Meatloaf is pretty much every family’s go to recipe when they have leftover meat to use up, right? It’s a supposedly simple dish that people can put together quickly to serve a delicious meal every time. But if you’ve ever tried making meatloaf for yourself, then you’ll probably know it’s not quite as easy as it first seems.
In fact, creating the perfect meatloaf takes some serious skill, practice, and detailed recipe knowledge. And one of the main reasons we know this is because of the number of people that want to know how to fix mushy meatloaf both before and after cooking.
We’ve all been there, right? We’ve soaked the stale bread in milk, and then we’ve combined it with the meat and any cooked vegetables we feel like adding and then… disappointment. Instead of the firm meatloaf you were expecting, you’re left with a sort of meat soup that looks far too watery to ever be considered a loaf. Alright, maybe not quite a soup, but you get our point. Still, a lot of people will throw the watery mess into the oven anyway, hoping to have a beautiful meatloaf at the end of it. But, as you probably already knew deep down, this never works out.
But don’t worry, if you’ve just frantically searched the internet for how to fix watery meatloaf, we’re here to help. And we can help you both before you’ve started cooking and after, so no matter the stage you’re at, we can fix this problem together. Ready to find out more? Then let’s get to it!
Busting a myth
Whenever we see people dealing with a mushy or watery meatloaf, we guarantee someone, somewhere, will tell them that it’s just undercooked and needs longer in the oven. Yes, the act of baking a meatloaf firms up the meat fibers and helps bind the ingredients into a loaf, but if your meatloaf is watery, then no amount of time in the oven is going to fix it. No matter what Grandma tells you…
So what’s the real reason for the watery mess you’re facing?
Well, it’s almost always because of the amount of liquid you’re using in the mix. There’s no perfect amount, don’t get us wrong, but so many people are so afraid of facing a dry meatloaf, that they overdo it in on the liquids in the mix because they think it will help. Having a mix that is too watery though won’t help at all, because it’ll just stop the meatloaf from baking to begin with.
Rather than baking, it’ll almost boil in the oven, everything just cooking in the liquids further, but not combining into a loaf. So, if you’re noticing a watery meatloaf, then it’s almost always because there’s too much liquid in the mix. But how can you fix that?
How To Fix Meatloaf Before Cooking
Fixing a watery meatloaf before cooking is obviously the best way to tackle it. That way, the watery meatloaf mix you’ve made can be dealt with right now so you can actually put together a meatloaf mix that will bake. But don’t worry, we’re not saying you have to throw away your current mix. Oh no, we’re here to work with what you’ve got to help you rescue your mix. Trust us, what looks like a mess right now will look like a meatloaf in no time at all if you follow our tips below.
Reduce The Amount Of Liquid
A good meatloaf needs liquid. There’s going to be milk to help soften the stale bread; ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce to add flavor; and even water for added moisture. These are all common liquids in a meatloaf recipe, but too much of it will stop your meatloaf from baking at all. So, reduce it. Before you take your meatloaf anywhere near the oven, make sure there aren’t too many liquids.
Your meatloaf mix should never look wet or watery. If it does, then you’ve used too much liquid in your meatloaf mix. Squeezing out excess liquid might help, but the key is getting the consistency right before adding too much liquid. Remember, you can always add more liquid as you go, but taking it away isn’t quite as easy, so be cautious in the initial stages so you can produce a perfect mix that’s ready to be baked.
Reduce Meatloaf Filler
Your meatloaf filler is your stale bread, oatmeal, and breadcrumbs. The stuff you need to help bind the meat together into a loaf. However, too much of these fillers just turn your meatloaf into mush, meaning it’ll never bake into a fully formed loaf. Just as you reduce the liquid in your meatloaf mix, you should also reduce the amount of filler too. If you’re unsure why your meatloaf mix isn’t forming into a loaf, then check out different recipes online to see if you’re using way more than the usual amount of filler. Reducing it will stop your mix looking so watery.
Add More Eggs To Bind
Eggs can be a lifesaver. If you have a watery meatloaf mix, but it isn’t exactly swimming in liquid, then adding more eggs can be a great way of binding the ingredients together so they’ll bake as a loaf.
Please note: This isn’t going to fix a thing if your mix is really watery, but if it’s just a little loose, adding an egg per pound of meat used usually helps to bind them together to help get things started. Once a slightly mushy meatloaf has been bound together effectively, the baking process will then take care of the rest and help keep it together when you slice.
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How Do You Stop Your Meatloaf From Becoming Dry?
If you’ve just read all the advice above and have been left thinking that you might end up with a dry meatloaf because of the reduction in liquids and meatloaf fillers, then we’re here to reassure you that won’t happen. A good meatloaf needs liquids, so we’re not suggesting you remove them altogether, just reduce them. Then when you’re cooking your meatloaf, put some foil over the top until the last 15 minutes.
This helps keep the moisture in, but also allows the meatloaf to firm up once you take the foil off. It’s a simple trick, but it’ll work. The key to avoiding a dry or watery meatloaf is to use a little bit of liquid sensibly, so it doesn’t escape and become dry, but also so there isn’t too much and the mix becomes unbakeable. Once you’ve found the perfect balance in your recipe, though, you’ll never look back! Sometimes practice really does make perfect!
How To Fix Meatloaf After Cooking
Now, if you already tried the age-old advice of putting a wet mix in the oven and you’ve found that the meatloaf is still watery, well, we told you that would happen. But we also promised to help you at every stage of the process, so if you’ve taken your meatloaf out of the oven and it still looks a little mushy, don’t despair. Any of the tips below ought to help fix the issue.
Mix Up Your Cooking Method
‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ is bad advice for a watery meatloaf. Seriously, throwing it back in the oven and keeping your fingers crossed won’t help the situation. But what might, is by mixing up your cooking method. Up to this point, you’ve probably only tried cooking your meatloaf in a traditional loaf pan. And that works great when you’re using a perfect meatloaf mix. But clearly, if your meatloaf is watery after cooking, you didn’t have the perfect mix to start with. So it’s time to mix up how you’re cooking it.
Your first option is a sheet pan. By spreading out the watery mix over a sheet pan instead of packing it into a loaf pan, you allow the liquid to be spread more evenly. This helps it to cook and form into a loaf. Just a very, very flat one. Obviously, the idea of cooking a meatloaf on a sheet pan and having such a flat finished product is pretty offputting to most Americans. And trust us, we’re not trying to upset the status quo here, but if you’re in a pinch, a sheet pan will save you.
If the sheet pan advice was so shocking to you that you simply couldn’t face destroying your meatloaf like that, then we have another option, too. And we have good news! The finished product will even look like a loaf. Ahhh, we can hear the collective sigh of relief from here. So, how do you do it? It’s simple enough really, just take your standard meatloaf pan, place some sort of foil, or another pan underneath it, and flip.
Obviously, if your mix is very watery, don’t try this one. This method is really for those who have a meatloaf that’s almost there, but not quite. A slightly mushy meatloaf can be saved with this method though, because flipping the loaf pan stops the liquid from pooling together, and it allows any excess to escape.
Add More Meat
If you still have a very watery meatloaf, then to fix it, you’ll need one key thing: more meat. Too much liquid in meatloaf is essentially a different way of saying not enough meat – but they both add up to the same thing: a mess. So, if you’ve tried cooking your meatloaf already, and it isn’t forming into a loaf because it’s too wet, then adding more meat will save it. The meat will soak up the excess liquid and help bind the loaf together along with the stale bread. The key to a perfect meatloaf is finding the right ratio of meat to liquid to meatloaf filler. Once you perfect that, you’ll be able to make a deliciously moist (but definitely not watery) meatloaf every time.
Allow Your Meatloaf To Rest
If you’ve been taking your meatloaf out of the oven thinking it looks OK and then when you slice it, it all just seems to turn to mush, that isn’t uncommon. It might not be a problem with your meatloaf mix or your cooking method at all, in fact.
The problem is probably with your patience. Whenever you cook meat, it needs time to rest. That will help the juices settle in the meat, and stop all of that delicious juice from escaping and drying out the cut of meat you’re using. Well, the same thing applies to meatloaf. Leaving it to rest for 20 minutes after it’s been taken out of the oven allows the juices to settle, so they won’t compromise the integrity of the meatloaf.
Obviously, this isn’t going to work if your mix is really watery to begin with, but if it looks great when it comes out of the oven and it seems to be formed into a loaf, then a little patience might be all it takes so when you come to slice it, you have the perfect meatloaf. Even if you nail every other stage of the meatloaf, cutting it too soon will cause it to collapse and be mushy, so the resting time is all that’s needed to make a difference.
Points To Remember
The key point you need to remember is that ratio is key. Get your meatloaf mix perfectly to start with (with the perfect amount of meat, liquid, and meatloaf filler) and you’ll already be on to a winning meatloaf. This is the only way to fix a watery meatloaf. If your meatloaf is slightly mushy, though, then a few tips and tricks can be used to correct it. A little sheet pan here, a little rest there, and Voila, you’ve got yourself a rescued meatloaf.
It’s also important to remember not to be hard on yourself. If you’re anything like us, then you have a meatloaf recipe that’s been in the family since time began (if you listen to Grandma, anyway) but perfecting a meatloaf like mama used to really isn’t as simple as it looks. Just keep practicing and making as many meatloaves as they used to back in the good old days, and you’ll eventually perfect it too!
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