How to Make the Perfect Meatloaf

Our test kitchen's secrets to getting this comfort-food classic just right.

two plates of meatloaf potatoes and broccolini
Photo: Lennart Weibull

A few humble but high-impact tricks make our classic meatloaf thoroughly modern: Use coarsely ground beef for a juicier bite, precook the vegetables so they're tender (not mushy or crunchy), and then form it on a sheet pan to invite an all-around caramelized crust, any way you slice it. Here's our new classic meatloaf recipe and two tasty and altogether different versions.

Pro-tip: Power up your food processor to make quick work of mincing vegetables and turning day-old bread into fluffy breadcrumbs for meatloaf.

Grocery List

  • Day-old white bread or plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • Celery
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh thyme
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Ketchup
  • Light-brown sugar
  • 2 pounds coarsely ground chuck, preferably 85 percent lean
  • Large eggs
sauteeing vegetables for meatloaf
Lennart Weibull

Cook the Vegetables

Preheat oven to 350°. If not using store-bought breadcrumbs, tear 2 slices bread into pieces; pulse in a food processor to make fine crumbs and set aside. Cut onion, carrot, and 1 celery stalk into chunks, then pulse in food processor until finely chopped (or do so by hand). Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add vegetables, 2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup broth, and 1/4 cup ketchup. Remove from heat; let cool completely.

ketchup glaze for meatloaf in a small bowl
Lennart Weibull

Prep the Meat and Glaze

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup ketchup and 1 tablespoon brown sugar; set aside. In a large bowl, combine vegetable mixture with ground chuck, 1 lightly beaten egg, 1/2 cup reserved breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined.

Brown sugar's sweetness and ketchup's acidity create this easy, tangy glaze. For a spicy twist, replace the ketchup with Heinz Chili Sauce.

meatloaf on baking sheet ready to be glazed
Lennart Weibull

Bake and Let Cool

On a rimmed baking sheet, form meat mixture into a loaf that's 10 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 2 inches high, packing firmly to prevent cracking. Coat top and sides with glaze. Bake until top is caramelized and a thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165°, 55 to 65 minutes. (If top is browning too quickly, tent with foil.) Let cool at least 25 minutes, then serve with comforting sides, like mashed potatoes and sautéed broccolini.

Get the Test Kitchen's Favorite All-Beef Meatloaf Recipe

bacon cheeseburger meatloaf on a blue platter
Lennart Weibull

More Loaves to Love

Crazy about meatloaf? Then considering adding two new takes on this family-dinner favorite to your weeknight routine. These twists on the classic are sure to please even the pickiest palate in your home.

Bacon-Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Omit carrot, celery, and thyme, and use 2 onions. Just before forming loaf in step 3, gently fold 1½ cups grated cheddar into meat mixture. Brush loaf with half of glaze, then top with 8 slices (6 ounces) bacon, overlapping slightly and tucking ends under. Brush remaining glaze over bacon slices. Bake as directed in step 3, and serve slices on buns, with iceberg lettuce and Russian dressing.

Get the Bacon-Cheeseburger Meatloaf Recipe

hoisin glazed turkey meatloaf on a blue platter
Lennart Weibull

Turkey Meatloaf with Hoisin Glaze

Replace carrot, celery, and thyme with 2 tablespoons each minced garlic and fresh ginger; swap in 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil for the Worcestershire. In step 2, for the glaze, replace ketchup mixture with 1/4 cup each ketchup and hoisin sauce. Replace beef with ground turkey (85 percent lean) and stir in ½ cup finely chopped cilantro. In step 3, sprinkle meatloaf with sesame seeds before baking as directed. Serve with Bibb lettuce, carrot ribbons, and cilantro, or with a peppery watercress salad.

Get the Turkey Meatloaf with Hoisin Glaze Recipe

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