We’re pretty big fans of meatloaf at our house. In fact, I think I’ve got something like 5 recipes for meatloaf on the site now with this version.
This Ultimate Classic Meatloaf is the newest recipe in my “ultimate” series where I share the best of the best recipes for various dishes. These recipes might not be as quick and easy as their counterparts on the site, but they’re guaranteed to be delicious!
For those looking for something super simple, my Quick and Easy Meatloaf is perfect. It relies on a can of tomatoes with green peppers and onions already in it to give it great flavor with nearly zero effort. My Ultimate Cheesy Enchilada Meatloaf is perfect for those looking for meatloaf with a little Mexican flair. Those looking for something a little different should give my Secret Ingredient Meatloaf a try. Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is bloody mary mix! I’ve even got a recipe for mini bbq meatloaves. So, yeah… I kinda like meatloaf.
This ultimate version has all of my favorite elements from a few other recipes combined into one showstopper recipe that is seriously one of the best meatloaves I’ve ever had.
Let’s walk through it…
To start, I use ground chuck or an 80/20 blend of ground beef. That number simply means 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat. As we cook this (and since we cook it for quite a long time) the fat will melt and run out. Starting with meat that has a higher fat content means there will more more fat (and juiciness) left in the meat when we’re done.
To add a little extra moisture to the mix, I use bread crumbs soaked in milk. This bulks up the loaf a bit, and helps to keep it together a bit, too. You can also soak the breadcrumbs in beef broth, if you have a problem with dairy.
When it comes to the veggies, I use onion, green bell pepper, and garlic. And since we don’t love the texture and crunch of big pieces of veggies in our meatloaf, I coarsely chop them and then run them through a food processor or food chopper to get them finely minced. Of course, you can also just mince them all up with a knife, if you wish.
Now when it comes to mixing it all together, you need to use a gentle hand. Working the meat too much will result in a dense, tough meatloaf. I typically use a fork to stir it all together. Just don’t jump in with your hands and squish it all together.
When it comes to seasoning, it’s all about your personal taste. But since we aren’t going to be eating a handful of raw meat to taste for salt and pepper amounts, I recommend pinching off a small piece of the prepared mixture and flattening it and cooking it in a small skillet, or even the microwave, to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking. This recipe calls for 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt. Some folks will be happy at 2 teaspoons – I prefer a little more.
Now let’s talk about baking this thing. I like to bake my meatloaf on a rimmed baking sheet or in a 9×13-inch baking dish and free form the loaf in the middle. You’re probably thinking, “Stacey, I’ve always made my meatloaf in a loaf pan!” I get that and I used to do the same thing. But hear me out… Free-forming the meatloaf in a larger pan or dish allows the excess grease to drain away so we don’t end up with a greasy loaf. We want some of that grease left in there for flavor and juiciness, but too much will make it greasy. More importantly, at least in my book, it allows the loaf to get golden brown on the edges – which adds even more flavor. And it allows you the option of making several smaller meatloaves – if you wish – which would cook faster.
Now, let’s get to the best part… While I love meatloaf, there’s one thing I love even more – a leftover meatloaf sandwich. For me, nothing quite compares to a slice of meatloaf sandwiched between two gummy pieces of white bread slathered with some Duke’s mayo. I’ll cut two thin slices of cold meatloaf and heat them in a nonstick skillet until they’re golden brown and heated through and assemble it with white bread, mayo, and a little extra ketchup and I’m a happy, happy man.
Ultimate Classic Meatloaf
- 2 pounds ground chuck (80/20)
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 small white or yellow onion
- 1/2 small bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large egg
- 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 6 slices thin cut bacon
For the sauce:
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir the breadcrumbs and milk together, set aside to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the milk.
- Roughly chop the onion, pepper, and garlic. Use a food processor or chopper to finely mince the vegetables, set aside. Alternately: finely mince the pepper, onion, and garlic with a knife.
- Add the egg, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, ketchup, and chopped vegetables to the bread crumbs and mix to combine.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck with the egg, veggie, and bread crumb mixture until just combined. Mixing too much can result in a tough meatloaf. Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared pan and form into a loaf in the center of the pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup and mustard and spread it over the loaf. Arrange the bacon over the top of the loaf and gently tuck the edges under the meatloaf.
- Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until the meatloaf is cooked through. An instant read thermometer should read 160°F when inserted in the center. If the bacon isn't cooked to your liking, turn the broiler on low and place the meatloaf under the broiler in the middle of the oven, watching very carefully, until it's browned to your liking. Allow the meatloaf to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.