The Secret to Meatloaf

1Mmmm…. Meatloaf! Who doesn’t enjoy this simple, yet comforting, American classic?

For me, the best meatloaf is moist on the inside, crusty on the outside and deeply flavored with a balance of sweet and savory tang.

My recipe below, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, not only creates great flavor but uses a simple, yet ingenious, cooking technique which is the secret to great meatloaf.

By hand-shaping your loaf and cooking it over a foil-lined cooling rack that is poked with holes, you can ensure that your loaf will be moist, but not greasy, because the fat drains away and the meat isn’t left to stew in its own fat (as it would in a loaf pan). Additionally, the free-form shape exposes more surface area so that you end up with lots of delicious glazed crust (and isn’t that the best part?).


Using the recipe below as background on technique, how might you make your own recipe? How about you:

Vary the protein?

Add ingredients?

  • Sauteed and pureed mushrooms or beans would add heft and reduce the amount of meat used; Veggies such as red peppers, mushrooms, and even corn would add color and nutritional value

Diversify the flavors?

  • For an Indian take, mix in some garam masala and chunks of mango
  • For Italian flavor, add basil and oregano and chunks of mozzarella



• 1/2 cup – Ketchup
• 4 tbs – Brown sugar
• 4 tsp – Apple cider vinegar

• 2 tsp – Olive oil
• 1 – Onion, chopped
• 2 – Garlic cloves, minced
• 2 – Eggs
• 1/2 tsp – Dried thyme leaves
• 1 tsp – Kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp – Ground black pepper
• 2 tsp – Dijon mustard
• 2 tsp – Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 tsp – Hot sauce (I like Frank’s Red Hot)
• 1/2 cup – Greek yogurt
• 1/3 cup – Fresh parsley leaves, minced
• 2 pounds – Ground beef
• 1 1/3 cup – Panko bread crumbs


1. Mix ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat
2. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to medium – simmer until thickened slightly and set aside

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line a baking pan with foil and wrap a second piece of foil, poked with holes for draining, onto a cooling rack and place it inside the baking pan
3. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until softened (about 5 minutes). Set aside to cool
4. In a large bowl, mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, yogurt, parsley and cooked onion and garlic
5. Using your hands, mix in the meat and panko until evenly blended and the meat mixture does not stick to the bowl – DO NOT OVERMIX!
6. Turn meat mixture onto a work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5 inch loaf shape
7. Place the loaf on the foil-lined cooling rack that is placed in the baking pan.
8. Brush with half of the glaze
9. Bake until thermometer registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool at least 20 minutes.
10. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

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