Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: August 15, 2023

The key to creating the perfect meatloaf is choosing the right kind of meat. It needs to have an ideal blend of flavors, textures, and juiciness for the best dining experience.

Meatloaf is my family’s favorite Sunday meal, so I was on a mission to find what meat works best.

I tried everything from classic ground beef to alternative, leaner meat choices. I found each meat gives the dish a unique taste, and not all of them work equally well.

Here’s my selection of the tried and tested types of meat for your meatloaf.

Quick Summary

  • The best meatloaf recipe usually calls for ground beef, but you can also use other kinds of meat.
  • You can make a classic meatloaf without a loaf pan by shaping it on a baking sheet or parchment paper.
  • Use leftover meatloaf for meatloaf sandwiches.

5 Best Types of Meat for Meatloaf

Raw meat for meatloaf

The best meatloaf recipe is moist and juicy, tender but not mushy. Its texture should be solid enough so you can pick it up without falling apart.

All of this depends on the meat you choose. Here are the five best meat choices for meatloaf.

1. Beef

Ground beef is classic meatloaf meat. It ensures you’ll get that recognizable meatloaf beefy flavor.

The trick is knowing which ground beef to choose. Ground beef is labeled with a lean-to-fat ratio, and this is very important when making the best meatloaf.

For example, burgers and meatballs also use ground beef, but they cook quickly.

On the other hand, a meatloaf needs to be baked for an hour.

This is why you need a higher fat content in a meatloaf than other ground beef recipes.

If you are only using beef to make a meatloaf instead of a meat mixture, choose ground beef that’s 80/20 or 85/15.

Ground beef that’s 90/10 can easily turn tough and dry because it doesn’t have a lot of fat.

Pro tip: Choose beef from the ground chuck or sirloin for its robust flavor.

2. Pork

Pork meatloaf in a plate

Ground pork is a good alternative if you don’t want to use ground beef. Pork has a higher fat content than ground beef, which results in a tender and juicy meatloaf.

Same as with pork, the flavor of the meatloaf varies depending on which type of ground pork you use. Choose pork with 70/30 or 80/20 fat content.

Note: Ground pork is also a good alternative if you’re cooking for someone who doesn’t like a classic meatloaf recipe.

However, keep in mind the meatloaf won’t have the same classic rich and meaty flavor as beef.

Depending on your needs and flavor preferences, this can be a good or bad thing.

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3. Poultry

Ground turkey and ground chicken are also options when making meatloaf.

Ground turkey is lean and has a lighter taste compared to beef and pork. This is a good choice if you want a healthy meatloaf.

However, you should add some additional ingredients, such as oil, herbs, smoked paprika, and other vegetables, to ensure it’s not dry.

Ground chicken also has a mild flavor and is lower in fat compared to fat and pork. You can mix ground chicken with bread crumbs, eggs, or other meats to enhance the flavor.

4. Meat Blend

Meatloaf on a board

Many meatloaf recipes call for a meat mixture.

After all, each type of meat has its pros and cons, so you can combine them to get the best of each.

Here are some popular meatloaf meat mixtures:

  • Beef and pork - Beef gives the meatloaf a robust flavor, and the pork provides a sweet taste. This is also a good balance of fat for moist meatloaf.
  • Beef and turkey - This is a great choice if you want a lean and light meatloaf. The beef gives the meatloaf flavor, and the turkey reduces the fat content. The result is a milder taste. This is a good healthy meatloaf recipe.
  • Beef, pork, and bacon - If you want a meatloaf full of flavor, this is the best mixture. The bacon gives the meatloaf a smoky and savory taste, which enhances the overall meatloaf taste.

5. Veal

Many types of meat at the grocery store sold as a meatloaf mix contain veal.

Veal is meat from young calves and has a mild, subtle taste. It won’t give much flavor to the meatloaf on its own, but you can use it in a ground meat mix.

It pairs best with beef and pork for a well-rounded flavor.

Overall, veal gives the meatloaf a great texture but tones down other meats' rich flavor.

If you want to use veal on its own, you should add extra fat to the meatloaf ingredients to ensure it doesn’t turn dry.

Read More: What Kind of Meat Is Veal?

10 Meatloaf Tips

Sliced meatloaf

Here are some tips for making meatloaf like a pro:

  • Let the meatloaf rest for about ten minutes after cooking. This redistributes the juices, so they don’t run out when you cut into the meatloaf.
  • Experiment with meat blends. Try half-ground pork, beef, bacon, sausage, or go more exotic and add some lamb or veal.
  • Make sure not to overmix the meatloaf mixture because this will make it too tough and dense. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl until they just combine.
  • Cook the vegetables before adding them to the meatloaf. Cut the vegetables into small pieces before sauteing them for a more uniform meatloaf texture.
  • Crush the breadcrumbs and crackers. They should be very fine. This also helps the texture.
  • Use seasonings, herbs, spices, and sauces to add flavor and depth to the meatloaf. Common choices include Worcestershire sauce, thyme, parsley, garlic, onions, and more.
  • Soak the bread crumbs in milk to keep the meatloaf moist and flavorful. You can also add broth to the meat mixture.
  • You don’t need to use a loaf pan. A loaf pan makes the meatloaf steam in the drippings, so you can’t get a crispy exterior. Use a rimmed baking sheet instead.
  • Top the meatloaf with shredded cheese five minutes before the end of baking for more flavor.
  • Use binders such as bread crumbs and eggs to keep the meatloaf together. This way, there’s no need for a loaf pan because the binders keep the meatloaf stable.

Other Meatloaf Ingredients

Chicken meatloaf with vegetables

Apart from meat, the flavor of your meatloaf largely depends on other ingredients you use.

Different meatloaf recipes call for different ingredients, but here are my favorite ones for the best meatloaf recipe:

  • Sauteed veggies - Cook diced onion and garlic in butter before you add it to the meatloaf. This enhances the flavor and ensures you won’t get a mouthful of sharp onion and garlic taste.
  • Use flavor boosters - Use tomato sauce with some Worcestershire sauce for a sweet and savory flavor. You can also make a top glaze of tomato sauce and ketchup.
  • Bread crumbs - Use bread crumbs to ensure the meatloaf stays together and has the best texture. They act as a filler and binder and absorb moisture. Experiment with different kinds of bread crumbs. For example, seasoned ones give the meatloaf extra flavor.
  • Eggs - Act as binders, so the meatloaf doesn’t fall apart when you cut it. Eggs also add moisture and ensure a tender texture. Use one to two eggs per meatloaf recipe.
  • Seasonings - My favorite is fresh parsley for a bright flavor. Italian seasoning gives the meatloaf recipe a savory taste. Also, use salt and pepper to enhance the flavor of other ingredients.
  • Brown sugar - Make a brown sugar meatloaf glaze with brown sugar, ketchup, and cider vinegar.
  • Cheese - Try cheddar, mozzarella, or parmesan for more flavor. Place it in the center of the meatloaf, or mix it into the ingredient mixture.

Read More: Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

How Long Does It Take to Bake a Meatloaf?

Meatloaf in the oven

How long it takes to bake a meatloaf depends on its size and your oven temperature, but it usually takes about an hour.

The meatloaf cooks until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees [1].

Here’s how long it takes to cook the best meatloaf recipe with sauce:

  • Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • Increase the temperature to 400 degrees to develop a crust.
  • Brush the top of the meat with sauce and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes so it caramelizes.

“Pour a glaze over the top of the meatloaf and use a pastry brush to get it all over the sides. Return the meatloaf to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.”

- I Wash You Dry, YouTube Channel


What Is the Best Fat Content for Meatloaf?

The best fat content for meatloaf is 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. Higher fat content makes the meat greasy, and lower fat content makes the meatloaf tough and dry.

What Is the Secret to Juicy Meatloaf?

The secret to juicy meatloaf is to add a lot of moisture. Add eggs, tomato sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or wet seasonings. These help the flavor and texture and make the meat juicy.

Why Did My Meatloaf Fall Apart?

Your meatloaf probably fell apart because it didn’t have enough bindings. Add more eggs and bread crumbs to make the meat mix stick together.

What Meat Should You Use for a Good Meatloaf?

Best meatloaf recipes call for ground beef.

However, be careful with the fat content if you use ground beef. You can also try a meatloaf mixture. I had excellent results and made a perfect meatloaf with a mix of beef and pork.

Add bindings and seasonings for more flavor, and serve your meatloaf with mashed potatoes for a meal everyone will love.

By now, you know that meat is crucial for a good meatloaf, so you should carefully choose your meat provider.

ButcherBox has a huge selection of beef, pork, and poultry cuts, including ground ones.

Their beef comes from grass-fed and grass-finished cattle, pork cuts are from heritage-bred pigs, and poultry is grown free-range.

Check out ButcherBox by going to our homepage to learn more about this meat delivery service and their offerings.


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