Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite!

I seem to be getting nostalgic in my “dotage” and have been leafing through my recipe box; hello, old familiar friends! I had to dust off this Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf, long a family favorite – and the best part of all is the sauce. Oh, that sauce! Double it, triple it, bathe in it, I don’t care,  just make the sauce.

Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf

About Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf:

Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf is my “go-to” recipe for meatloaf and I’ve been making it for years. It’s always moist and flavorful and cuts like a dream. My son goes nuts over this every time I make it! After all, what’s better than the classic comfort food of an old-fashioned Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and your favorite vegetable?

We have made a few changes over the years. The original recipe had a lot of thyme. We really didn’t care for the way it hijacked the flavor. And we might be in the minority, here, but we didn’t care for the bacon on this, either. The bacon itself was ok, but the way the flavor seeped into the loaf was bizarre. It’s one of those “sounds better than it is” ideas. The instructions are in my recipe, below, if you want to go for it.

The original recipe calls for meatloaf mix – I actually like this best made with a mixture of ground beef and ground pork instead of the hard to find meatloaf mix (that’s traditionally a third each of ground beef, pork & veal) or all ground beef. The pork adds a lot and keeps it nice and moist.

Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf

Optimize your time when making the Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf:

If you’re looking to speed along dinner, try baking your meatloaf in little free-form oblong football shapes about 3″ by 5″ on a foil-lined sheet which maximizes the amount of crusty goodness on the outside. We’ve also used a muffin pan, before for individual meatloaves – fast but hard to clean. Both cut the baking time down considerably! I’d go about 30 to 40 minutes for a football shape & 20 to 25 for the meatloaf “muffins”.

If you really want to maximize your time long-term, double the recipe for Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf and freeze one of the meatloaves before baking and without bacon or glaze. Meatloaf freezes very well.

To freeze, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap (let it hang well over the sides), then pack in the meatloaf. When frozen, remove from the pan, use the overlapping plastic wrap to cover it well, then wrap a second time with the foil. To bake, remove the meatloaf from the freezer and thaw overnight. By dinner it should be thawed enough to remove the wrapping and bake. It will probably need a few more minutes in the oven.

Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

Meat Loaf Sandwich, using our adapted Cook’s Illustrated Meat Loaf

Cost-saving tips for the Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf:

From a frugal standpoint, try to eke out two meals from this meatloaf. Meatloaf isn’t “cheap” to make and this one ran about eight bucks with sales-priced ingredients. (Warning: it’s so good you might have to fight to set aside a bit.)

My fave way to bring meatloaf back to the table a second time is a meatloaf sandwich: A slice of cold meatloaf, yellow ballpark mustard, lettuce, onion, and pickle, and a good slathering of the incredible sauce. It makes me happy just thinking about it. 🙂

You’ll want to make this meatloaf with sales-priced ground beef, obs, but shave off a few bucks by using the ground beef/ground pork combo. Ground pork can be hard to find and pricey. Pick up pork loin (for a leaner option) or shoulder (for a moister option) up at a low (89 to 99 cents a pound) cube & pulse in your food processor. It’s the freshest and best-tasting ground pork, ever.

Notes on this Cook’s Illustrated Adaptation:

If you happen to read the notes, below, on this meatloaf my original posting of this meatloaf used 3 pounds of meat instead of the actual 2 pounds this recipe should have called for. It has now been corrected in the recipe ingredients.

I actually believe I will continue to cook with the three pounds of ground meat ~  everyone raves about “my” meatloaf!

Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf



Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite!

Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated/Pam Anderson recipe, this meatloaf is the pinnacle of Classic Meatloaf!

  • Author: Cook's Illustrated
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x
  • Category: Beef Main Dish
  • Cuisine: American German


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk, buttermilk or low-fat plain yogurt (yogurt preferred)
  • 2 pounds ground meat: use meatloaf mix (beef, veal, pork) or 50% beef & 50% pork
  • 2/3 cups crushed saltines (about 16) or 2/3rds cup oatmeal or 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (oatmeal preferred)
  • 1/3 cup minced parsley, optional
  • 1 pound bacon, optional (instructions at bottom of recipe)



Glaze has been doubled. Divide into two portions, 1/2 for glazing and 1/2 for serving.

  • 1 1/4 cup ketchup or chili sauce (chili sauce is best!)
  • 4 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider or white vinegar

Mix all ingredients, set aside. May be warmed briefly in the microwave if your sugar has hardened and doesn’t mix in.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic, saute until softened, about 5 minutes; set aside to cool.

Mix eggs with salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco or hot sauce, and your choice of milk, buttermilk or yogurt.

Add egg mixture to meat in a large bowl, along with either crackers, oatmeal or bread crumbs, & the cooked onions and garlic; mix lightly with fingertips until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture does stick, add additional dairy, a couple of tablespoons at a time, and continue mixing until mixture stops sticking.)

To make in a free-form loaf: Cover a portion of a wire rack with foil a little larger than the formed meatloaf will be (use a sheet of foil the length of the roll, and width of about 8 inches); prick foil in several places with a fork so excess grease can drip down. Place a rack on a shallow roasting pan lined with foil for easy cleanup. Turn meat mixture onto foil-lined rack and pat mixture into a loaf approximately 9 by 5 inches.

To make in a loaf pan:  Place meatloaf mixture in loaf pan but pat into shape so it has a rather high dome and is flat for 1/2 inch around the edges. This will allow the glaze to cook nicely on top. When the second coating of glaze is ready to go on, you will probably want to pour off any accumulated fat into a can or container, (refrigerate to harden to make it easy to dispose of) which is a messy proposition but worth doing.

For both baking methods:

Brush loaf with 1/2 of the glaze set aside for glazing then bake for about 30 minutes. Remove carefully (I drain grease if using a loaf pan) then gently add the remainder of the glaze without disturbing the first coat.

Return to oven and bake until the loaf registers 160 degrees, about 30 to 40 minutes longer. (1 hour to an hour and ten minutes total.) Cool for at least 20 minutes – it really does make a better meatloaf. Slice and serve with reserved sauce, if you’ve doubled.

To use bacon:

To use bacon on this recipe: Use the foil on rack method of baking. Form loaf, then brush with 1/2 of the glaze. Top with the bacon (going over the short sides across the loaf) overlapping each slice slightly. Tuck any excess under the loaf.


No need to saute the onions: place oil and onions in a small, microwave-safe container and microwave for about 2 minutes, covered.

Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, Cook's Illustrated, Family Recipe, Freezes Well, German, Ground Beef, Ground Pork, Heritage Recipe, Meat Loaf, Meatloaf, Pamela Anderson, Pork, Sandwiches

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Cooks Illustrated Meatloaf is always a family favorite at our house! Oh, that glaze! We like it so much I double and freeze one. I usually make it without the bacon topping, but I included their instructions for it. #CooksIllustratedMeatloaf #Meatloaf #BestMeatloaf

36 thoughts on “Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite!

  1. Amelia

    There must be a typo for the temp or the cook time, I have made it 4 time so far and every time it took a minimum of an extra 60 min to cook it. I followed the recipe to a T…

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Amelia I am sorry but I have been traveling, been sick, and then preparing for the holidays. in the meantim, I’ve been trying to find the original cook’s illustrated recipe and not having any luck. I have made this About 6 months ago I was not using my oven. I seem to remember It took a little longer to cook but not an hour. I will get to the bottom of it after the holidays! Thanks so much for letting me know The issue.

      Happy holidays


    • Mary Hill

      Hi – I was browsing this recipe and I think the typo is in the amount of ground beef. My Cooks Illustrated calls for 2 pounds of ground beef. Fugals recipe calls for 3 pounds. Thats a big difference. This change should help,

      • FrugalHausfrau

        Hey Mary I went right from Christmas to cataract surgery but now I Was able to find my original Notes. It was one pound of ground beef and a 1/2 a pound of ground veal And 1/2 pound of ground pork. So 2 pounds total you are correct! It is so strange that I have made this over and over from my Recipe on this site and did not notice a large discrepancy in the amount of time… i have also cooked this in 3 other ovens… Any discrepancy I probably ignored thinking it was the oven I was using at the time.

        I will get that recipe changed up and thanks for chiming in. I wonder now what I am going to think about the herbs, spices and so on because the proportion will be a little different – it should be even more flavorful!


  2. warren bjurmark

    I had a recipe from cooks for a long time they would make it in loaf pans a freeze it for a latter date , how ever I lost the recipe and would like to have some one research the article in cooks I think it dates back about7 or 8 years IT WAS FANTASTIC

    tHANK yOU

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Warren, I love to do that, too! Double or triple this recipe and freeze for later. I usually line the loaf pan, then freeze, then remove the meatloaf and wrap it well. I don’t have enough loaf pans to have any out of circulation!

  3. Lesley Larose

    Every time I want meatloaf, I look for this recipe. It is absolutely the best. Moist, full of flavour and just as delicious the next day! Thank you – and it is now 2021.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Laurine, I put part of the glaze on, then wrap in the bacon. I just pass the remaining sauce. You could, if you wish, when the meatloaf is done add a little more glaze and put it under the broiler to get it all bubbly and caramelized, instead. Hope that helps! It is great either way. Mollie

  4. SixteenTablespoons

    Well I’m five years late to the party but echoing this is a delicious recipe; thank you! When using bacon, I see you say to glaze under the bacon but do you still remove it at 30 mins to reglaze on top of the bacon?

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Well, I am so sorry for the late reply! Yes I do glaze over the bacon the second time. It makes it almost “candied”


  5. Anne Barnhart

    I put this on a wire rack with holes punctured in the foil as you describe. However under the rack I put root veggies (today it’s carrots, potato, sweet potato, and fennel bulb. I drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on the veggies. Then they also get the meatloaf drippings as the meat cooks. It’s a meatloaf with pot-roast-style veggies!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Anne that sounds fabulous and what a smart idea! A sheet tray meatloaf one pan dinner! I think the mix of veggies is inspired!! Love the fennel! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Pingback: Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite! | My Meals are on Wheels

  7. Since I grew up with immigrant parents in a very unassimilated house I always see really american recipes with this crazy sense of wonder and just wow. I’ve had meatloaf maybe 5 times in my whole life, and you seriously just woke that need in me again. <3

    • I always make a “burger” which is really just a sandwich the next day! It might be a childhood thing, but that’s what my Dad would do with any left over.

      In restaurants they’ll bake up the meatloaf and then fry it in a little oil or butter when they serve it! Can you imagine!

  8. Meatloaf is just the best…the first day and the second for sandwiches. Your post has reminded me that it has been some time since I made one and there is no time better than today.

  9. I love meatloaf and don’t have a great recipe. This looks wonderful. I love that it has a sauce to go on top of it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • You’re absolutely right, it is comfort food! Poor meatloaf, so absolutely non-trendy, not very healthy, shunned by vegetarians, vegans, paleo and gluten free diets!

      Gosh it was good, though! 🙂 Every now and then!

  10. Meatloaf was never a very popular dish at our house for some reason. My mom made it rarely … less than once a year as I recall. I don’t know why cause the concept is appealing enough.

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