Do You Cover Meatloaf When Baking In The Oven?

Ah, meatloaf! The classic family comfort food. It’s simple, affordable, and quick to make on a busy night.

Everyone has their own spin on the recipe, but it always helps to know even more about such a “simple” dish.

If you make meatloaf regularly, it helps to pick up a few tips and tricks to make your meatloaf the best meatloaf ever.

If you want to make the juiciest, most tender meatloaf, what temperature should you cook it on? Do you need to cover it or not in the oven?

Generally speaking, you can cover the meatloaf while you cook it in the oven. Covering your meatloaf can help keep it moist and can help keep the juices from splattering, which can make a mess and burn in the oven. 

It is also better to cook with a cover of aluminum foil if you want a golden crust and a soft and moist interior to your meatloaf.

However, you can remove the foil near the end of cooking. As you bake your meatloaf, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil during cooking, but during the last 15 minutes of baking, remove the foil, so the top of the loaf can brown and caramelize. 

As for temperature, lots of temperatures will work for cooking meatloaves, depending on

Should you Bake Meatloaf Covered or Uncovered?

Depending on your recipe, you can bake meatloaf either covered or uncovered. Multiple recipes might highlight either method as better than the other.

However, one issue that does come with uncovered cooking is that meatloaf tends to become dry. The easiest way to fix this issue is to cover your pan and use aluminum foil to make a loose foil “tent” over the meatloaf.

When the meatloaf is cooked uncovered, you will have to bake it longer at a higher temperature to get the right texture.

Meatloaf from the Oven

Covered Cooking

Most cooks choose to cover their meatloaf with aluminum foil since it will retain moisture and prevent drying out even if you overcook the meatloaf a little.

There are advantages to cooking your meatloaf with a cover. For example, your meatloaf will be more tender because the moisture of the binding agent (usually breadcrumbs) remains in the loaf. Covering the meatloaf also prevents burning and helps the food cook more evenly. 

By doing this, you also reduce the risk of undercooking your meatloaf and giving anyone food poisoning. 

How To Cover Meatloaf for Oven Baking

For the best results, covering your meatloaf will help guarantee that it bakes evenly without becoming dry. To cover your meatloaf:

  • Place the meatloaf into the baking pan or loaf pan.
  • Loosely cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and press the ends around the edges of the loaf pan to secure the foil.
  • Don’t stretch the aluminum too tightly across the loaf pan. Instead, a loose foil tent is best for the circulation of air and heat in the oven.
  • For the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil and allow the meatloaf to bake uncovered to brown and caramelize the top of the meatloaf.
Meatloaf in foil in the oven

How Long Do You Cook Meatloaf?

This question largely depends on the size of the meatloaf you want to cook, the type of oven you are using, and the temperature of the oven. 

In general, the majority of recipes call for baking the meatloaf for roughly 45 minutes for a one-pound meatloaf; 55 minutes for a two-pound meatloaf; and 1 hour and 20 minutes for a three-pound meatloaf in a conventional oven.

Different sizes of meatloaf require different cooking times. However, a good rule of thumb is to cook the meatloaf for 35-45 minutes per pound.

However, if you are cooking in a convection oven, the cooking time will need to be reduced by 25%, but the temperature will need to stay the same.

How Long Does it Take to Cook a 1-Pound Meatloaf at 350°F?

When you are cooking meatloaf in the oven, you are attempting to reach an internal temperature of 160°F. 

Most recipes call for cooking a 1-pound meatloaf for 35-45 minutes at 350° or until a thermometer reads 160°. However, after 25 minutes you can take it out and remove the foil to brown the top of the loaf.

You always want to let the meatloaf rest after baking as well to let the juices settle, just like a steak. This usually takes from 5-10 minutes.

How Long Does it Take to Cook a 2-Pound Meatloaf at 350°F?

Just like all meats, you want to reach the “safe zone” of internal temperatures, so for a two-pound meatloaf, it takes just a bit longer than a 1-pound loaf– about 1 hour.

For some recipes, the initial baking takes about 45 minutes, while the rest of the time allows for another layer of glaze to caramelize on top.

Remember to keep the meatloaf covered for the first 45 minutes, then uncover it for the last 15 minutes.

After baking, let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout, then cut and serve.

How Long Does it Take to Cook a Three-Pound Meatloaf at 350°F?

It takes roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook a 3-pound meatloaf.

As with other meatloaves, using a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 160° F, will ensure that you have reached the right amount of “done-ness” for food safety, but you still want to check for complete cooking of the meat. 

To keep the meatloaf moist and tender, remember to keep the meatloaf covered for most of the cooking time, and uncover it for the last 15-20 minutes to crisp up the crust and edges.          

Pounds350° and time in oven375° and time in oven400° and time in oven
1-pound meatloaf35-45 minutes25-3540 minutes
2-pound meatloaf45-55 minutes40-501 hour
3-pound meatloaf1 hour 15 minutes1 hour- 1hr 15 min.1hr 20 minutes

How Do I Keep the Meatloaf Moist?

There are lots of tips and tricks to keep a meatloaf moist. One is to cover the meatloaf with aluminum foil to keep the heat from drying out the meat.

However here are a few more tricks to keep your meatloaf from becoming a dry, bland mess:

Use Meat with Enough Fat Content

If you are using only ground beef, use an 80/20 mix of beef to fat. Lots of people like to mix the beef with other types of ground meats, like pork, lamb, or veal, particularly if you are using a very lean meat like ground chicken or ground turkey as your base.

The fattier meat will help keep the meatloaf moist and tender. You can add even more moisture by adding wet ingredients, like ketchup, soy sauce, or Worchester sauce.

Cook Your Vegetable Add-ins

Raw vegetables tend not to cook all the way through, so giving your veggies a quick sauté will help add flavor, texture, and moisture to your meatloaf. It doesn’t even matter what kind of vegetables you add.

Most people add onions, celery, and carrots, while some like to add green or red peppers as well. It comes down to what you like.

Soak Slices of Bread in Milk and Add them to the Meat Mixture

While many cooks agree that the practice seems odd, they swear by the results that the soaked breadcrumbs keep the meatloaf moist and tender.

Rest the Meat After Cooking

Resting the meatloaf after cooking allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meatloaf.

Let it rest between 10-15 minutes before you cut it so that the juices settle and they don’t run out as you cut it, leaving you with dried-out meat.

Should I Drain the Grease From the Meatloaf?

Most cooks tend to wait to drain the grease from their meatloaf until the meatloaf is finished cooking or when there are about 15 -20 minutes left for it to cook. However, there is no hard and fast rule that says you must drain the grease.

This decision really does come down to personal preference. However, if you are more partial to a less than crispy meatloaf, you might not want to drain the grease until after the baking is finished.

If you do prefer a “crisper” meatloaf, try removing the meatloaf from the oven with about 15 minutes of bake time left, draining the grease, and placing it back in the oven to finish baking. 

This will give the meatloaf a “crispy” top, which is easy to cut into and makes slicing the meatloaf easier.

Draining the grease also prevents the dreaded “soggy bottom” and allows all sides of the meatloaf to have a firmer texture.

One trick that does help prevent “soggy bottom” or just extra grease in general, is to line the bottom of your loaf pan or baking pan with slices of white bread.

The bread will soak up the extra grease and help the interior cook flawlessly.

How Do I Know If the Meatloaf is Done?

Using an internal meat thermometer is the best way to tell if your meatloaf is done.

When the meat reaches the temperature of 155-160°F, the meatloaf is “done.” Even if you don’t have a thermometer, there are ways to tell if your meatloaf is finished cooking.

One is to follow the directions in your recipe and your own instincts as a cook. If it looks done, it probably is. If not, put it back in the oven for a little longer.

Sometimes, a meatloaf can still look a little pink, even if it is finished cooking. That is okay.

Often there are nitrates in the meat that can keep the meat looking pinkish (like corned beef), but that doesn’t mean the meat isn’t cooked.

Another thing that can make the meat look a little pink is the vegetables you add in; some people add carrots or red peppers which can often change the color of the meat as it cooks, which makes it look a little underdone when finished. 

Can I Freeze or Refrigerate Leftovers?

Meatloaf is a versatile dish that lends itself to making ahead and cooking when you need it.

If you want to prepare the meatloaf a day ahead, but won’t cook it until tomorrow, you can store the uncooked mix in the fridge overnight, or for up to two days. Make sure to wrap or cover the meat tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

But anything longer than a couple of days, you probably need to put the meatloaf in the freezer.

You can freeze meatloaf before or after cooking. Once frozen, meatloaf will keep in the freezer for up to six months. Meatloaf is easy to freeze raw when you want to prep a lot of meals at one time or pre-cooked to make reheating fast and easy when you want to eat it.

To prepare them, mix the ingredients and form the loaf (or mini loaves) wrap each loaf tightly in plastic wrap and place it in an airtight freezer bag.

This will help prevent any freezer burn and contamination from raw meat. You could also use an airtight container that you plan on using to cook in as well to store the meatloaf, such as disposable loaf pans which make prep and clean up a breeze.

What is the Proper Way to Cook Frozen Meatloaf?

To cook the frozen meatloaf, defrost it in the fridge, preferably the night before cooking. Then follow the directions for time and temperature. 

Frozen Meatloaf

However, if you don’t have time to defrost or forgot to defrost the meatloaf, like so many of us do when we’re busy, use the temperature the recipe calls for, but bake the meatloaf for 1 ½ to 2 times longer than the recipe calls for.

You should always check for an internal temperature of 160° to be safe.

If the meatloaf was cooked and then frozen it can easily be reheated in the oven or the microwave.

Remove any wrappings and place them in the oven at 350° for about an hour and a half.

If you use the microwave, it only takes a few minutes; heat the meatloaf on low settings for about 2 minutes at a time.

Covering the meatloaf with a damp paper towel will also help keep the meatloaf moist. 

Final Considerations

Whether you have never made meatloaf or are a pro and make it once a week, these tips and tricks can help you decide what is best for your recipe.

A warm, comforting homemade meatloaf with all the fixins’ is something everyone can look forward to, and even on leftover day! So, to cover or not to cover.

That is your question, but if you like tender, juicy meatloaf with a crispy top, I think a combination is your best bet!

Leave a Comment