Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food. You can use different meats to make it, yet its flavor profile would still be outstanding. Meatloaf goes well with various dishes, including mashed potatoes and sandwiches.
Meatloaf is relatively easy to make. However, you can also mess it up easily. Making the perfect meatloaf requires skill, practice, and a good recipe.
We’ve all had that disappointing experience where you end up with a watery mess after mixing all your ingredients. More often than not, the end product is a mushy meatloaf.
Luckily, you can do a few things to fix mushy meatloaf before and after cooking. They include;
- Using less liquid.
- Reducing the fillers.
- Using more eggs.
- Trying a different cooking method.
- Adding more meat.
- Letting the meatloaf rest.
- Increasing the cooking time.
This article discusses how to fix mushy meatloaf using the above methods, but first, let us look at common mistakes people make when making meatloaf.
Common Mistakes People Make When Making Meatloaf
People make four main mistakes while cooking meatloaf, making it mushy and unpleasant to eat. They include;
- Making the meat too lean.
- Not using binders.
- Under seasoning.
- Adding too much liquid
Making the meat too lean
The perfect meatloaf should have a good balance between fat and lean. The fat ensures that the meat does not dry out during the long cooking process.
However, it shouldn’t be too much as you would end up with a greasy mess. To achieve the perfect balance, your best bet is to use a combination of pork, beef, and veal.
If you don’t like veal, stick to pork and beef, and if you only want to use beef, buy an 85-90% lean package.
If you use chicken or turkey, stick to thigh meat. It won’t dry out during cooking, and its texture and flavor are great for meatloaf.
Not using binders
Meatloaf needs to be tender. Therefore, it needs to retain moisture during its cooking process.
The only way to ensure it retains moisture is by binding your meat with a mixture of protein, liquid, and carbs.
Your recipe should have fresh bread/ breadcrumbs and milk, water, or cream. You should also add eggs to the mixture.
Adding too much liquid
More often than not, mushy meatloaf results from you using too much liquid in your recipe.
No one loves dry meatloaf. Consequently, most people add more fluid than they should on the premise that it will ensure their meatloaf doesn’t dry up.
Using a lot of liquid in your recipe won’t prevent drying up. Instead, it will make the meatloaf boil in the oven instead of combining into a loaf. If your meatloaf is mushy, the chances are that you used too much liquid.
Meatloaf requires enough seasoning to taste amazing. The usual salt and pepper won’t cut it. If your meatloaf is underseasoned, it will taste bland.
Gravy may not even fix the taste. I recommend using recipes that use different seasonings for the best results.
How to Fix Meatloaf Before Cooking
Fixing mushy meatloaf before cooking is the best way to tackle it. This way, you can avoid ending up with watery meatloaf altogether.
Use less liquid
As discussed above, using too much liquid in your recipe results in a mushy texture.
Liquids you may use in your recipe are Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, and a bit of water for extra moisture. All these liquids are essential, but using them in excess prevents your meatloaf from baking as it should.
To fix this problem, reduce the liquid you use. When you combine all the ingredients, they shouldn’t look watery or mushy. If it does, you can try squeezing out the excess liquid.
Reduce the fillers
The classic meatloaf filler is bread, but you can use others like breadcrumbs, crackers, or oatmeal, depending on your recipe.
The amount of filler you use determines how your meatloaf will turn out. If you use too much, it will turn out mushy.
To avoid mushy meatloaf, reduce the amount of filler in your recipe. This way, you can rest assured that your meatloaf will have a firmer texture.
Use more eggs
Eggs have proved to be efficient in fixing mushy meatloaf before cooking. If you mix all your ingredients and they turn out mushy but not too watery, add more eggs.
Eggs are a binding ingredient. They will bind the ingredients together and ensure they bake as a loaf.
Add one egg for every pound of meat to bind all the ingredients together before baking. The result will not be disappointing.
Note that this method won’t be effective if your mixture is too watery.
How to fix meatloaf after cooking
If you already cooked your meatloaf and it turned out watery, all is not lost. You can still fix it using the methods below.
Try another cooking method
You can mix up your cooking method if you initially cooked the meatloaf in a traditional loaf pan.
Your first alternative is to use a sheet pan with no mold. Spread the watery mixture on the sheet pan and pop it in the oven. This method is commonly referred to as free-form baking.
The sheet pan allows more liquids to drain out during cooking. Consequently, the mixture will cook and form a loaf, but the loaf will be flatter than you are used to.
Alternatively, you can use an inverted loaf pan. The pan allows the liquids to drain out. Additionally, it ensures that the meatloaf maintains its loaf shape.
A mushy meatloaf is a proof that there was too much liquid and not enough meat. You can try adding more meat to the meatloaf. The meatloaf will soak up any excess liquid and help bind the other ingredients together.
To avoid a mushy mess, I suggest you try getting the right meat to liquid to filler ratio while mixing the ingredients at the initial stages.
Let the meatloaf rest
If your meatloaf looks slightly mushy, all you may need to do is let it rest for some time. Meat needs to rest for some time after cooking. This way, the juices will settle in the meat instead of escaping.
When you remove your meatloaf from the oven, let it rest for approximately 30 minutes. This way, the juices will settle, and you won’t end up with a mushy mess.
Note that this method only works if the meatloaf isn’t too watery, to begin with. If it looks okay when you take it out of the oven, be patient. Cutting it too soon will make it collapse or become mushy.
Increase the cooking time
It is unlikely that your meatloaf is mushy because you undercooked it, but it wouldn’t hurt to try cooking it for a little longer.
When you cook it and its temperature rises, the meat fibers contract, making the liquids ooze out.
This should be your very last option because it may not be effective.
How to ensure your meatloaf doesn’t dry up
The tips above ensure you don’t end up with mushy meatloaf, but your meatloaf shouldn’t be dry either.
Meatloaf needs liquids, so you mustn’t remove the fluids altogether. Just use them sparingly.
It would also help if you covered your meatloaf with foil the last 15 minutes of cooking. The foil helps your meatloaf retain moisture and firm up after removing the foil.
The key to making the perfect meatloaf is using the correct ingredient ratio. The meatloaf mix should have just the right amount of meat, meatloaf filler, and liquid. This way, you can rest assured you won’t end up with a watery mess.
If you end up with a mushy mix before or after cooking, use any of the tips discussed above to fix it. The meatloaf may not be perfect in the end, but it will come pretty close.
You can also try using different recipes and practice until you get it right.