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Why is my meatloaf taking so long?

I am making my meatloaf following my usual recipe (which has a bit of everything based on about two pounds of lean ground beef), but it has now been in the usual 380 oven for a bit more than an hour...and isn't nearly done! and I am getting hungry...ordinarily it would at least be resting, if not consumed by now..

So there are two possible culprits: first, I am using a metal loaf pan, when in the past I have usually baked it in a pyrex dish (and a fairly large one at that). Could that make such a difference?

I am also using a fairly new oven, so I suppose that(different temperatures) could be the culprit, although I haven't experienced any different cooking times with my other usual dishes so far..

Any ideas?

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  1. I really think you have to look at that oven temp. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my cookies when we got a new stove. It just didn't seem to me that a new oven would need adjusting. But it did!

    1. The pan could certainly be a factor. Pyrex conducts heat differently - the usual rule is to decrease oven temp. by 25 degrees for pyrex (so then increase for metal). If your pyrex pan is larger and your meatloaf therefore shallower, it probably bakes even faster because you have more surface exposed to the heat and the center of the loaf isn't as far away from the heat, so it would take less time for the center to come up to temp and be done.

      1 Reply
      1. re: babette feasts

        Glass (pyrex) is a very poor conductor of heat. It's not conductivity that creates shorter cooking times for pyrex/recommended reduction in temperatures, it's glass's ability to allow radiant energy to pass through it. Think of it as broiling from below.

      2. Do you mean that the meatloaf has not reached the required internal temperature OR do you mean that the meatloaf does not appear to be "done" (still red in the middle)?

        If it is the latter, it could be that the meat mixture was overmixed. The ingredients need to be tossed together quickly with the minimum of handling.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlawrence01

          Overmixing meatloaf mix will result in longer cooking times?!?! What's the science there? That sounds to me a lot like the whole 'pressing the mix into the pan will give you dense meatloaf' myth.

        2. I agree w/ babette feasts that it's your change of pans; things in pyrex cook more quickly and I'm guessing the pyrex gives a better crust. Could be that your oven needs to be calibrated too, so doesn't hurt to double check w/ a thermometer.

          So how much longer did it take than usual? Any notable differences in flavor, texture, or appearance?

          Have you thought about just baking on a sheet pan in a free-form loaf shape? I prefer meatloaf prepared this way since it makes for a better crust and allows you to make it as big or small as you need. In fact, my FIL made meatloaf for dinner last night this way and it was very good. He draped bacon across it which didn't hurt either!

          I was wondering how you check for doneness? Do you insert w/ a probe thermometer and what internal temp. do you aim for?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Hi:

            Thanks for the replies: I am certainly hoping it was my pan: I'd hate to think I have to calibrate the new oven (since I am lazy about these things). I have baked bread and roasted chicken and a beef roast in the new oven, with no issues, so hopefully that isn't it...

            anyway, to answer some of your questions: it took 20 minutes longer than usual, but once done seemed the same in flavor, texture etc, with the exception that the small pieces of vegetables I put in (onion, etc) seemed a bit less cooked than usual. However, that could also be that I got lazy on chopping the onions as finely as I should have: I was getting rather more teary-eyed than normal...

            The baking sheet is a good idea, and I think I will try it. I did think as I was putting the loaf in the loaf pan that it seemed a bit much for the pan....so maybe I smashed it in too much? (although no, I don't think I overmixed it prior to that). At the very least, I think I will go back to pyrex...

            I don't use a thermometer: I just have always had success with going by baking time, (380 degrees for about 50 minutes) until now. I was sure it was done, took it out, let it sit a few minutes, started to slice, and saw it was still red inside! (which is when I wrote this email.However,from there, it took less time than I thought it would: perhaps another 15 or 20 minutes. As I said, taste seemed as usual, which is good :-))

            1. re: susancinsf

              "I did think as I was putting the loaf in the loaf pan that it seemed a bit much for the pan....so maybe I smashed it in too much?"

              'Smashing' meatloaf mix into the pan will NOT give you a dense final product. This is a myth. The final texture of loaf is dictated by the recipe- the quantity of fillers you use, the amount of liquid, NOT how hard you press it into the pan. With the right proportions of ingredients, you could press your meatloaf mix from now until the cows come home and the end result will still be tender, moist and succulent.

              1. re: susancinsf

                I always cook my meatloaf on a metal sheet pan instead of in a loaf pan. It may be my imagination, but it seems more grease cooks out of the loaf (not juice, but grease), leaving my final product a bit more healthy. If you want to consider meatloaf healthy.

                Like stated above, you also don't have to worry about the size of the meatloaf when you make it this way,

              2. re: Carb Lover

                I make my meatloafs free-form as well. Some of them have come out looking pretty unap....I won't go into details.

                It's worth it to me for more crust.

              3. Baking a meatloaf packed into a loaf pan takes much longer than baking a meatloaf formed by hand in a larger pan where is is not as dense and the air can circulate. I usually form my meatloafs if a large pan in a shape that is about 2-1/2 inches high and 13 inches long and 4 inches wide.

                When you cook in a glass pan, unless you lower the oven temp as is usually reccomended, it is as if you are cooking the dish in an oven that is 25 degrees higher. In addition if the pan was larger so the loaf was not as high or dense, that will greatly reduce the cooking time.

                1. I form the loaf in a loaf pan and then turn it over onto a heavy jelly roll pan to bake.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Karl S

                    I'm with Karl on cooking it on a sheet pan and not in a loaf pan. I think the "crust" all around is better and more attractive and more fat is leached out

                  2. I'm having the same problem. I spent several hundred dollars last year to have my oven "fixed," but am still having problems with meatloaf. I usually use 3# of meat, along with all the other ingredients. I like to cook mine up off the bottom of the pan, so I often put it on a rack in a large baking pan, which keeps all the accumulated grease and juices away from the meatloaf. I made one last night, and after 2 hours (at 350 and then 400), it still wasn't done. I was aiming for 160 on my instant-read thermometer(s), and I poked them in several different locations, hoping for a better reading. I finally took it out of the oven, sliced it (it was still pretty pink in the middle) and microwaved the slices until they were done. I called the oven guys again, but am wondering what I'm going to do if they say "oven's working fine."

                    1. Even new ovens can be out of calibration. Check it with an inexpensive oven thermometer.