When cooked to the proper internal temperature, meatloaf is tender and juicy. One of the most important aspects of making meatloaf is cooking it until it’s perfectly done. You don’t want it to be dry and you definitely don’t want it to be raw!
A weeknight meal of meatloaf is standard fare in many households. It’s easy to make, just about everyone loves it, and leftovers can be enjoyed on sandwiches! In this post, we’ll discuss the proper internal temperature of meatloaf and the best ways to cook it for excellent results every time.
What is the Proper Internal Temperature for Meatloaf?
Fully cooked meatloaf must reach an internal temperature of 160°F. Note that because the meatloaf will continue to cook even after it has been removed from the oven, you can remove the meatloaf from the oven when it reaches 155°F.
Meatloaf that is left in the oven after it has reached 160°F may end up being dry and overcooked.
Best Oven Temperature for Meatloaf
Meatloaf should be cooked at a maximum temperature of 350°F in the oven. This will ensure that the meatloaf is tender and moist.
How to Know When Meatloaf is Done
The USDA recommends that ground beef be cooked to a minimum of 160°F. The best way to check for doneness is to use an instant-read thermometer. When the temperature reaches 155°F the meatloaf can be removed from the oven. As it rests, the temperature will increase. It’s safe to eat meatloaf when the internal temperature has reached 160°F.
Best Way: Use an Instant Read Thermometer
Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meatloaf. When the temperature reaches 155°F the meatloaf can be removed from the oven. As it rests, the temperature will increase. Check the temperature again after about 10 minutes. When it reaches 160°F the meatloaf is safe to eat.
Back-Up Method (without Instant Read Thermometer)
If you don’t have an instant-reach thermometer on hand, try these methods to determine if the meatloaf is fully cooked:
- Use A Metal Cake Tester: Insert the cake tester into the meatloaf until it reaches the center and then press the tester against the inside of your wrist. If it’s hot or very warm to the touch the meatloaf is likely done. If it’s slightly warm or cool, it needs to cook longer.
- Use A Fork: Similar to the cake tester, a fork can be inserted into the center of the meatloaf. If it goes in easily it’s an indication that the loaf is cooked. Remove the fork and press it against the inside of your wrist. If the fork is hot or very warm, the meatloaf is likely done. If it’s cool or not very warm, it should be placed back in the oven to continue to cook.
- Use Your Finger: Press your finger against the outside of the meatloaf. If it feels firm to the touch, it’s an indication that the meatloaf is likely done.
How to Cook Meatloaf
Making meatloaf from scratch is quite easy! You’ll add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix just until combined. You don’t want to overwork the meat as that can cause it to become tough. Shape the meat into a loaf or place it in a loaf pan and bake until done!
How Long to Cook Meatloaf
- A 1 lb meatloaf baked in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan will take about 40 minutes to cook at 350°F.
- If you’re cooking a larger 2 lb meatloaf, it will take from 55 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook at 350°F.
As a general guideline, every pound of meatloaf cooked at 350°F will need approximately 35-45 minutes to cook. Note that the cooking time varies based on the type of ground beef you’re using, the size and shape of the loaf, the pan it’s cooked in, your location, etc.
Tips to Avoid Overcooking Meatloaf
Use an instant-read thermometer for best results. When the temperature reaches 155°F, the meatloaf can be removed from the oven. As it rests, the temperature will increase. It’s safe to eat when the internal temperature has reached 160°F. Meatloaf that is left in the oven after it has reached 160°F may end up being dry and overcooked.
Tips for Perfectly Moist Meatloaf
- Avoid using extra-lean ground beef. The fat in the meat helps to keep it moist. Additional liquid might be needed to keep leaner ground meats moist.
- Use your hands or a sturdy wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and try not to overly press or condense the mixture. Meatloaf that is overmixed can turn out dry and tough.
- Use the breadcrumbs called for in the recipe. It will add moisture and structure to the loaf. To add additional moisture to the loaf, soak the breadcrumbs in milk or stock before adding them to the meatloaf mixture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Bake the Meatloaf Covered Or Uncovered?
Covering the meatloaf with foil can help to keep it moist. For a nice crisp top, uncover the loaf for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
How Long Should I Rest the Meatloaf After Baking?
After removing the meatloaf from the oven, let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This will help to distribute the juices throughout the loaf and will make it easier to slice.
Will Undercooked Meatloaf Make You Sick?
Undercooked meat can result in foodborne illnesses. It’s always best to use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the meatloaf is fully cooked.
Is It Okay If Meatloaf is a Little Pink?
If the temperature of the meatloaf has reached 160°F it should be safe to eat. Some meat will have a tinge of pink even when fully cooked.
How To Serve Meatloaf
Meatloaf is often served sliced with sides like potatoes, rice, or pasta, or other side dishes. It’s delicious topped with a sweet glaze or a side of ketchup. Enjoy leftovers on your favorite bread for a hearty and delicious sandwich!
Perfect Meatloaf Recipe
- 2 lbs ground beef 90% lean
- 1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs I used panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 3/4 cup water or milk
- salt to taste
Optional for Serving
- meatloaf sauce
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9”x5” loaf pan with butter or line with parchment paper. Set it aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well. It’s best to use your hands to mush and mix until they are well combined.
- Add the meat mixture to the loaf pan. Press the meat down and shape it into an even layer.
- Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
- Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. (It’s important to let it rest, otherwise, it may fall apart.)
- Brush with optional meatloaf sauce. Serve and enjoy!
- Don’t overmix, as it can result in a tough meatloaf.
- It’s best to line your loaf pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
- Press the meat mixture gently into the loaf pan so that it can hold its shape better.
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