Cast Iron Meatloaf

Meatloaf cooked in a cast iron skillet, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that texture-wise, "melt" into the meatloaf. This is my go-to recipe for meatloaf, the one I make again and again. Great for meatloaf sandwiches? You bet! But here's a question. Would you (do you?) serve meatloaf for company?

Cast Iron Meatloaf ♥, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf.

Homestyle Meatloaf Made from Scratch. "Plain" But Perfect, Moist & Tender. A Long-Time Family Favorite. Hearty & Filling. Great for Meal Prep. Potluck & Party Friendly. So Good!!

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Thank You, Meatloaf!

Last fall, we invited some people to dinner. My dad's cousin and his wife were in St. Louis from out of town to organize a reunion between her aunt and her uncle, a sister-brother pair, the last living of eleven children who grew up on a Missouri hard-scrabble farm.

Now know this.

Naomi, the aunt, is in her 80s, and Melburne, the uncle, he's 97!! Both are spry and definitely living the good life. I really struggled with what to make for such special guests!

It turned out that we had such a good time that night. I swear, the meatloaf had something to do with it!

You see, when we sat down that night to a simple weeknight dinner of meatloaf, potatoes and green beans, Naomi flashed a big, big smile – "thrilled" might not be an overstatement. She told us, "This is my very favorite meal!" She even wondered if her niece had secretly told me about her favorites!

But it was just my good luck – and maybe good meatloaf! Meatloaf to the rescue!

Cast Iron Meatloaf ♥, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly.

So Let's Talk Meatloaf

So yeah, sure, many people do love meatloaf. But isn't meatloaf, y'know, kind of every-day food? not something to serve to company?

I had such good luck serving meatloaf to our guests last fall, maybe I'm missing something. Where does meatloaf fall in your meal planning, what do you think?!

Cast Iron Meatloaf ♥, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf.

What's In Cast Iron Meatloaf? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Bread Crumbs Soaked in Milk These add softness and moisture to the meatloaf, breaking up the ground meat so that it stays tender. That said, don't forget to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread crumbs before mixing them into the meatloaf.
  • Everyday Vegetables, Chopped Fine Carrot, celery, garlic, fresh herbs add flavor, moisture and texture, again, helping to break up the meat so that the meatloaf is tender. In addition, check the fridge for about a half cup of something else that's plant-based, maybe cooked rice, leftover sweet potato, etc. If nothing seems right, just add extra carrot and celery.
  • Eggs Eggs give the meatloaf structure, helping to bind together all the ingredients into a cohesive whole. You won't see or taste egg, it's just there quietly doing its job.
  • Lean Ground Meat We use ground beef aka hamburger. Some times, we mix in some ground deer meat too. I haven't made this meatloaf with other ground meats but think that even the usually kinda-dry turkey and chicken would work fine here, since there are so many other ingredients to compensate for the low-fat poultry.
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese, really? Yes! Parmesan adds a touch of richness and umami, that coveted savoriness.
  • Everyday Herbs & Spices Salt, pepper, dried oregano.
  • Marinara The tomato sauce adds a touch of acidity, some gets mixed into the meatloaf itself, but mostly you'll see and taste it because it's spread on top.

Here's What's NOT In This Recipe

Sometimes, what's left out of a recipe is just as important as what's put in. That's definitely the case here.

  • No Onion To my taste, onion has no place in meatloaf. Who wants to be all burpy with meatloaf breath? Not me.
Cast Iron Meatloaf ready for the oven ♥, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf.

How to Make Cast Iron Meatloaf

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in five easy steps. Nothing's hard, you can do this!

  • PREP Soak the bread crumbs in milk, just while mixing the rest of the meatloaf. Before adding them to the meatloaf, squeeze the milk out of the crumbs, discarding the liquid.
  • Chop the vegetables in a food processor until fine.
  • MIX Get out a big bowl, whisk the eggs on their own first, then work in the grated Parmesan, some marinara, the seasonings. Now it's gonna get a touch messy, you probably want the cast iron skillet nearby. Using your hands, work in the ground meat, the chopped veggies and the squeezed bread crumbs, combining well without compressing or packing it all tightly.
  • BAKE FOR AN HOUR, COVERED Move the mixture into the skillet, cover with foil and bake at 375F for an hour.
  • SPREAD WITH MARINARA, BAKE UNTIL DONE, UNCOVERED Use a meat thermometer to know when the meatloaf is done, the internal temperature should reach 160F.
  • REST Cover the meatloaf back up and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. This lets the meat set up for easier slicing.

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Cast Iron Meatloaf ♥, my go-to meatloaf recipe, tender, moist and full of flavor thanks to milk-soaked bread crumbs and a pile of chopped vegetables that melt into the meatloaf.

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Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Serves 12
(easy to halve; better yet, make one for dinner, another for the freezer)
  • 1 slice fresh bread (or enough to yield 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 carrot, trimmed & peeled
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley or other fresh herbs
  • 1/2 cup “something else” – another vegetable, leftover rice, leftover vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes, etc.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or another dry-ish cheese
  • 1/3 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds lean ground meat, usually beef but also venison, turkey, chicken, etc.
  • Chopped Vegetables
  • Bread Crumbs, squeezed hard to remove liquid
  • 1 cup marinara sauce

Set oven to 375F/190C. Get out a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet or another oven-safe skillet.

BREAD CRUMBS In a small food processor, blitz bread to form soft, loose crumbs. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk, let soak at room temperature.

VEGETABLES In the same food processor, chop the vegetables until fine. Set aside.

MEAT MIXTURE In a large bowl, one big enough to really get your hands into, whisk the eggs, add the parmesan, 1/3 cup marinara, salt, oregano and pepper. From here on, take care to not compress it all, leaving it as loose as possible. Still using your hands, work the meat into the wet mixture, then the Chopped Vegetables and squeezed Bread Crumbs.

With your hands, mix all the ingredients, really working the mixture to distribute all the ingredients evenly, again, no compressing the mixture.

BAKE (COVERED) Gently pack (without pressing hard) the mixture into the skillet. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 1 hour.

BAKE (UNCOVERED) Spread 1 cup marinara across the top. Return to the oven uncovered until meat reaches 160F/70C or is cooked through, 15 - 30 minutes (see TIPS).

REST (COVERED) Remove meatloaf from oven, cover with foil and let rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.

TO SERVE Serve hot with mashed potatoes and green beans.

OR GO "DELUXE" Or hey – I haven't thought of this in years but now can't get it out of my brain – go for my childhood favorite, "The Deluxe". Meatloaf mashed into a big pile with mashed potatoes, canned creamed corn and hmm, maybe some cottage cheese cheese too. Mmmm but just a suggestion.

ALANNA’S TIPS For bread, any fresh bread works, just make sure it has some heft and good flavor. I’ve used cornbread, rye bread, whole-wheat sandwich bread, you get the idea. When you run the bread through the food processor, don't go so far as "fine" bread crumbs, think the size of panko or grated cauliflower. If you're not eating bread, try cooked rice that's also run through the food processor a bit. For the “something else”, check your fridge, you’ll have something. I’ve used fennel, fresh kale, leftover mashed sweet potatoes, leftover brown rice. Just keep it plant-based. For meat, I use ground beef, ground venison, ground elk or some of each but this mixture would work beautifully with ground turkey as well. Proportion is important! If you have 1/3 more meat, say, be sure to use 1/3 more of the other ingredients. There’s no need to be spot-on precise, just try to stay kinda-sorta close. For example, I know that 1-1/4 pounds of meat perfectly fits a Le Creuset loaf pan we like to use for small, perfect meatloaf slices, that's about 2/3 of 2 pounds so I'll use about 2/3 of the other ingredients. In turn, I know that 3 pounds of meat (1.5 times 2 pounds) perfectly fits an extra-large cast-iron skillet so I'll use half again as much of the other ingredients. Again, without exactitude, honoring the premise and getting close enough. You’ll note that there’s no onion in the vegetables: no onion, no “burpy” meatloaf. For marinara, a jar of commercial marinara works well, so does the “Tomato Gravy” aka Homemade Marinara from Skillet Burgers with Tomato Gravy. It freezes beautifully, just thaw it in the microwave when you first start making the meatloaf. Watch the temperature! A meat thermometer insures that meatloaf doesn’t overcook and dry out. But a recent meatloaf cooked in record time, about 45 minutes, and I have No.Idea.Why. If it weren’t for the thermometer’s alarm, dinner in might have converted to dinner out.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving, assumes 12 servings/8 servings: 231/347 Calories; 11/17g Tot Fat; 5/8g Sat Fat; 110/165mg Cholesterol; 593/890mg Sodium; 7/11g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 22/33g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 5/8 & PointsPlus 6/8 & SmartPoints 7/10 & Freestyle 6/8 & myWW green 6/9 & blue 6/8 & purple 6/8 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS half serving = 115 calories (11g protein).

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.