Regardless of how much you cook, there are always those few dishes that are an instant and constant hit with your dinner guests. One of them, for me, is meatloaf. When I cook meatloaf, people rave. When I cook meatloaf, people pig out.
And I’m not actually a big fan of meatloaf.
I like ground beef for some things, like who could fault a cheeseburger or a good Korean meat jun, but you’ll never catch me ordering meatloaf when I’m out at a restaurant. It’s easy to make at home and if not for Mr. K and so many friends loving meatloaf, I probably would never make meatloaf, bacon-wrapped or otherwise.
The other night, feeling ripe to cook something delicious, I told Mr. K he could choose anything he would like to eat and I’ll make it for him.
His immediate answer was, of course, meatloaf.
Alas, I’d been planning to do a meatloaf recipe post anyway, so finally, I am sharing how to make my bacon-wrapped meatloaf at home. It’s simple — and while there are a lot of photos, it takes little bit of prep time and a good hour to cook. The recipe will be posted at the bottom of the post — so here we go!
Cook with Grace: Best Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Recipe
I ran to the store and got some fresh ground beef just for this meatloaf recipe. I had some frozen ground beef in the freezer like I always do, but wanted to use it fresh. This is about two pounds of beef. Toss it into a bowl large enough to host everything you’ll be putting into it. (This loaf should be sufficient for a family of four good eaters but you probably won’t have enough leftovers for sandwiches, FYI.)
I’m open to using either Korean or Japanese breadcrumbs, though my normal go-to breadcrumbs is the Japanese version. I didn’t have enough of the Japanese kind so I whipped out the Korean brand from my pantry.
As a sidenote, have I ever mentioned how much I despite regular American-store breadcrumbs?
This stuff is just plain wretched. If I have old bread, I’m happy to make breadcrumbs at home — or I’ll keep the Japanese panko breadcrumbs in stock at all times because even when push comes to shove, I don’t use the Progresso-type breadcrumbs. Don’t even get me started on the seasoned ones. Yuck.
Take two cups of panko-style breadcrumbs and pour into the meatloaf recipe mixture. Don’t season this just yet….
Chop some parsley — and don’t make them too small as you want to see the green specks throughout — and toss in about a heaping cupful to the ground beef mix.
Next, I put two whole eggs into the beef mixture for this meatloaf recipe — yolks, whites and all.
While meatloaf tends to be tomato-sauce based, I absolutely insist on barbecue sauce flavors when doing a bacon-wrapped meatloaf. The smokiness from the barbecue sauce simply enhances the smokiness you have in the bacon. It also provides more flavor than would be provided by simply salted ground beef.
I’ve been really into the Stubb’s Barbecue Sauces these days. In this meatloaf, I’m using the Hickory Bourbon flavor which is slightly sweet, rather tangy, quite salty and all around saliva-inducing good. I also really like the color compared to dark steak sauces like A1 BBQ Sauce — a nice deep brown-red, as BBQ sauce should be.
I’m using 1/3 cup of this in the meatloaf mix.
We all know I love my Cento San Marzano tomatoes. For this meatloaf, I used the crushed tomatoes from the same brand. I’m not looking for a paste to put into this; while tomato paste does add strong tomato flavor, I am also looking for some juiciness and moisture. Use 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes.
If you’re following this recipe exactly with the same brands, then 1.5 T of sea salt is just right to season this meatloaf. If you are using different brands — then keep in mind how much salt you use here will depend entirely on how salty your BBQ sauce is. Adjust accordingly, adding more salt or less to reach that perfect level of seasoning.
Also add 1 T of freshly ground black pepper at this time.
Now, add approximately 2 T of freshly minced garlic.
Some folks add milk or even heavy cream to their meatloaf. Short of it being sour cream, it just doesn’t provide the distinctly tart kick I want when I bite into the meat. The yogurt also helps to meld the ingredients together but not make it all too mushy, which cream or milk tends to do. I add a heaping spoonful of yogurt — it might be around 2T of Greek yogurt here. For this meatloaf recipe, don’t get all nutty and get low- or non-fat yogurt. It’s one meal — live a little and get the wholesome real stuff.
Now, your meatloaf mix is prepped and ready.
Putting Together Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf
This part is hard to explain. With meatloaf, you want to keep the mix crumbly but well-mixed. So while your hands will go through every inch of this mix, take a little care to not “mash” the ingredients; you want some air pockets into between ground beef crumbles to store the yummy oils and fats. That’s key to make ground beef juicy.
When all of your ingredients are mixed together, it should look like the photo above. Notice that it’s not smooth on the outside or the inside. I smoothen it out a little more when I’m making a plain meatloaf (but still not much) but in this case, we’re wrapping the loaf in bacon, so how bumpy it is on the outside matters none at all. Consider each of those nooks and crannies as flavor pockets.
There’s going to be some oil that comes out of the meatloaf — and a lot, depending on the percentage of fat in your beef. Still, I always drizzle a little bit of olive oil in the pan as nothing is a mood killer like having the bottom half of your meatloaf stick to the pan as you lift it out. Really — there’s nothing worse!
Carefully pick up your meatloaf and lay it on the olive-oil pan. You can skip the foil if you want. I use it or don’t use it depending on which baking pan I’m using.
A side note here….don’t use a loaf pan for meatloaf. As the aforementioned oils seep out, so does water — and eventually, with a loaf pan, you will be boiling the bottom half of your beef rather than baking it. I always use a large flat baking pan that lets the meatloaf breathe and would let waters and oils drift away from the meatloaf itself.
Here’s a seasoning I like to use in meatloaf. You can use this in the kitchen for a variety of meats, and I almost always use it on meatloaf if I have it on hand. Kitchen Bouquet is a nice caramel-based seasoning that yields a big punch in flavors, especially for meat. It also offers a deep brown color while offering no discernable increase in liquid. Unlike BBQ sauce, it’s not thick and it’s more the texture of Worcestershire Sauce without as much tartness. (Give this a try!)
Pour a small amount of Kitchen Bouquet into a bowl (around 2 T only) and take a bristle brush to paint the meatloaf, or rather, dab the liquid onto the meatloaf. Instantly, your meatloaf is aesthetically darker, glossier and more appetizing in appearance, but more importantly, it’s a good dose of saltiness, sweetness and a level of umami that you’re adding to meat.
It should end up looking like what’s shown above. Don’t over do it — it’s not necessary. Again, though, to keep seasoning in mind, if your BBQ sauce is very salty, or if you went a little heavy with the actual salt in the meatloaf, then skip the Kitchen Bouquet altogether as it does add some salt.
At the point where you’ve painted your meatloaf into a dark meaty color, you’re actually ready to roast it. For the purpose of this post, we’re doing a bacon-wrapped meatloaf, so there’s a couple of extra steps to take.
If you follow this recipe to a tee, then a bacon with typical saltiness works just fine. If you’re using a blander or saltier bacon than the norm, then again — you should adjust the level of seasoning to ensure it doesn’t get too salty.
I don’t wrap my bacon all the way around. I have done so before, and in my mind, it’s totally not necessary and the additional bacon you use to wrap it all around hardly makes any difference in flavor, and no difference in appearance, so I recommend you only wrap the top of the meatloaf and leave the bottom “un-baconized”. Then again, as I’ve mentioned many times before — while I’m a huge fan of pork belly, I’m not that big of a fan of regular bacon so I’m always open to using a little less of it.
While there’s no need to wrap the bacon all the way around, you can use the entire strip and tuck in all of the bacon ends under the meatloaf. I, however, don’t do this either as even a small portion of bacon I can keep off of it decreases fat intake. (Funny thing to think about fat intake while covering a meatloaf in bacon….I know.)
What I do:
Take one piece of bacon and cover the top of the meatloaf to see how much you have leftover from one typical bacon strip length. When measuring this, ensure you have enough to tuck the ends under the meatloaf or you’ll find that the bacon strips start crisping up and “standing” away from meatloaf. I’ll then go to the full package of bacon and slice it to that length to use to cover the bacon. Put the excess ends to the side.
With a tiny overlap between each piece, cover the meatloaf horizontally and tuck in. If you use this method, the ends WILL crimp upwards and pop out as it crisps, but it stays on TOP of the meatloaf just enough to extend some fat and flavor into the loaf.
Once you’ve done as much horizontal covering as you can, take the excess bacon strips you cut off and lightly cover the ends of the meatloaf as shown. With these ends, too, tuck lightly under the meatloaf and use the horizontal pieces to keep in place.
And now, for the final step:
Take more of the crushed tomatoes or a spaghetti sauce and lightly paint the bacon. Even if you love crisp bacon, it’s all pointless if your bacon lifts off and falls away from the meatloaf, so this step ensures additional flavoring, but also keeps the bacon protected to keep it from crisping too much or burning while baking. If you have some hot sauce you want to mix in, then this would be a good time to do so. I’ve also used mustard — and while the flavor addition is great, the color was a bit off when all was said and done.
For this meatloaf, I just used some more of the crushed tomatoes out of the can shown earlier in this post.
Now, all that’s left to do is bake the meatloaf. I’m NOT using the convection setting on my oven for this, but the regular bake function. While convection baking may decrease the time, though I’d not make meatloaf if I was pressed on time, it also dries food out faster — which is great for some foods but not for meatloaf.
Set your oven to 380 degrees and simply bake for one hour on the middle rack. Granted, this time may fluctuate depending on how similar your oven temps are to mine, but generally speaking, one hour is perfect for the two pounds of beef used here. Starting at about 45 minutes, check your meatloaf to make sure the bacon isn’t burning, but intend on keeping it in there for about an hour.
This was exactly one hour from the time I put the meatloaf into the oven at a precise 380 degrees. As expected, the bacon shrinks as it cooks and a little “cap” is formed; I have all I need to act as a “crust”, the bacon fat and flavor has been added, and the top of my beef mix has been protected.
Let the meatloaf rest for at least 10 minutes so that nothing is piping hot and falling apart.
Then, carefully remove it from the roasting pan onto the serving platter, or in my case, a cutting board. I use two of these large turners for any kitchen food lifting I have to do:
When you use two wide spatulas or turners after letting the meatloaf rest, it should stay together quite easily. This was also why we drizzled a little EVO into the pan — because if any part of the meatloaf stuck to the pan or foil, it’s coming up with it, or leaving a chunk of your meatloaf behind when you lift it.
Depending on how you like your meatloaf, slice it to that width. I slice mine to about 3/4 inch pieces — but I know some people like it thinner or thicker. If you kept it in for an hour, used the same amount of meat and formed a loaf to about the height and width I did — then your meat WILL be nicely cooked through. Nobody wants rare ground beef, or a rare meatloaf, so make sure none of your pieces are blue, red, or even pink.
Like everything else, meatloaf can also require practice, but hopefully, when you slice into it, you will find a uniform done-ness and color throughout each piece. The outside bacon will be crispy but not rock hard and while it can come apart from the meatloaf if pulled, it should be pretty nicely “on” the meatloaf. (Use a sharp knife to cut through the meatloaf or at least a serrated knife– that also helps.)
In the photos, you may think that the meat doesn’t LOOK moist, but it is. The nature of breadcrumbs and ground beef just doesn’t look juicy like a burger patty but all the moistness you would want from meatloaf is in every bite.
Mashed potatoes are a good friend to meatloaf, but as is usually the case, when I have good meat available, I crave rice. Perhaps it’s the Korean in me, but even if I made mashed potatoes, I’d need rice, so I’m serving this with hot white rice and sweet peppers that I roasted in the oven to a nice char.
I chose sweet peppers as this dinner’s partner for a good reason.
One of the big highlights of meatloaf (or any roast, really) is having leftovers the next day! It’s for this reason I usually roast sweet peppers to serve with meatloaf, because I like including the roasted peppers cold into the sandwich.
Take some slice of meatloaf, and warm up in a little bit of oil in a pan.
You can take whatever you have in the refrigerator to make this sandwich. I’m not one to go to the store to get additional ingredients for this sandwich, but I added some mustard and mayo to the bread, sliced some nicely ripened avocado, halved the peppers to lay on top of the heated meatloaf and made sure to put it on toasted bread.
For additional flavoring, I poured some extra bbq sauce to the sandwich.
I chose to not include tomatoes or onions — and topped it with arugula and baby kale for some crunch and green color. What I did add in the other sandwich that I don’t include on mine are pickles; take some dill or sweet pickles and add them. It does enhance the taste of the sandwich, but I’m just not a fan of pickles.
And voila — you have meatloaf sandwich, and a second meal created from last night’s dinner. This is always a plus, when eating leftovers isn’t a chore, and making more than enough for a meal is sure to give you another meal the day after that everyone welcomes and enjoys. In our case, for two people — this exact recipe yielded a big dinner for two people and FOUR sandwiches total, so one meal lasted quite awhile.
Here’s the recipe below. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.[wc_divider style=”solid” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 2 C Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 C Parsley
- ⅓ C BBQ Sauce of your choice -- I used Stubb's
- ½ C Crushed Tomatoes or a Tomato Sauce
- 1 T+ Freshly minced garlic
- 1.5 T Salt
- 1-2 T Freshly ground pepper
- Approximately 2T of Greek Yogurt (regular/original, not low or non-fat)
- 1-2 T of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 T Kitchen Bouquet
- 1 Package Bacon
- Bread and condiments, as desired, for leftover sandwiches the next day.
- Read to review for exact step-by-step directions.
- Basic Instructions:
- Combine all of the ingredients together (up to the yogurt) in a large bowl suitable for mixing a 2+ lb. loaf.
- Drizzle a baking or roasting pan with EVO.
- Cover the meatloaf with bacon as instructed in the recipe post.
- Heat in a 380 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the heat intensity of your oven.
- Remove and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Slice and serve with desired sides and starches (i.e. mashed potatoes, rice or a pasta)