Keep meatloaf classic and simple for the best recipe

A blanket of ketchup is all you need to top a classic meatloaf, here flavored simply with shallot and parsley butter.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times)

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So, we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

Lesson 33: Meatloaf
Meatloaf might not be the sexiest dish, but it has stood the test of time for a reason. It’s a crowd-pleaser that everyone loves no matter how much they may profess to liking something fancier, the Adam Sandler of dishes.

I know what you’re thinking: Do I really need a new recipe for meatloaf?


There are no new-fangled tricks or techniques in this recipe. To flavor the meat, I blend together a cheater’s maitre d’hotel butter — combining the traditional soft butter, parsley and lemon juice with shallots and garlic in a food processor. It is an old-school compound butter for serving melted over cooked steaks in French bistros and there’s no better combination of seasonings yet devised that make beef taste better. I mix the flavored butter with ground beef and a cursory amount of breadcrumbs and egg to hold it all together. That’s it.

The only vague “twist” here is to place the meatloaf in a hot skillet before it goes in the oven. The bottom gets crusty and caramelized like a hamburger patty. It’s easy to do and makes a huge difference in texture to have that crunchy part in the mix.

For the top, I stick with classic ketchup straight from the bottle. No one wants a homemade ketchup or any other flavoring to distract from the star of the show. But if you have the will to do so, I suggest stirring a tablespoon of vinegar into the ketchup first to bump up its acidic edge and cut the sweetness.


The vinegar in the ketchup, the flavored butter, and cooking the meatloaf in a heated skillet — the right amount of small nips and tucks here and there that make a classic more appealing than the uncut gem it always was.

Bistro Meatloaf

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 4