I make the best meatloaf

It’s not bragging if it’s true, right?

meatloaf 2

This is my second-most requested recipe, right after my infamous Nine-Fingered Pumpkin Pie. (It’s third, though, if you count Cooking Light’s Monday Morning Potato Bread as my number one. If you’re just counting recipes I have actually written myself, though, the pumpkin pie is the clear winner, with my meatloaf a solid second.)


I have always loved meatloaf – and meatloaf sandwiches – and I have devoted the past few years to perfecting my meatloaf recipe. The fabulous end result is a hybrid of my mother’s original recipe and a recipe I found ages ago on a now-defunct website, BeefRecipe.com. (Mom’s recipe has also evolved over the intervening 20 years.)

mom's meatloaf

My mom’s recipe in the form of a note to middle school-aged me.


My old recipe with years of notes and splatters.

Meatloaf is a forgiving medium. You can play pretty fast and loose with any kind of food loaf, really. I remember hearing an NPR story (probably on The Splendid Table) “riffing” on meatloaf: taking a basic recipe and altering it any one of a dozen ways with simple ingredient substitutions. These days I’ve got this recipe pinned down right to the very center of the sweet/sour/savory flavor profile I crave most, so I don’t mess with it too much any more. The only variable on meatloaf night these days is the bread. The typewritten version of the recipe, circa the early 00s, specifies potato bread hot dog buns. At the time I didn’t actually do a lot of what I would now consider cooking (I was really just reheating stuff most nights) and potato bread hot dog buns bred (ha!) freely on the countertops. They were the stale bread du jour, so that’s what I used. Sometimes I use fancy brown bread, sometimes what’s on hand is garlic french bread, and sometimes I just smash as many saltines as I deem necessary. In the meatloaf pictured here I used an oversized sweet onion hamburger bun I found languishing in the back of the freezer. I thawed it in the microwave and ran it through the food processor.


When it comes to mixing the ingredients for the loaf itself, though, there’s no getting around it: ya gotta use your hands. (Sorry, Keiko O’Brien.)

Amanda's Glazed Meatloaf

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 TB lemon juice
1 tsp mustard powder
2 pounds lean ground beef
2-3 slices fresh or stale bread, broken into very small pieces or blitzed in a processor
1 envelope French onion soup mix (or 1/4 cup bulk mix)
1 egg, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, and mustard powder.
  3. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, soup mix, bread, egg, and 1/4 cup of the ketchup mixture. Mix thoroughly with bare hands. Pack into a 5 x 9 loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour. Pour off fat (not down the drain!), coat with remaining ketchup mixture, and bake for another 10 minutes.

SparkRecipes.com recipe calculator nutrition information, per serving: 346 calories, 11.9 g fat.

meatloaf 4

My secret method for pouring off the liquid fat after the initial baking period is to lay a butter knife diagonally over the loaf pan and hold it tightly in place with a thick hot loppin (pot holder). Pour the fat off into a grease strainer or old tin can. Not down the drain! It will settle in a U-bend somewhere and when it cools it will solidify to the the consistency of butter and stop up your pipes.

A (tangential and rambling) side note about meatloaf sandwiches: until I developed this recipe, my love of meatloaf was second to my love of meatloaf sandwiches. I have a personal rule, which I have never broken, stating that if I find myself in a restaurant with a meatloaf sandwich on the menu I am required to order it. To date, the best meatloaf sandwich I have eaten in a restaurant was at the Pine Tree Restaurant in Shelton, WA. I highly recommend that place anyway because when we stumbled in on a hot summer day several years ago, halfway through an unexpectedly stressful motorcycle trip around the Olympic peninsula, they treated us like royalty even though we were the only customers (and filthy, too). The atmosphere was homey, the food was delicious, and they gave us the last of their ice cream for free.

— Amanda

[Originally published on this blog in a similar form on 12/4/13]


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