Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf

For years, every time my mother made meatloaf, I would stand by her side and write down every step she took to make it. The problem for this recipe writer was she made it differently every time. Like for many experienced home cooks, Mom would look in the refrigerator and grab ingredients that were available and seemed good at the moment. It never seemed to matter what she chose, her meatloaf always disappeared by the end of dinner. In the end, to write up a recipe, I averaged out the amounts of ingredients she used and came up with something I liked. I learned that short of overcooking the meat or using meat that is too lean, it is hard to ruin meatloaf. I think Mom’s version worked because she balanced the spiciness of the mustards she chose with the sweetness of the small amount of brown sugar she added.

Many years later, when I started cooking dinner at The Nashville Food Project, I reworked the recipe to feed 50 people. That number grew to 100, and ultimately to 150 people. You can find that reworked meatloaf recipe by clicking the Cook for a Crowd button on TNFP’s homepage.

Yield: 8 servings (figure ¼ pound per serving)

2 pounds ground sirloin. If you can find it, use Meatloaf Mix, a combination of beef, pork, and veal
2 cups plain breadcrumbs or cubes
2 large eggs (plan on 1 egg/pound of meat)
¾ cup milk or water
1 envelope onion soup mix
¾ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard (try Dijon, honey mustard, or spicy brown)
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Meatloaf Mix is a pre-packaged mixture of beef, veal, and pork. I use it to make meatballs, too. For the moistest meatloaf, be sure to use meat that is at least 15% fat, any leaner will cause the meatloaf to become dry when cooked. In the photo below, the meatloaf mix I used came from Doris’s Italian Meat and BakeryYes, relatives from Florida bring me frozen packages of this meat mix when they come to visit. I hoard it.

How to Make Plain Breadcrumbs:
Cut a stack of five slices of bread into small cubes to yield 2 cups of bread cubes. Or, make breadcrumbs by pulsing stale crusty bread in a food processor. Freeze until ready to use.
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Making the Meatloaf:
Preheat oven to 350º.
Mix eggs, milk, soup mix, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar.

Add meat and bread crumbs and mix slowly for about 15 seconds. You do not need to use a mixer. I do because I don’t like to get my hands greasy from the meat.

The less you handle meat, the more tender your meatloaf will be. It should look like this when done:

Place mixture in a 9″ by 13″ pan. Top lightly with ketchup, if desired. Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes.

The USDA recommends that all ground beef, lamb, pork and veal mixtures be cooked to 160º, and that ground turkey and chicken mixtures cook to 165º. For meatloaf, you can take the meat out when the meat thermometer says 155º and rely on carryover heat to finish the cooking.

Heat Transfer, aka Carryover Cooking, aka Resting, Explained
When meat is cooking in an oven, its outside surface temperature is hotter than its interior temperature by a big difference. When I took this meatloaf out of the oven, its internal temperature was 168º. We can assume its surface temperature was the same as the oven temperature, thus 350º. The room temperature was 70º. According to the laws of heat transfer, when meat is taken out of the oven, its surface heat has to go somewhere to equilibrate with the temperature of the atmosphere. Some of the heat will go into the room, and the rest will transfer into the meatloaf causing its internal temperature to rise. In this case, the temperature rose from 168º to 176º in only five minutes! That was an eight-degree difference. Not too noticeable in meatloaf, but the difference between medium and rare in a steak.
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Here is the meatloaf served with Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes and Blanched String Beans with Vinaigrette for dinner.

Cooking for a Crowd at The Nashville Food Project 

meatloaf tnfp

When we make meatloaf at The Nashville Food Project, we figure 25 servings per hotel pan. For 100 servings we portion out 24 pounds of meat and 24 cups of breadcrumbs between four pans and then add the rest of the ingredients.
meatloaf tnfp

The gorgeous eggs in the above photo were part of a weekly egg donation to TNFP by Sgt Twana Chick, who at the time of this photo, was the West Precinct Community Affairs Coordinator for the Metro Police Department. Sgt Chick is an example of one of the many fine citizens and businesses in Nashville who help feed the hungry with their marvelous food donations.

More comfort food:
Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Chicken Cacciatore, Pollo alla Cacciatora, or Hunter’s Chicken
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella


Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram and Pinterest at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent