Everybody loves meatloaf, and I mean everybody. Seriously, I’m pretty sure you can’t think of anyone who hates it.
However, since it’s, uh, meat, it has to be properly cooked (undercooked meat is a big no, believe me, I’ve tried). But here’s the thing, due to the color and the fact that the beef is covered in sauce, it’s not going to be very easy to tell if it’s been cooked properly.
This is where I come in: I’m going to explain the optimum temperature required, the internal temperature of a fully cooked meatloaf, and other questions you might need answers to. Lets dive right in.
What is the internal temperature of a fully cooked meatloaf?
The insides of a fully cooked meatloaf is supposed to be about 160⁰F. If you’re familiar with meatloaf, you’ll agree that even after you’ve removed it from the oven, the insides remain cooking.
This is why it’s best to remove the meatloaf from the oven once the internal temperature reaches 155⁰F so that when it comes out, the temperature will end up reaching 160⁰F. If the temperature reaches 160⁰F and the food is still in the oven, you stand the risk of overcooking the insides.
Just in case you’re wondering, if you want to measure the internal temperature of a fully cooked meatloaf, the best tool to make use of is the meat thermometer.
What if I don’t have a meat thermometer? How do I measure it?
Easy, you walk up to a store and buy it. Just kidding, there are actually some other ways to find out if your meatloaf is cooked properly. Like:
The fork method
This one is very straightforward and if you’ve boiled yams or potatoes, you might be familiar with it. It involves inserting the fork inside the meatloaf, and watching out for these signs.
If the fork slides in easily, it means the insides are well cooked and soft. Also, once you bring out the fork, gently place it on the back of your hand. If it’s very warm to hot, it’s cooked, but if it’s cool to warm, it should stay in there a little longer.
You could also use a metal cake tester.
The principle is similar to the fork. Insert it into the meatloaf until the tool reaches the center, take it out and then feel it with the back of your hand. If it’s very warm to hot, it’s cooked, but if it’s cool to warm, you should cook it longer.
You could use your finger.
Please don’t insert your finger into the insides of a meatloaf that’s in the oven, if it’s cooked, it will burn your finger, and plus it’s gross. So I’ll give you another more or less sanitary alternative, which is to gently press your finger against the outside of the meatloaf.
If it’s firm then it’s a good indication that the meatloaf is cooked.
What is the best oven temperature to cook meatloaf in?
The best oven temperature required to cook meatloaf until it’s done is 350⁰F. Just so you know, the insides of the oven could be 350⁰F but the inside of the meatloaf, due to it’s thickness could be much less than that. Don’t let it confuse you at all.
You should also bear it in mind that once you’ve set it to 350⁰F and the insides are at that temperature, the moment you open it, some of the hot air will rush out and the temperature in the oven will reduce a bit.
To prevent that from happening, you should start the oven’s temperature at 420⁰F and then reduce it to 350⁰F immediately you put the meatloaf inside.
This will prevent the slight temperature loss from making any difference. However, this little trick isn’t really necessary and you could carry out the process without it, as there won’t be any real consequences.
I only brought that up for the master chefs who are very meticulous, especially when it comes to cooking temperature.
For those of you who might have stumbled upon this article but have not tried or cooked meatloaf, the method is pretty easy
How do I cook meatloaf?
All you need to do is get a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until they’re almost homogeneous, (don’t overwork the meat because it could get tough), pour the mixture into a loaf pan, and then bake.
How do I make a perfectly moist meatloaf?
Do not mix it too much. If you mix it too much, it will come out dry and hard. Also, when you’re mixing the ingredient, ensure you’re doing so with a strong wooden spoon, or if you’re feeling dexterous, you could use your hands. Make sure it’s clean though, I’m quite disappointed that I have to emphasize this but it is what it is.
Use breadcrumbs. Using breadcrumbs will add more structure to the meatloaf. Do ensure you soak the breadcrumbs in stock or milk before adding it into the mixture.
Do not use extra lean ground beef. This is because beef tends to have fat, and the fat is what keeps it moist.
However, if you already have the extra lean ground beef, you could either add extra liquid (which you might get the right amount wrongly), or you could toss it in the trash. I recommend you go with the former.
How do I avoid overcooking my meatloaf?
You can use an instant-read meat thermometer to get the most accurate reading. Like I stated earlier, it’s best to remove the meatloaf from the oven once the internal temperature reaches 155⁰F as opposed to waiting for it to reach exactly 160⁰F.
This is because when it’s out, the internal temperature gradually, (and obviously temporarily) increases on its own. Bringing it out at 155 would end up rising to about 160, however, bringing it out at exactly 160 could see it rise to about 165, which would slightly be headed towards the overcooked direction.
How long should I cook meatloaf?
A pound of meatloaf baked in an 8 by 4 inch baking pan with a temperature of 350⁰F will last about 40 minutes.
However, if the amount you’re cooking is more than just a pound, with the same measurements as the above, your meatloaf should be ready in about 1hr 15mins
Can you put meatloaf in the freezer?
Yes you can. All you need to do is shape the mixture into the form of a loaf, and then freeze. This method only applies to raw meatloaf mixture, if you want to freeze the cooked one, slice the loaf into many slices (the way you’ll slice bread), wrap each slice, and then place in the freezer.
Whenever you’re ready to bake it, thaw it in the fridge first.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is in meatloaf?
Meatloaf is made with a ground mixture of pork, beef, and veal. Bread is then soaked in milk, squeezed, and then added.
Vegetables are then sauteed and cooled down before they are added into the mixture, this adds moisture. Pepper, salt, mustard, garlic and onion powder are added.
To hold the mixture firmly together when baking, raw eggs are added (specifically an egg for every pound of meat)
Is a loaf pan the best place to put the mixture before baking?
Not many people know this, but the best place to put the mixture is actually on a foil-lined half sheet pan as opposed to the usual loaf pan. This is because placing it in a loaf pan will cause it to steam, and become heavy.
However, placing it on a foil-lined half sheet pan will give you the maximum amount of browned crust.
After baking, how long should I rest it?
It’s expected and ideal to let the whole thing rest for about 10 to 15 minutes
Should I bake my meatloaf covered or uncovered?
It depends on what you want. If you want it to remain moist, ensure you cover it with foil. However, if you want the crust to be nice and crispy, uncover it towards the last 15 minutes of the entire cooking.
If it’s not fully cooked, could it make me sick?
Eating undercooked meatloaf, or meat for that matter greatly increases your chances of getting food-borne diseases.
If my meatloaf is pink, can I eat it?
As long as the internal temperature is 160⁰F, it’s safe to eat. Some meat will look a bit pink even when they’re cooked.
What is meatloaf best served with
Meatloaf is best served with pasta, potatoes, and rice. The leftovers can also be used in a sandwich.