Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

Hearty, comforting, easy and affordable? There aren’t many dishes that check all those boxes the way meatloaf can, which is what makes it a classic.
Do an internet search for meatloaf and you’ll find tweaks to the time-honored dish, but no drastic recipe revisions. The basic components remain the same: beef, aromatics and fillers. Herbs and spices are adjusted, binders are amended and the glaze is personalized, but once everyone sits down for dinner, it’s still thick slices of juicy beef. And that’s a good thing.  
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As I said, ingredient additions and substitutions for meatloaf abound, but there are some fundamental things that shouldn’t change. If you remember nothing else from this recipe, memorize this: Do not use extra lean beef. 85% lean is ideal for meatloaf because when the loaf bakes, the fat melts and binds with the eggs and breadcrumbs, which will keep the meat moist and juicy. Leaner meat doesn’t have enough fat to melt, and your loaf may fall apart.
And use plenty of binding ingredients since it’s the eggs and breadcrumbs (regular or gluten-free) that hold it all together. After all, we’re not making hamburgers, we’re constructing a well-seasoned loaf of deliciousness that won’t fall apart. 
Grate your onion. Bigger chunks of onion aren’t always visually appealing, and the meatloaf often crumbles around larger pieces of onion when sliced. Grated onion spreads out more evenly and the extra juices from the onion are soaked up by the breadcrumbs, which guarantees a more tender loaf.
Skip the loaf pan. I prefer free form meatloaves to those cooked in a loaf pan. A free form loaf exposes more meat, so more of the exterior can be glazed, thus providing a more flavorful meatloaf.
Shape your meatloaf into an 8×4-inch loaf your baking sheet and you’ll have no loaf pan to clean. Keep your loaf rounded, as sharp edges risk overcooking before the center is finished.
Be sure to firmly pack the meat into the loaf. If your previous attempts at meatloaf resulted in slices that fell apart before they made it to the plate, it’s likely because the ingredients weren’t well-mixed or pressed firmly together into a tight loaf.
Or perhaps you didn’t add enough binding ingredients. Adding the correct ratio of ingredients, mixing them well, and pressing them firmly into a loaf is the key to the ultimate meatloaf, and is especially important when making a free form loaf.
Note: Cracks in the loaf are OK (the glaze will seep into the crevices, adding flavor), but fragile meatloaf is not the look we’re going for.
Let your meatloaf rest. When your meatloaf has finished baking, let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing; this allows the juices to redistribute as the loaf cools.
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Use a loaf pan if you must. While this isn’t my preference, it’s doable with this recipe. The sides won’t be glazed or caramelized, but if you’re firm on this, go for it. Pack the meatloaf into a 9-inch loaf pan and bake as directed. You may need to add a few minutes to the cooking time to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Use ground turkey or chicken if you want. Just make sure it’s regular ground turkey or chicken, not ground breast. Breast meat is too lean, regardless of how many binding ingredients you add. Also, when making a poultry-based meatloaf, the internal temperature should reach 165 degrees.
Make a gluten-free meatloaf if that’s your preference. For a gluten-free meal, simply swap in gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. You can also crush up gluten-free crackers or crushed-up corn- or rice-based cereals.
Reimagine leftovers. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground beef because that’s what you need to make the best meatloaf. That also means you might have leftovers. Think beyond sandwiches (as amazing as they are) and toss cubes of leftover meatloaf into soups, stews and your favorite sauce for pasta. When it comes to hand-held dishes, stuff meatloaf between layers of cheese to create jaw-dropping paninis and nestle thin slices into flatbread or pita for a take on a gyro.  
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If you’d like to make this meatloaf in advance, prepare as directed, but instead of baking, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bake as directed when you’re ready to serve. You can also freeze this meatloaf. Just wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake as directed.
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
For the meatloaf:
For the glaze:
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