The first recorded recipe for the modern American meatloaf is from the late 1870s. Back then, meatloaf was for breakfast—yes, breakfast.
We’d never argue with a slice of meatloaf topped with runny eggs as an eye-opener. But it’s beyond us to turn down a meatloaf dinner with all the trimmings.
To say that meatloaf is just as good the next day denies leftover meatloaf’s true magic. Who knows why meatloaf for lunch after a meatloaf dinner just hits different? And don’t get us started on leftover meatloaf sandwiches.
Whether you’re looking to try meatloaf smoked or bake it in your oven, it’s important to get the makings of meatloaf right before it’s time to cook. Here are our top 10 tips for making sure your meatloaf game is on point.
Use more than one kind of meat in your meatloaf.
Why go all beef when you could experiment? In our recipe for Smoked Marinated Meatloaf, we use a mix of ground beef and pork breakfast sausage. You could also try a mix of ground beef and venison.
Here’s how to mix meatloaf.
Once your meatloaf ingredients mingling in the mixing bowl, it’s important to not go overboard on mixing. Pretend your hand is a claw. Spread your fingers and curl your fingertips in slightly. Use a gentle twist-and-squeeze motion to mix.
At the first sign that your meat mixture is combined, stop. Why? Anytime ground meat is over-handled, you risk toughness. Definitely not what you’re looking for at dinner tonight.
Add the meat mixture to the loaf pan gently. Don’t pack the meat down or pack too tightly.
Make your own meatloaf seasoning.
We respect salt-and-pepper-only cooks. But we prefer big flavors. And it’s fun to experiment, and try something a little different each time.
For meatloaf, we love a tablespoon of our Original Championship Seasoning mixed in. We add in a teaspoon of our High Plains Heat Seasoning, too. Mix up a batch of this seasoning mix and you’ll basically have a grab-and-go meatloaf seasoning packet.
You should try smoked meatloaf.
Nothing will ever replace the oven-baked meatloaf we all ate as a kid. But if you love flavor, smoked meatloaf is a revelation. For a slight bump in effort and time, it’s a huge payoff.
Here’s what you need to use as binding in your meatloaf.
It’s not just meat that hold things together in a meatloaf. There are eggs, and there are breadcrumbs. Or oats. Or some combination of the two. (On a low-carb diet? Try almond meal or crushed pork rinds.)
Breadcrumbs are available at the grocery store or can be made at home. Use day-old bread and a food processor for best results. You want snowflakes, not tiny granules.
We have some opinions on what makes the best meatloaf glaze.
It’s hard to imagine meatloaf without a ruby-red glaze. We all remember mom mixing up ketchup and brown sugar for this.
The best meatloaf is a well-rested meatloaf.
We know it’s tempting to start slicing as soon as the meatloaf is done. But unless you want to lose precious juices, you’ll wait 10-15 minutes. This gives the meatloaf a chance to cool, to set up, and to retain every last drop of deliciousness.
Meatloaf is the perfect playground for experimentation.
Ever heard of bacon-wrapped meatloaf? We love it stuffed with cheese, too. Add half your meatloaf mixture to your cooking dish, add cheese, top with remaining meatloaf mixture, glaze, and cook. This works with mashed potatoes, too. And macaroni and cheese.
Try meatloaf meatballs. And personal-sized meatloaf.
Meatballs are a great alternative to a traditional meatloaf. Pros? Meatballs cook faster than a loaf of meatloaf. There is more surface area to glaze. Cons? We can’t think of any.
We love personal-sized meatloaf, too. There’s no need for a baking pan. Individual-sized meatloaf can be formed and cooked on a baking sheet, or on a griddle on the smoker. Plus, they’re a cinch to serve.
The best things to do with meatloaf leftovers.
Our best advice for making meatloaf is this: Make double the amount you’ll serve at dinner. This ensures leftovers. And there’s nothing quite like leftover meatloaf.
Have leftover meatloaf in a sandwich with a butter-toasted bun. Reheat it and top it with mashed potatoes. Eat it cold wrapped in a square of aluminum foil as you head out to take on the day. The choice is yours.
How long does leftover meatloaf last in the fridge? With a properly stored cooked meatloaf, you’ll get the best flavor within 4-5 days.
Our favorite recipes for smoked meatloaf, oven meatloaf, and even low-carb meatloaf
You’re now armed and dangerous. At least, when it comes to meatloaf. Which we’d say is important in today’s world.
Use these meatloaf tips and tricks to make our recipes your own. We’d love to see what you come up with. Post your meatloaf masterpieces to Facebook and tag us @headcountry, on Instagram at @headcountrybbq, and on TikTok at @headcountrybbq.
Classic Oven BBQ Meatloaf, Homestyle
The classic meatloaf we all know and love, topped with a BBQ sauce glaze. Mashed potatoes and roasted green beans are the perfect sides. Cooking time is about an hour.
FULL RECIPE: Classic Oven BBQ Meatloaf, Homestyle
Just like mom’s but, if you can believe it, it’s better. This smoked meatloaf is packed with tried-and-true ingredients, like onion-soup mix, Italian sausage, and a mix of bell peppers. It’s topped with a sticky layer of Head Country Hot & Spicy Bar-B-Q sauce. The target internal temp is 160 degrees F.
FULL RECIPE:Smoked Meatloaf
Smoked Meatloaf Balls
We love how these meatballs turn meatloaf from a sit-down meal to a walk-around snack—perfect for parties and tailgating. The glaze is a mix of ketchup and our Original sauce.
FULL RECIPE: Smoked Meatloaf Balls
Smoked Marinated Bacon-Wrapped BBQ Meatloaf
This is the top-to-bottom, fully decked-out meatloaf all meatloaf wishes it could be. We used three kinds of meat—beef, sausage, and bacon. It’s mixed with our Original Seasoning and our All-Purpose Marinade, then tucked under a woven lattice of bacon. The glaze gets perfectly set in the smoker.
FULL RECIPE: Smoked Marinated Meatloaf
BBQ Cheese Stuffed Bacon Meatloaf
Sometimes, you can take a classic to the next level. This stuffed smoked meatloaf proves our case. Filled with cheese, just the right amount of bacon flavor, and painted with BBQ sauce, this twist on the diner mainstay is sure to be your new top request when it’s time to fire up the grill.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Cheese Stuffed Bacon Meatloaf
Best Ever Smoked BBQ Meatloaf
Move aside, Grandma. A world champion BBQ is taking over from here. With a piping-hot, smoke-bathed center and a rich, crusty edge, this BBQ smoked meatloaf will revolutionize your Sunday dinner.
FULL RECIPE: Best Ever Smoked BBQ Meatloaf
Low Carb Bacon-Wrapped Personal Sized Meatloaf
This low-carb, bacon-wrapped version of the classic, made into individual servings, comes together quickly and easily. Plus, this recipe earns you some Keto brownie points, since it’s meatloaf without breadcrumbs. The glaze is our Sugar Free BBQ sauce.
FULL RECIPE: Low Carb Bacon-Wrapped Personal Sized Meatloaf
BBQ Meatloaf Sandwich
Leftover meatloaf is one of our favorite foods. Slices of meatloaf are gently warmed gently in the oven, then topped with fried-onion strings, melted cheese, and BBQ sauce. Two toasted buns sandwich it all together. Use full-sized buns, or square up some meatloaf slices to create a platter piled high with sliders.
FULL RECIPE: BBQ Meatloaf Sandwich