaf

How to Make Ree Drummond’s Meatloaf

You’ll start by preheating the oven to 350°F. While it heats, you’ll pour milk over six slices of stale bread — Ree uses plain white sandwich bread — and let the bread soak and soften for a few minutes. Then you’ll mix the bread with ground beef, grated Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, and salt and pepper. (Ree calls for a mix of regular kosher salt and seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s, but I just used all kosher salt.)

Next, you’ll form the meat mixture into a loaf shape on a foil-lined broiler pan. Ree has you do this so the fat from the meat can drain, but I didn’t have a broiler pan so I lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil and hoped it wouldn’t be too much of a greasy mess. Luckily, it worked out OK, although it’s worth using a broiler pan if you have one.

Next? Bacon! You’ll lay slices over the top of the meatloaf and tuck the ends in underneath to seal everything together. Then you’ll combine ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire to make the sauce, and pour some over the bacon-wrapped meatloaf.

You’ll bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes, pour more sauce, then continue to bake until its cooked through. Let it rest, then slice and serve with the remaining sauce as extra dip.

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(Image credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Design: Kitchn; Headshot: Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

What I Thought of the Results

Like I said, I’m not someone who believes bacon makes everything better. But here? I have to say that it actually did. The bacon not only imparted some signature smoky flavor, but it also prevented the meatloaf from drying out, resulting in the moistest meatloaf of all the recipes I tested. Ree is onto something here.

This is also one of the few meatloaf recipes that didn’t call for garlic or onion and yet, thanks to the bacon and Parmesan cheese, it was super flavorful. I also really liked the kick that the hot sauce and Worcestershire brought to the ketchup topping — there was so much savory umami-ness going on that I could barely keep up.

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(Image credit: Sheela Prakash)

If You Make Ree Drummond’s Meatloaf …

1. A standard package of bacon is the right amount. The recipes lists “8 to 12 thin bacon slices.” One 8-ounce package contains 8 slices of bacon and worked just perfectly.

2. Don’t skimp on the hot sauce if you like spice. Ree calls for just a dash or two of hot sauce in the ketchup topping but encourages you to add more if you like. If you enjoy spice, definitely add a couple more dashes, otherwise its flavor will be masked by the other ingredients.

Overall Rating: 8/10

On flavor alone, Ree’s meatloaf is a full 10/10. However, it’s arguably not a true classic (see: the bacon wrap). It also didn’t hit that nostalgic note I crave in a meatloaf, so instead it’s a solid 8.

Get the recipe: Ree Drummond’s Meatloaf

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