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How to make a killer meatloaf (and it’s easier than you think)

Make this old-school meal delicious again following this recipe

Meatloaf on a table
Ali Salehi Yavani / Picture Press / Getty Images

A favorite of family meals and diners, a well-made meatloaf is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The best part about this versatile dish is that it’s a blank canvas for seasoning, allowing adventurous cooks to experiment with sweet or spicy flavors. As a bonus, meatloaf is also great for leftovers. Our advice? Crisp up some slices in a pan and throw then between bread for a killer sandwich.

Choosing the meat

Meat in a grinder
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When it comes to ground meat, fat equals flavor. Typically, ground beef with meat that has a fat ratio of 80/20 is the best choice. Lean ground beef (90/10) will make the meatloaf mixture dry and crumbly. Ideally, get ground beef from your local butcher shop — this will ensure the freshest and best-quality ground beef. If buying from a supermarket, pay attention to the labeling on the package (80/20, 90/10, etc.).

While almost every meatloaf recipe calls for beef, any type of ground meat can be great for meatloaf. A popular alternative is turkey. Remember — use dark meat turkey rather than breast meat due to the higher fat content. If you insist on using white meat, you can mix other meats like ground pork (even bacon) to make the turkey blend juicer and fattier.

The glaze

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Besides the seasoning for the meatloaf mixture, a good sauce or glaze will take your meatloaf to the next level. A meatloaf glaze will typically include sweetness, creating a sticky and rich sauce that lathers the meatloaf. The key to a good sweet glaze is to balance it with acidity, usually in the form of vinegar or mustard. For creative spins, try using ingredients like Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses or sharp English mustard for a unique glaze.

Joy’s meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes and crispy onion straws

Meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, and crispy onion straws from Joy's Cafe
Joy's Cafe

(By Executive Chef Joy Beber, formerly of Joy Cafe)

Now closed, Joy Cafe, which was once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, incorporated both international inspiration and family recipes, some of which had been handed down for generations. Born and raised in South Georgia and heavily influenced by the traditional Southern cooking of the women in her family, Executive Chef Joy combined traditional Southern and rural European recipes with inventive techniques and modern presentation.


For the meatloaf

  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (they house ground brisket, top sirloin, and short rib)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the tomato glaze

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon canned chipotle in adobo, chopped fine (optional)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Fresh arugula (for garnish)

For the crispy onion straws

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce (they used house-made roasted red pepper and habanero hot sauce)
  • Salt
  • Canola oil for frying

For the mashed potatoes

  • 2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound cold butter, cut into small cubes and another 1/2 pound (slightly more or less to taste and preference)
  • A whole head of garlic
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the breadcrumbs and milk for the meatloaf and set aside.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground beef, onion, bell pepper, egg, breadcrumb mix and half of the sauce. Grease a loaf pan and place the loaf in a pan. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the meatloaf.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the meatloaf has browned.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the crispy onion straws. Mix the flour and dry ingredients and set aside. Mix buttermilk and hot sauce (use more hot sauce if desired) and set aside.
  6. Thinly slice yellow onions in rounds and dredge in flour mixture, then in buttermilk mixture, then back in dry mixture.
  7. Fill a shallow pot one-third full with canola oil. Fry at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt immediately and set aside until ready to serve.
  8. While the meatloaf continues to cook, prepare the mashed potatoes. Cut the top of the head of garlic, wrap in tinfoil and roast in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven until fragrant, about 30 minutes. When finished, squeeze garlic pulp out of the head and set aside in a separate bowl (Note: For extra flavor reserve garlic shell/paper and add to cream and herb mixture below).
  9. Place heavy cream in a saucepan with herbs, peppercorns and garlic shell/paper. Simmer over low heat. Do not boil. Keep warm until the potatoes are ready.
  10. To cook the potatoes, add the potatoes to a pot and cover with water. Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt and taste the water for seasoning; it should taste reminiscent of light seawater. Bring to a light boil and cook until just tender. Drain potatoes and put them back in the still hot pot to get rid of the last of the water.
  11. Add the 1/2 pound of cold butter and garlic pulp into a mixing bowl. Working as fast as possible, push the hot potatoes through a potato ricer in small batches and into the mixing bowl. The ricer helps create a wonderfully fluffy, soft texture, but a potato masher will work just fine.
  12. Strain cream through a fine-mesh strainer into another mixing bowl, discarding the herbs and garlic shell. Pour one-fourth to half of the mixture over the potato mixture. Fold potatoes, butter, cream and garlic until combined. Add more butter and/or cream to reach the preferred consistency and flavor. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
  13. Plate mashed potatoes and top with sliced meatloaf and crispy onions. Enjoy!

Alternative to mashed potatoes

Mashed cauliflower
Olga Miltsova / Adobe Stock

If you’re cutting carbs and want to replace the potatoes with cauliflower mashed potatoes, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to make cauliflower mashed potatoes, which has become a popular dish. And they are just as delicious as their potato counterparts.


  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk (or unsweetened plant-based milk)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped chives (optional, for garnish)


  1. Cook the cauliflower one of three ways. To boil, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Drain the water and return the cauliflower to the pot. To steam, steam the cauliflower florets for 10-12 minutes or until tender. You can use a steamer basket over boiling water or a countertop steamer. To roast, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the cauliflower florets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.
  2. While the cauliflower is hot, mash it with a potato masher, immersion blender, or food processor until you reach the desired consistency. For a smoother texture, use the food processor or immersion blender.
  3. Add the butter, milk, Parmesan cheese (if using), salt, and pepper to the mashed cauliflower. Mix well until it’s combined and creamy. You can adjust the amount of milk or butter depending on how thick or thin you prefer the “mashed potatoes.”
  4. Serve your cauliflower mashed potatoes warm, garnished with chopped chives (optional).
Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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