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Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf

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 an old-fashioned Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and your favorite vegetable?

The original recipe had a lot of thyme. We really didn’t care for the way it hijacked the flavor or 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 on a foil-lined sheet or use a muffin pan. It cuts 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. Meatloaf freezes very well. 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.

Cook's Illustrated Meatloaf
Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf
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Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite!

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

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 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)
  • 3 pounds ground meat: use meatloaf mix (beef, veal, pork) or 50% beef & 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)

Instructions

Glaze:

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.

Meatloaf:

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.

Notes

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

 

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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

17 Comments on “Cook’s Illustrated Meatloaf – A favorite!

  1. What kind of oatmeal are you using here? Plain, old fashioned oats? Thanks, this looks great.

    • Hi Bill, I use plain old fashioned. I think Cook’s recommended the quick cooking. I keep making this, but never seem to have time to take a better picture! Everyone wants to dig in….

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

    • I think you’ll love this one! I am excited to see what you’ll be posting for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo; that is assuming you do! 🙂

    • 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!

  6. 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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