A 'Why Didn't I Think of That?' Hack for Meatloaf

Using an ingredient already in the recipe.

April 11, 2019

In early March, I published a Big Little meatloaf recipe. It has five ingredients and zero frills: ground beef, onions, bread, eggs, ketchup. All get mixed together, formed into a loaf, and baked.

But apparently, the bread should have gone under the meatloaf, too.

A couple Food52ers told me about this smart hack in the article comment section. First, Christine: “A extra great trick I learned from Sara Moulton: Cook the loaf on top of white bread slices. It absorbs the extra fat.”

Whoa, right? Then, Marsha S. chimed in: “I, too, put two pieces of white bread on the bottom of the loaf pan to absorb all the fat that pours out of the meatloaf!”

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Top Comment:
“Try a heaping TBS of mayonnaise and some mustard as well as the ketchup.”
— Cynthia

Of course I had to try it. So I made my meatloaf recipe again—but instead of making one loaf, I split the mixture into two for a side-by-side comparison. On one sheet pan, a free-form meatloaf, with nothing underneath. On the other, I shaped the loaf atop a bed of sliced bread.

Control meatloaf on the left. Bread-bottom meatloaf on the right. Photo by Emma Laperruque

The result? After slicing into the meatloaves, they didn’t seem that different. Was one moister? Less greasy? The bottom of the bread-hack meatloaf did seem less oily, but beyond that: hard to tell. I wonder how the test would fare in a loaf pan, where the loaves are more surrounded by rendering fat and more prone to greasiness.

Despite the subtle differences in taste, I’m definitely turning to this trick again (and again and again). Because even if the meatloaves themselves were comparable, one had a clear bonus over the other: crispy, golden, beef-fatty toast. This is just as great to serve alongside your meatloaf as it is to turn into a sandwich.

Lights, Camera, Meatloaf

What’s your favorite trick for making meatloaf? Tell us in the comments!
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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Shirley B. May 7, 2019
Use good quality, pasture-raised beef and you won’t have much fat.
bellw67 May 5, 2019
Beef fatty toast, now that’s gonna be good for the arteries.
Joann April 29, 2019
I make a slurry with milk and crust less white bread to make it more tender. Add seasonings. Don’t overwork. I usually put it on a rack to keep the loaf out of the fat rendering. I’ll try the bread technique for sure. On top of the rack. Sometimes I put French fried onions on top the last 5 minutes of baking. Yummy. Sometimes lean bacon on top at the start of cooking. Never a glaze.
Cynthia April 12, 2019
Try a heaping TBS of mayonnaise and some mustard as well as the ketchup.
Maureen April 11, 2019
My trick for meatloaf (and meatballs, which are similar): Never use a spoon to mix. Only use the 'claw hand' technique to combine the ingredients lightly. The texture is much improved. Also, I use a mixture of ketchup, whole grain mustard and brown sugar for the glaze.