Planning to cook a delicious meatloaf for a dinner night or for a special occasion but you are not sure if you should cover the meatloaf? If you should cover it with foil, should you cover it in the beginning? or to cover it in the end? Let’s find answers to these specific questions.
Meatloaf is a dish where cooks can use their imagination and prepare it exactly to their taste. It is very easy to make a meatloaf unique as you can experiment with different ingredients in it.
It is possible to add various vegetables and spices into the mix. You can really invent your own recipe. Just don’t overdo it as you may cover one ingredient with another.
When it concerns the process of cooking, there are two groups of people. The first consideration is that covering meatloaf will turn it into a dry piece of meat.
The other group thinks that covering meatloaf will lead it to extra moisture. It doesn’t really matter what group of cooks you are supporting. In fact, everything depends on the recipe and on what period of the cooking time you are covering the meatloaf.
Some recipes require covering a meatloaf with foil at the end, the others offer not to cover it at all. Some even advise wrapping it carefully in the foil before baking.
If you decide to cook a meatloaf, read the recipe carefully to know if you need to cover the recipe and at what stage.
If it is not specified in the recipe, I will give you some explanations for why and when you should cover your meatloaf so you can act accordingly.
Why Should You Cover the Meatloaf During Cooking?
Usually, you should cover the meatloaf when you see that it is already brown enough on the outside but the meat and stuffing from the inside need some more time. By covering the meatloaf, you will slow down the cooking process on the exterior and will give some extra time for the meatloaf interior ingredients to cook properly.
Also, you may consider covering the meatloaf when you may worry that you will get dry meat. By covering the meatloaf, during the cooking, the steam will remain under the foil and will make the meatloaf moisture on the exterior.
Quick Note: Consider making a few small holes in the foil, to remove extra steam. In this case, your dish will be perfectly done.
Another case when you should consider covering the meatloaf is when you are cooking a big piece of meatloaf. If the meatloaf is large and it will take a longer time to cook, you may face the situation that the meatloaf on the exterior will be cooked enough, but in the interior, it will need some more time.
In these situations, consider covering it to give some extra time for the interior of the meatloaf to cook slowly without drying out the exterior of the meatloaf.
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Quick Note: You should take into consideration that if the meatloaf is covered from the beginning, it will not get a nice brown color on the exterior.
If for you it is important to give this rich color to the meatloaf, and you covered from the beginning the meatloaf with foil, consider in the last 10-15 minutes to uncover the meatloaf to allow it to get a nice brown crust on the top of it.
When to Cover the Meatloaf?
You have two options here, and it all depends on how fat the meat that you are using for the meatloaf.
If the meat that you are using is fatty, for example, you are using pork meat, you can cook it uncovered and when you see that the exterior was cooked enough you can cover it with aluminum foil to avoid burning it out the top of it.
If you are cooking a meatloaf from lean meat like chicken, rabbit, or turkey there is a high chance that the meatloaf may dry out if you cook it uncovered. In these situations, you should cover the meatloaf to keep the majority of the steam under the foil that will keep the meatloaf moist on the exterior until the interior will cook slowly.
Tips to Keep a Meatloaf Moist Enough
Covering a meatloaf can’t solve the problem totally. There are many other things that influence the final state of the dish.
Let’s have a look at other important facts about how to keep a meatloaf moist:
Add Some Fatty Meat
It is important to choose the right meat mix for cooking. If you want a meatloaf that will not be dried out, you also should add some fatty meat into the composition of the meatloaf. The fat will melt during the cooking and will make the meatloaf juicier.
Use More Vegetables
If you want to make your meatloaf juicier and moister, but don’t want to use fatty meat, you can add more vegetables into the meat mixture.
The used vegetables can be either fresh or a little bit cooked. If you decide to fry them, use butter or olive oil. Later, while adding them to the meatloaf, they will give more juice, and it will make the meatloaf moist enough.
Besides the role of the breadcrumbs on the exterior that we are using to give a nice crispy texture, you can also use the breadcrumbs to keep the moisture inside of the meatloaf.
So, if you are using lean meat for the meatloaf mixture, combining it with breadcrumbs may be a great idea to get you a more moist meatloaf in the end.
Right Cooking Temperature
When you are cooking the meatloaf, you should use a high temperature as it may easily become dry.
If you want to keep your meatloaf moist, it is better to set the temperature to about 325°F (165°C).
Quick Note: Of course, you can set the cooking temperature higher, you will save a few minutes, but there is a higher chance that you will dry the meatloaf.
Check the Inner Temperature.
Another great option to make sure that the meatloaf will remain moist and juicy is to cook it just enough.
To make sure that you didn’t overcook the meatloaf, use a meat thermometer to check its inner temperature. Especially if you will cook it from frozen as it may remain uncooked on the inside and overcooked inside. Read more if you can cook the ground meat directly from frozen.
The meatloaf should be ready when its inner temperature is about 160°F (71°C).
Quick Note: The inner temperature of the meat depends on the type of meat that you are using for the meatloaf mixture. For chicken, it will be 165°F (74°C), and for pork and beef 145°F (63°C).
Mix Just Enough
When you mix all the ingredients for the meatloaf, you should stop at the right time.
Don’t mix the meatloaf mixture for a long period of time as you can remove all the moisture from it.
Leave the Meatloaf to Rest
Last, but not least is to leave the meatloaf to rest for about 15 minutes. In that period of time, the inner juice of the meat will be distributed evenly and the meatloaf will be juicier in the end.
Pro Tip: When you cook meat, you should leave it to rest for half of its cooking time.
What Temperature to Bake Meatloaf At?
It is hard to say the exact temperature to cook the meatloaf. It depends on many things. The size of a meatloaf, the meat you are using, and whether you cover it or not. Some cooks say that you can bake it even with a temperature of more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is not a reasonable decision as it can make your dish too dry. The best temperature to cook a meatloaf is between 325-350°C. With this temperature, it will be cooked evenly and nicely.
When you cook the meatloaf at a higher temperature, you should always be with an eye on it, to check it all the time as you may risk very quickly drying or even burning the meatloaf.
So, simplify your cooking process, and just trade a few cooking minutes instead you will need to make fewer actions during the meatloaf cooking.