One of the tricks great cooks use to deliver the highest quality meats every time is measuring the internal temperature of their food. The internal temperature is a very reliable guide as to how well cooked your meat is. This works for steak, pork, lamb, chicken, and meatloaf.
Meatloaf is a classic weeknight dinner in many households. It’s easy to make and creates awesome leftovers. It tastes great upon serving, and tastes just as good on a sandwich the day after. Key to making the perfect meatloaf is ensuring that you’ve cooked it to the right internal temperature.
What is the Proper Internal Temperature for Meatloaf?
Fully cooked meatloaf should reach an internal temperature of 160 F | 71 C. Your meatloaf will actually continue to cook after removal from the oven. You can take it out of the oven at 155 F and allow the meatloaf to rest. This also allows the juices in your meatloaf to settle, resulting in perfectly tender, juicy meatloaf. Meatloaf that is allowed to stay in the oven beyond 160 F runs the risk of drying out.
Best Oven Temperature for Meatloaf
The best oven temperature to cook your meatloaf is 400 F at maximum. This is the way to get meatloaf that is tender and moist on the inside, but nice and crispy on the outside. The best of both worlds!
How To Know When Meatloaf is Done
The USDA recommendation is for ground beef to be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 F. The best way to check your meat’s temperature is with an instant-read meat thermometer. Once your temperature reaches 155 F, you can take your meatloaf out of the oven. As it rests, you’ll notice the internal temperature continue to increase. You can eat your meatloaf once its internal temperature has reached 160 F.
Best Practise: Use an Instant Read Thermometer
You should use an instant-read meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of your meatloaf. Once the meatloaf’s internal temperature reaches 155 F on the instant read thermometer, it’s OK to take it out of the oven. After about ten minutes at rest outside the oven after cooking, your meatloaf should reach an internal temperature of 160 F.
Plan B: No Instant Read Thermometer
So you don’t have an instant read meat thermometer handy. You can try a few alternative methods to ensure that your meatloaf is fully cooked.
- You can try a metal cake tester. Push your cake tester into the meatloaf until it reaches the center. Next, remove the tester and press it against the inside of your wrist. If it’s hot, or very warm, to the touch, your meatloaf is probably done or close to it. If it’s only a little warm or, worse, just cool, you’ll need to cook your meatloaf for a while longer.
- Try using a fork. Just as you can try the cake tester, a simple metal fork can go right into the center of your meatloaf. If the fork easily penetrates the meatloaf, then your meatloaf is probably cooked well enough. You should, as with the cake tester, press the fork against your wrist after you’ve removed it from the meatloaf. Hot or very warm metal means your food is cooked. If it’s cool, cold, or tepid, you should keep on cooking.
- The finger method. Press your finger against the outside of your meatloaf. If it’s firm to the touch, your meatloaf is probably done well enough to eat. This is the least reliable method, and will require the most practise to get a good feel for it.
How To Cook Meatloaf
It’s actually pretty easy to make meatloaf from scratch. You simply put all your ingredients in a large bowl and mix until they’re combined. Avoid overworking the meat as this will dry it out. Shape your meat into a loaf (or place it in a loaf pan) and bake in the oven until it’s done.
How Long to Cook Meatloaf
You can cook a pound’s worth of meatloaf in about 40 minutes at 400 F| 200 C. If your meatloaf is larger, around two pounds, you’ll need 55 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes to cook, still at the oven temperature of 400 F| 200 C.
As a general rule, you should assume that each pound of meatloaf will need 35-45 minutes to cook at 400 F| 200 C. Cooking time will vary based on the type of ground beef you’re using as well as the size and shape of your pan and the thickness of your loaf.
How To Avoid Overcooking Meatloaf
First off, use an instant read thermometer for the best results. When your meatloaf’s temperature reaches 155 F you can safely remove it from the oven. As it rests, the temperature will slowly keep rising until your optimum serving temperature of 160-165 F.
Tips For Moist Meatloaf
- Try to avoid using extra lean ground beef. Fat in meat helps to keep the meat moist. Lower fat content means less moisture. You might need extra liquid or basting to keep the meatloaf moist if you’re using extra lean ground beef.
- You should use a nice sturdy wooden spoon or your hands to mix your ingredients. Avoid overly pressing or condensing the mixture! Overmixed meatloaf will toughen and dry out in the oven. You want plenty of space and softness to the raw ground beef mixture going into the oven.
- Use the breadcrumbs as per your recipe. The right breadcrumbs can add moisture and structure to the loaf. You can use an old Italian meatball trick to add extra moisture to your meatloaf: soak your breadcrumbs in milk or stock before adding them to the meatloaf mixture.
Covering meatloaf with foil will keep it moist. You can get a crispy top by allowing the meatloaf to cook uncovered for about 15 minutes.
After removing your meatloaf from the oven, allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes.
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