How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done

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There are many ways that people can use to know how to tell if a meatloaf is done. The most reliable and the best starting point is by following the recipe for the recommended temperature and cook time. Along with that, checking the internal temperature will guarantee successful results. 

For example, a 2 pound meatloaf will reliably cook in just over an hour. It is important to try not to overcook it or the meat will likely start getting dry, tough, and crumbly. The best way to know when a meatloaf is done is by checking its internal temperature.  As soon as it reaches 155°F, you can remove it from the oven.

How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.
How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.

What Is Meatloaf?

Meatloaf is a dish of ground meat that has been combined with other ingredients and shaped into a loaf for baking or smoking. Meatloaf is traditionally made with ground beef, although it can be made with pork, turkey, lamb, seafood, or venison. Meatloaf is typically sliced into individual portions for serving. But the key is how to tell if meatloaf is done.

How To Make Meatloaf from Scratch

Made from scratch meatloaf has a particular fondness in our family. Faith and I recall delightful Sunday afternoons around the family table enjoying our dad’s famous homemade meatloaf. It was absolutely delicious and something we looked forward to and still enjoy today.

Making meatloaf from scratch can be quite simple. The process does not include much fussing. Just mix all of the ingredients together by hand in a large mixing bowl. Then shape it into the desired loaf and bake. Here are the instructions to make our Dad’s wonderful delicious meatloaf from scratch. It is the BEST!

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs Ground Chuck
1 egg
1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup milk
1 packet Mrs. Grass Onion Mushroom Soup Mix


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine ground chuck, 1 egg, 1 cup oatmeal, 3/4 cup milk, 1 packet of Mrs. Grass’ Onion Mushroom Soup Mix. Mix by hand, being careful not to over mix.

3. In an oven safe baking dish, form meat mixture into a loaf shape, being careful not to pack it too much. 

4. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove foil and return to oven for 15 more minutes. Confirm that the internal temperature has reached 155F degrees.

5. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve hot and enjoy!

The Basic Meatloaf Formula

When making meatloaf, you’ll want to be sure to get the ratio of meat to the oatmeal and milk ingredients just right. If the ratio is off, you can end up with too watery or too dry meatloaf.  

The Meat

Ground beef is traditionally the meat used for meatloaf. A good 80/20 beef such as Ground Chuck makes the perfect ingredient. 

The Veggies

If you want to add vegetables to your meatloaf such as onions, carrots, and celery, we recommend you finely dice them and sauté them first before adding them to the loaf mixture. This will ensure that they’re done and don’t add some unwanted crunch to your dish.

The Glaze

Some people like to add a glaze to their meatloaf. The glaze can be ketchup, barbecue sauce, or a mixed homemade concoction. Or maybe you prefer to make your meatloaf without a glaze like us. Whatever the case, if you’re using a glaze for your meatloaf, we recommend adding it during the last 15 minutes so that it doesn’t burn before the meatloaf is done.

A Final Note

Making meatloaf can become a wonderful tradition to enjoy for those around your table. For our family eating meatloaf is full of nostalgia and continues to be because of those we’ve enjoyed it with down through the years. We hope it becomes that for you too.

How To Tell When Meatloaf Is Done?- Best Way to Detect Cooked Meatloaf!

The following are ideas of how to tell if meatloaf is done. As with anything, you might find for you that some work better than others and you have tools for some methods over others too. And that’s fine. Determine which method is the most tried and true for you, and then go with it.

How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.
How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.


Use An Instant-Read Thermometer

We feel that the most straightforward method of how to tell if meatloaf is done is to use and instant read meat thermometer. Once the internal temperature of the meatloaf, at the thickest part reaches 155F degrees, it can be removed from the oven, and is considered done. 


Without An Instant-Read Thermometer

If you do not have an instant read meat thermometer, here are some other methods of knowing if your meatloaf is done. Again, these are possibilities, but we feel that using an instant read thermometer along with following your recipe’s cook time and temperature are the best combination for success.


Use A Fork

Insert the fork into the thickest part of the meatloaf until it reaches the center. If the fork goes in easily, that is an indicator that the meatloaf could be done. When you pull the fork out, touch it to see if it’s warm. If the fork is not warm, then the meatloaf is not done. Return the loaf to the oven for more cook time. 


Use Your Finger

You’ll want to wash your hands well first for this one. And no, we’re not recommending you use your finger to poke it inside the meatloaf with your bare hand. That would be dangerous, and it would ruin the appearance of the dish. What you should do instead is gently touch the outside of the meatloaf.  If the meat is firm, it is likely done. But if it’s still considerably squishy it’s probably not done. Return it to


Use A Metal Cake Tester

Using a metal cake tester is about the same as using an instant read thermometer. It’s a very similar tool but it’s made specifically for desserts and sweet dishes.


Follow Your Recipe And Instinct

Our best advice for knowing how to tell if meatloaf is done is to strictly follow your recipe instructions and you won’t have to worry about testing the internal temperature of your meatloaf. Recipes are a good solid guide for achieving doneness.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about how to tell if meatloaf is done. We hope these are helpful to you.


How Long Should You Leave Your Meatloaf to Rest?

Allowing meatloaf to rest for 10-15 minutes after it is removed from the oven is sufficient. It helps make the loaf well bonded which is better for serving it.


What Is the Best Temperature To Cook Meatloaf?

Once the internal temperature of your meatloaf reaches 160F degrees it is done. It can be removed from the oven once it reaches 155F degrees because it will continue cooking for a bit. You don’t want to let it go beyond an internal temperature of 160F degrees because it can be overcooked at that point.


Why Is My Meatloaf So Watery?

If your meatloaf turns out too watery, it is likely because too much milk and oatmeal or breadcrumbs have been used compared to the amount of beef. You can fix this by adjusting the meatloaf ratio and use less breadcrumbs, oatmeal and milk or by adding more beef.

How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.
How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.


How To Know If Your Meatloaf Is Done Without A Thermometer

Even after the specified cook time and the recommended temperature, beef sometimes remains pink when it has been thoroughly cooked. This is because of the extra nitrates in the meatloaf. If the internal temperature has reached 160F degrees, but the inside still looks pink, this is likely the cause. It doesn’t mean that the beef is not done. It is.

Meatloaf Cooking Tips

The goal of any good meatloaf is to have it be moist on the inside and slightly crusty on the outside. That is a perfect meatloaf.

If you’re using any vegetables as add-ins, and by the way the sky’s the limit on this, we recommend cooking the vegetables until they are just tender, before adding them to the mixture. This will guarantee that they’ll be done when the meatloaf is done.

Our third tip is to create a loosely shaped meatloaf. Don’t over pack it. Leaving it loose will allow it to cook faster and not turn out tough.

If you’re unsure of the flavor of your meatloaf, you can taste test a small portion by frying it in a frying pan and taste it before baking it. This will allow you to adjust any seasonings before hand.

How Long To Cook Meatloaf

If you’re cooking a smaller meatloaf that is 1 to 1.5 pounds, 60 minutes at 400F degrees is an adequate cook time.

If you’re cooking a larger meatloaf, then you’ll want to use more like 80 minutes for the cook time at 400F degrees.   

A good rule of thumb is to use 30-40 minutes per pound at 400F degrees. The internal temperature should reach 160F to be fully cooked.

Best Meatloaf Pan

The best meatloaf pan to use is the one that gives the best results. Likely, if you have a few baking pans laying around, you’ll find one that will work well. It’s not necessary to go out and buy a new pan just to bake your meatloaf.

Some people prefer to use a loaf pan to bake their meatloaf. This could be a bread loaf pan like what is used to bake bread.  

We prefer to use more like a casserole baking dish or cake pan. The pan can be lined with foil or parchment paper and the loaf placed on top. Leaving room around the edge of the loaf and pan edges, allows air to circulate, gives a place for the grease to roll off and allows the meatloaf to cook effectively.

Whatever pan you choose, you’ll want to use one that has edges so that the grease doesn’t drip into the bottom of your oven.

How Do You Tell If Meatloaf Is Fully Cooked?

We’ve established the various methods above that can be used for how to tell if meatloaf is done. But the most important factor is that the internal temperature needs to reach 155F degrees before it is removed from the oven. Here are some various cook times based on the size of the loaf.

How Do I Know if My Meatloaf Is Cooked?

A 2 pound meatloaf, for example, takes just over an hour to cook. But once the internal temperature reaches 155F degrees, it can be pulled from the oven.

Is It Okay If Meatloaf is a Little Pink?

If the meatloaf reaches the required internal temperature, the meat is done. However, sometimes the meat will still appear pink depending on the amount of nitrates and the ingredients that have been added.

What Temperature Should Meatloaf Be When It’s Done Cooking?

For How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done, a smaller meatloaf of about 1.5 to 2 pounds, you should cook it at 400F degrees for 50 minutes, then remove the foil and the temperature can be increased to 420F degrees for 15 more minutes if desired. An internal temperature of 160F degrees means that the meatloaf is done.

Should Meatloaf Be Cooked Covered Or Uncovered?

Cooking the meatloaf covered or uncovered can be a matter of personal preference. However, our recommendation is to cover it with foil to help keep moist. And then uncover it for the last 15 minutes to give it a bit of a crispy outside.

How Long To Cook Meatloaf at 375 Covered or Uncovered?

Our recommendation is to cook meatloaf at 350F degrees. Cooking it low and slow allows for a more tender and moist outcome that is absolutely delicious.

How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.
How to tell if meatloaf is done. Photo by CookThink.

Why Does My Meatloaf Crumble And Not Slice?

There can be a few factors that cause your meatloaf to crumble and not slice very well. The culprit is likely using too much bread crumbs or oatmeal, or too few eggs. This can also happen if meatloaf is not allowed to rest in its baking pan.

Why Is My Meatloaf Mushy?

There can be a variety of reasons that your meatloaf turns out mushy. However, typically it is usually because the wrong ratio of meat to other ingredients is used. To correct this, add more meat or use less of the oatmeal or breadcrumbs and milk mixtures.

What Does Milk Do To Meatloaf?

The addition of milk in meatloaf works with the oatmeal as is the case in our recipe or the breadcrumbs as used in other recipes, to make the meatloaf more moist. If you do not consume milk in your diet, the milk can be substituted for ingredients like beef stock, chicken stock, water, or a non-dairy milk. The results will still be delicious.  

Can Undercooked Meatloaf Make You Sick?

Yes, undercooked meatloaf can make you sick if it is consumed. Like any raw meat, consuming raw meatloaf can transfer diseases that make people ill. It is best to make sure that your meatloaf is fully cooked before consuming it.

How Long Does It Take To Cook A Meatloaf Per Pound?

A good rule of thumb is to cook meatloaf at 400F degrees, for 35-45 minutes per pound. The important aspect is to make sure the internal temperature reaches 155F degrees before it is removed from the oven.

How Long Does It Take To Cook a 3 lb Meatloaf at 350 Degrees?

It takes about 1.75 hours to cook a 3 pound meatloaf at 350 degrees.

How Long Does A 2 lb Meatloaf Take To Cook at 375 Degrees?

It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook a 2 pound meatloaf at 375F degrees.

Why Does Meatloaf Take So Long To Cook?

Meatloaf takes longer to cook than say a hamburger because meatloaf is baked as a loaf formed in a loaf pan or other baking pan. It is really thick. A meatloaf that is formed in a loaf pan takes longer to bake than a free form meatloaf in a free form pan.

How Long Does It Take To Cook A 4 lb Meatloaf at 350F?

It takes approximately 2 hours, 40 minutes to cook a 4 pound meatloaf at 350F degrees.

What Temp Should I Cook My Meatloaf?

All meatloaf should reach an internal temperature of 160F degrees to be considered done. The temperature used to cook meatloaf can vary.

How Long Does It Take To Cook A 5 lb Meatloaf at 350 Degrees?

A five-pound meatloaf should be cooked at 350F degrees until the internal temperature reaches 155F degrees, and then it can be removed from the oven.

Best Meatloaf I’ve Ever Made

The best meatloaf I’ve ever made is my dad’s meatloaf recipe. Our family really likes this meatloaf because it is tasty and doesn’t include any so-called weird ingredients. We like my dad’s meatloaf best because it has a savory and good beef flavor.

How To Make Meatloaf: Thermal Considerations

If you’re wanting to achieve the perfect meatloaf with a great flavor then you’ll want to take into consideration the thermal aspects and know How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done.

What Makes A Good Meatloaf?

A good meatloaf is one that you think about with fondness and want to try to replicate again and again. A good meatloaf is moist, not dry or soggy, flavorful, holds together well, is not too dense, and is slightly crusty on the outside.

Moist (Not Soggy, Not Dry) Meatloaf

Achieving a moist meatloaf, one that is not soggy and not dry is like achieving perfection. It is everyone’s goal for a wonderfully delicious experience.

Meatloaf That Isn’t Soggy

One secret to achieving meatloaf that isn’t soggy is to use a freeform pan so grease can flow away from the loaf. In other words, don’t use a loaf pan that would require the loaf to fit right to the edges of the pan. If the loaf is sitting in sopping grease the entire time it cooks, it will become soggy. Using the right pan can be a value add.

Flavorful Meatloaf

There are a variety of ways to get a flavorful meatloaf. Some choose to use herbs and spices while others use sauces or if you’re like us, you’ll choose a pre-made seasoning packet. They say a properly seasoned dish versus one that’s not, is what separates a good cook.

Meatloaf Should Slice, Not Crumble, Nor Should It Be Too Dense

The general idea of serving meatloaf and making it a personal portion is to slice the loaf. The goal is to be able to slice it without it crumbling. Following recipe instructions will help to avoid a crumble.

You will also want to attempt to avoid a meatloaf that is too dense. Leaving the loaf a bit loose when you’re free form shaping it will help, rather than packing it tight.

Meatloaf Should Have a Delectable Outer Crust

In our opinion, having a slightly crisp outer crust is one of the best parts of having meatloaf. In our family, there is usually a discussion about who gets the end pieces because those have the most crust. There are many different ways people like their crust. We simply use a free forming pan to achieve our crust. But you might like to try a ketchup glaze, barbecue sauce glaze, or a bacon wrapped crust.

The Secrets To A Perfectly Moist Meatloaf

We’ve indicated that achieving a perfectly moist meatloaf is like achieving perfection with your dish. If that’s the case, how’s it done?

Fat Is Your Friend

Use a good quality 80/20 ground beef like Ground Chuck. This will allow some fat to be present which is necessary to help retain moisture.

Vegetables Are Your Other Friends

If you like vegetables in your meatloaf, then feel free to add them. Adding vegetables adds flavor.

Use Enough Filler

The filler in our recipe is oatmeal. But you might also prefer to use a recipe that uses breadcrumbs as filler. These ingredients are referred to as filler, but their main job is to absorb juices from the meat and help maintain moisture.

Do Not Over Mix or Compress the Meat

We recommend not over mixing or compressing the meat when mixing the ingredients and free forming your loaf. All these things do is make your meatloaf tough and dry.

Slow and Low Is the Way To Go

When cooking meat, cooking it slow and on a lower temperature is typically the best way to go because it creates tender meat.

Use a Digital Thermometer to Determine Doneness

Along with allowing the meat to cook for the full amount of recommended time at the indicated temperature, using a digital meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the meat is the best way to determine doneness.

Let Your Meatloaf Rest

When you remove your meatloaf from the oven, allow it to rest in its baking pan for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing it and serving it up.

How To Cook A Perfectly Tender Meatloaf

To cook a perfectly tender meatloaf, be sure to leave loaf a bit lose when free-forming it. And cook it on a low temperature like 350F degrees for a good length of time.

Tips For Perfectly Moist Meatloaf

The best way to achieve a perfectly moist meatloaf is to use an 80/20 grade of ground beef, make sure the ratio of fillers, milk, and egg are a good ratio to the quantity of meat, and keep it covered until the last few minutes while it’s cooking.

Can You Overcook Meatloaf?

Yes, it is possible to overcook meatloaf. When meatloaf is overcooked, it becomes dry. To avoid this, remove the meatloaf from the oven when it reaches the specified internal temperature.

Do You Have To Put Milk In Meatloaf?

No, you don’t have to put milk in your meatloaf. However, if you’re not using milk, you’ll want to use another liquid in its place. Beef stock, chicken stock, water, non-dairy milk can use substitutes in place of milk.  Milk is what adds moisture to oatmeal or breadcrumbs.

Why Is My Meatloaf Not Firm?

If your meatloaf is not firm, it is likely because your ratio of milk and oatmeal or breadcrumbs to meat is off. To fix this, reduce the amount of milk and oatmeal or add more meat.

What Should The Internal Temperature Be For Meatloaf?

When the internal temperature of your meatloaf reaches 155F degrees, it can be removed from the oven. An internal temperature of 160F degrees indicates that the meatloaf is done.

All Beef Meatloaf Internal Temperature 160 Degrees Fahrenheit. Take Out of The Oven at 155 Degrees.

Using a meat thermometer, insert it in the thickest part of the all-beef meatloaf. Once it has reached a temperature of 155F degrees, the meat can come out of the oven.

Classic Meatloaf Internal Temperature 160 Degrees Fahrenheit. Take Out of The Oven at 155 Degrees.

For classic meatloaf, once the internal temperature at the thickest part reaches 155F degrees, it can be removed from the oven.

Turkey Meatloaf Internal Temperature 165 Degrees Fahrenheit. Take Out of The Oven at 160 Degrees.

Turkey meatloaf requires a little bit higher temperature for it to be considered done. Once the internal temperature reaches 160F degrees, the loaf can be taken out of the oven.

What Temperature Should Meatloaf Be Cooked At?

As a general rule of thumb, meatloaf should be cooked low and slow. Our recommendation is to cook meatloaf between 350F – 400F degrees.

What Makes A Good And Moist Meatloaf?

The three main things that make a delicious and moist meatloaf are as follows:

1. Fat

Having some fat in the meat that you use helps to maintain moisture. We recommend 80/20 ground beef.

2. Animal’s Age

Younger animals provide more tender meat. As a cow ages, there is more tissue etc that tends to make the meat tough which can also lend to a dry meatloaf.

3. Cooking Time

We can’t emphasize this enough. Cooking a meatloaf low and slow is the key.

Quick and Easy Tips To Make a Perfectly Moist Meatloaf

Along with How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done, Here is another angle of how to make a perfectly moist meatloaf.

Cut of Meat

We recommend using traditional ground beef that is 80/20. This is typically labeled as ground chuck in supermarkets.


Shaping

Use a free-form pan so that the loaf does not have to fit to the pan. It is better for cooking and for moisture outcome if the loaf is not molded to the pan.  Leave room around the edges of the loaf between the edges of the pan.

Using a Meat Thermometer

Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way of how to tell if meatloaf is done.

Vegetables

Vegetables can also add moisture to your meatloaf. Using vegetables like carrots, onions and celery are perfect for adding moisture.

Filling

You don’t want to skip the filling in meatloaf for sure. In our recipe we use oatmeal. Some recipes use breadcrumbs. Whatever you’re using, be sure to follow the recipe for the quantity.

How To Ensure the Inside of The Meatloaf Is Fully Cooked

The best way to ensure the inside of the meatloaf is fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer. This is a guaranteed method of knowing whether it is done. We’ve included other methods in this post, How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done, that might be helpful but are not guaranteed.

How To Reheat Meatloaf

If you’re fortunate enough to have leftover meatloaf, the best way to reheat it is to bake it at 250F for 25 minutes. This will maintain the texture and flavor. If you prefer, you can also microwave or use a steamer to reheat your meatloaf.

How To Serve

Meatloaf is typically served by cutting the loaf into individual sized serving slices that are thick or thin depending on your preference. Meatloaf is then placed on a plate and eaten with a fork and knife. Some people prefer to eat it with ketchup, barbecue sauce, and some prefer to eat it plain. But before serving it, be sure to test it with one of the methods of how to tell if meatloaf is done.

Can I Make Meatloaf In Advance?

Yes, meatloaf can be made in advance. But like most anything, it is the absolute best when it is fresh. If you’re planning to make meatloaf ahead, you can reheat it in the oven at 250F degrees for 10 – 15 minutes until heated through. You might also prefer to use a steamer or microwave to reheat the meatloaf instead.

Leftovers

If you are fortunate enough to have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Freezing/Make Ahead

Meatloaf can be both made ahead and frozen.

Make Ahead

If you’re making meatloaf ahead, there are a couple of ways that you can do it. You can either mix up the raw mixture and shape it into your freeform loaf, wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it. Or you can prepare it to the same point and store it in a zipped freezer bag and store it in the freezer until it is baked. Or the other option would be to bake it completely in advance and then reheat it when you’re ready to serve it.  

Freezing Leftovers

Leftover meatloaf can be frozen in a zipped bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. The meatloaf should be thawed and reheated before serving. 

What To Serve With Meatloaf

There are many things that go well with traditional beef meatloaf. For our family’s nostalgic Sunday afternoon dinner memories of eating meatloaf around the family table, the menu often consisted of Dad’s best meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and fresh baked dinner rolls. Here are some other ideas of what to serve with meatloaf:

Potatoes:
baked potatoes
mashed potatoes
scalloped potatoes
oven roasted potatoes
sweet potatoes

Vegetables:
sweet corn
green beans
summer squash
roasted broccoli
asparagus

Bread:
garlic bread
dinner rolls
crescent rolls
biscuits
corn meal muffins

Jello

Can I Make Meatloaf On A Baking Sheet?

Yes, meatloaf can be made on a baking sheet. You’ll want to free-form your thick loaf much the same way you would if you were using a casserole baking dish or loaf pan. If you do decide to use a baking sheet to cook your meatloaf, you’ll want to be sure that there is at least a small lip around the edge of the sheet that will keep the grease from rolling off the pan. Dripping grease can be a fire hazard and should be avoided. But most importantly, you want use one of the methods that show how to tell if meatloaf is done.

How To Tell If Meatloaf Is Done

The internal temperature needs to reach 160F degrees for the meatloaf to be done. It can be removed from the oven once the internal temperature reaches 155F degrees.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: How to tell if meatloaf is done

Ingredients

  • Use An Instant-Read Thermometer
  • Use A Fork
  • Use Your Finger
  • Use A Metal Cake Tester
  • Follow Your Recipe And Instinct
  • Watch Until The Liquid Runs Clear
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How To Tell if Meatloaf is Done

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