Our 70th anniversary has us thinking a lot about classic, comforting meals — and it doesn’t get more comforting or more classic than Mom’s iconic meatloaf. It’s humble, homey, and as our test kitchen chef so eloquently put it, “like a wool sweater for your stomach.”
Though iterations of meatloaf have been around since Ancient Rome, the version we all know and love saw a resurgence during the Great Depression. Meatloaf was warm, nourishing, and cheap — and it allowed families to stretch small amounts of beef or veal with a variety of filler ingredients, like crackers, corn flakes, oatmeal, and potatoes. And with wartime rationing during the 40s, the dish became even more popular with American home cooks. It wasn’t until the 1950s that people started to get creative with meatloaf, forming it into stylish rings, decking it with trendy garnishes, and adding in everything from mushrooms to ketchup-filled peaches to smashed bananas. (Yes, really.)
Don’t worry, we stuck with the straightforward version. The base of the loaf is a lineup of usual suspects: ground beef, eggs, milk, onion, and breadcrumbs. As for seasonings, we went with savory Worcestershire sauce, punchy garlic, fresh parsley and thyme, and of course, plenty of ketchup. Nothing flashy, just simple, well-balanced flavor.
For the glaze, we whisked up ketchup and brown sugar, plus a splash of red wine vinegar and a little molasses. The glaze caramelizes in the oven, giving it a roasty depth and bringing out the sweetness of the sugars and the tang of the vinegar. In other words: it tastes like barbecue sauce. And because we’ve used the perfect oven temperature — an even-keeled 375 degrees — the loaf itself comes out very tender and juicy (never dry or overdone).
This meatloaf is fantastic on top of some creamy mashed potatoes — a veritable mountain of comfort and nostalgia. We’d serve it with a side of glazed carrots, sautéed green beans, or roasted broccoli. (But really, what vegetable doesn’t go with meat and potatoes?) It’s the perfect meal for a cozy Sunday dinner with the family. Just be sure to make a second loaf to leave on Mom’s doorstep.
Our tip: Step three in the recipe below is key. If you don't do all that pan-tapping, the meatloaf won't hold together.
For the meatloaf:
2 lb 85/15 ground beef
1 large yellow onion, grated
4 garlic cloves, grated
2 large Gelson’s eggs, whisked
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp minced Gelson’s fresh thyme
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground Gelson’s black pepper
¼ tsp Gelson’s onion powder
½ tsp Gelson’s garlic powder
For the glaze:
¼ cup ketchup
1 tsp molasses
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 pinch kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375°.
To make the meatloaf: In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onions, garlic, eggs, ketchup, milk, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Mix well until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and fully incorporated.
Transfer the mixture to a 9x5” loaf pan and pack it down, tapping the pan on the counter a few times to make sure the mixture fills in all of the corners and there are no voids in the meatloaf.
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes. The meatloaf will shrink a bit, about ½” on all sides.
To make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
Spread the glaze over the top of the meatloaf and bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until the glaze begins to caramelize.
Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes, then gently remove it from the pan.
Slice and serve hot.