When cooked to perfection, a juicy, flavorful slice of meatloaf is total comfort on a plate — it doesn’t even need gravy! But keep it in the oven just a little too long, and it can turn out so dry that no amount of sauce is able to rescue it. Trouble is, it can be tricky to know exactly when that meatloaf is baked just right. You could cut into it, yet that just risks lots of juices running out. That’s why in the Woman’s World test kitchen, we’ve learned it’s smart to always grab a meat thermometer — it’s the 5-second secret that many home cooks skip, but it can save a lot of kitchen heartache. Keep scrolling to find out the meatloaf internal temp that guarantees mouthwatering results, plus the pro trick to getting an accurate read.
What traditional meatloaf is made of
Most meatloaf recipes feature a mix of ground meat, breadcrumbs, seasonings, eggs and vegetables that’s shaped into one large loaf or mini loaves. Once formed, the meatloaf is baked until it’s fully cooked and then cooled slightly before serving. The key to juicy meatloaf is not overtaking it so it doesn’t dry out. Luckily, taking the meatloaf’s internal temperature takes the guesswork out of knowing if it’s cooked or not.
How to insert the meat thermometer into a meatloaf
The internal temperature indicates the temperature that the center-most portion of meat has reached. This is key as it takes longer for heat to reach and cook the interior of meat compared to the exterior. Hence why, an accurate internal temperature helps determine when meat is all the way through and reduces your risk of getting sick.
To tell if the meatloaf is done, insert a meat thermometer like the ThermoPro TP-02S Instant Read Meat Thermometer (Buy from Amazon, $9.99) at least ½ inch into the center. That positioning is key: Since its thickest part of the meatloaf, you’ll get an accurate read for the internal temperature.
The ideal internal temp. for meatloaf
When it comes to meatloaf made with ground red meat (beef, pork or veal), allow it to cook for the minimum amount of time listed in the recipe. Then, Woman’s World Test Kitchen Manager Susan Chiusano says to check the temperature as it “should be cooked to 160°F with the juices running clear.”
Susan notes that meatloaf containing ground chicken should register to an internal temp. of 165°F because it’s what poultry needs to kill off foodborne illness-causing bacteria on the surface. Any meatloaf that hasn’t reached the proper internal temperature needs to be cooked longer, checking every 5 minutes until it’s thoroughly cooked.
Meatloaf made even faster
Typically, a 1- to 2-pound meatloaf needs close to an hour to bake before it reaches the necessary internal temperature. Short on time? Susan likes to divide the meatloaf mixture among individual greased muffin tins. Then, the mini meat loaves can bake at 450°F for about 15 minutes or until their internal temp. registers at 160°F or 165°F, depending on the meat used.
Also important: Once the meat registers the appropriate temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. “This gives each meatloaf a chance to reabsorb its juices so it stays moist even after slicing,” Susan says. “Plus it lets the loaf firm up more so it’s easy to cut into.”
2 delicious meatloaf recipes from our test kitchen
These two meatloaf recipes are easy-to-prep favorites guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds and become weeknight staples in your home!
Chili sauce stirred into the meat mixture and brushed on top make this juicy main doubly delicious.
- 1½ lbs. ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
- ⅔ cup chili sauce
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ to ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- Active: 15 mins
- Total time: 3 hrs, 30 mins
- Yield: 6 servings
- Coat 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In bowl, mix beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup chili sauce, onion, Worcestershire and cayenne until just combined. Shape meat mixture into loaf.
- Transfer meatloaf to slow cooker. Brush with remaining ⅓ cup chili sauce. Cover; cook on low until cooked through, 2½ to 3 hrs, until internal temperature registers 160°F. If desired, heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; transfer meatloaf to baking sheet. Broil until top is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.
- Easy variation: To make Smoky BBQ Meatloaf, sub in BBQ sauce for the chili sauce and add in ½ tsp. smoked paprika. Continue with recipe as directed.
Chimichurri Chicken Meatloaf
We replaced ground beef with lean chicken and meaty mushrooms in this extra-moist supper sensation.
- 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- ⅛ tsp. + ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 (15 oz.) can lentils, drained
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 2 cups mushrooms, chopped, about 6 oz.
- 1⅓ cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs, from 2 slices bread
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 1 hr., 5 mins
- Yield: 6 servings
- Heat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; generously coat with cook- ing spray. In small bowl, combine cilantro, half of garlic, oil, lime juice, 1 Tbs. water and ⅛ tsp. salt; cover and reserve.
- In large bowl, mash lentils slightly. Add ground chicken, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, eggs, remaining 1 clove minced garlic, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper; gently combine. Shape into 9½-by-4-inch loaf; transfer to baking sheet.
- Bake until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 165°F, 40 to 45 minutes; transfer to serving platter. Serve meatloaf with reserved chimichurri sauce. Garnish as desired.
For more ground beef recipes worth adding to your dinner roster, click through:
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