The Most Tender, Juicy Meatloaf Merrill Has Ever Cooked

January 29, 2018

My favorite dish is my mom’s red beans and rice. It takes her all day to make it, simmering the beans until they soften into a creamy, comforting consistency and the scent of ham perfumes the house. Note, it’s not red beans and rice that’s my favorite, but my mom’s version. Because, let’s face it, whether it’s mom, dad, grandfather, or aunt, sometimes, all that matters is who makes the meal.

Back in 2010, Food52 co-founder Merrill Stubbs took a New Year’s vow to cook simpler food more often, like chicken cutlets, hearty ragu, or savory sweet potatoes. But one dish intimidated her: meatloaf.

Tender, juicy, and (almost) as good as Mom's. Photo by Julia Gartland

“Knowing that my fiancé's mother's meatloaf is pretty much his favorite meal in the world made me more than a little nervous,” she said.

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To be safe, she turned to a recipe written by Jonathan Reynolds in an article about his friend, actor (and excellent home cook) Oliver Clark.

Here’s the trick to getting meatloaf nearly as juicy as Mom’s: Don’t overmix. Use two forks to “paw” the ingredients together, making sure everything is just combined before gently forming the mixture roughly into the shape of a football. After a 40-minute bake, brush the top with ketchup and put it back in the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes.

“The resulting meatloaf was certainly the most tender and juicy of its kind that I have ever produced,” Merrill said. “And I was assured that it almost—but not quite—lived up to my future mother-in-law's famous version.”

Who makes your favorite meal? Have you been able to re-create it? Share your stories in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Andi December 7, 2019
Doesn't anyone use oatmeal anymore for meatloaf? Was that just a midwest thing? Bread crumbs are for meatballs.
nancy E. January 30, 2018
Bread soaked in milk and crumbled into the mix makes a much juicier meatloaf then dried crumbs
Mary February 4, 2018
agree! that’s my recipe, too. Also add a tablespoon of tomato paste.