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Meatloaf - Do You Bake it in a Loaf Pan or on a Baking Sheet?

Pros and cons of each method?

And if you bake it in a loaf pan, do you use glass or metal?

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  1. If I use a loaf pan, I use a metal one that allows it to drain. But because my husband loves the outside slices, I more often bake a large round meatloaf in a glass dish so he can get outside slices from four "sides."

    1. Freeform on a rack above a baking sheet for a few reasons:

      1. Much of the fat drains away.
      2. I like to glaze my meatloaf on all sides (excluding bottom, of course).
      3. My favourite parts of the loaf are the ends because I can have both the crispier exterior as well as the moist interior.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chefathome

        That's how I make it.

        This thread has prompted husband to request meatloaf... I guess it's on the menu this week!

      2. I free form my meatloaf and bake on my broiler pan so the fat can drip away (which is important because I top my meatloaf with bacon). I like that it browns on the sides, too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Terrie H.

          I also use the broiler pan for my meatloaf. I spray it with non-stick to make it easier to clean, and line the inside with aluminum foil to make that clean up easier too. Bacon and BBQ sauce toppings make for a juicy meatloaf!

          1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

            I do a mustard, vinegar and brown sugar glaze on my bacon topping. It does make a tasty meatloaf, if not a low-fat version.

        2. At work I use a stainless steel sheet pan most of the time, a full hotel pan when there are no sheet pans available. At home I also use wire rack over a 1/2 sheet pan because of the crispy ends.

          1. I use an oval enameled steel low-sided roasting pan, and form the meatloaf into a smaller oval so I can use my baster around the sides to draw out the fat released as it bakes.
            This gives that nice amount of crust that a loaf pan can't.

            1. Another round casserole user, just because my mother did and I got in the habit. DH and I both loved the end pieces, too.

              1. Baking sheet w/ foil on it for easy cleanup. I usually make it with ground turkey so the fat issue isn't as much of an issue.

                I will often make mini-meatloafs for faster cooking time, and so I can easily freeze individual portions. I just free form them on the sheet.

                1. I used to do it in a loaf pan, for decades, because that's how Mom made hers.
                  But, now, I also use a low roasting pan/baking dish, more crust, easier to sauce, room for fat to go when it come out (yet containing it).
                  I usually use one of my rectangular Pyrex baking dishes.

                  1. Free-form, thanks to Alton Brown. And because there are only two of us in the house and that way I can make smaller meatloafs (or meat lumps, as it turns out).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tardigrade

                      hahahahaha meat lumps hahahahaha! good one!

                    2. On a sheet pan so the grease drains away and I can glaze the whole top and sides of the loaf as required.

                        1. re: jbsiegel

                          Just made a meatloaf tonight...free form on the Chicago Metallic roasting pan above. Can I just say again how much I LOVE that pan? It's non stick, I used no cooking spray or anything, and cleanup was a breeze!

                          1. re: jbsiegel

                            Funny I had no idea my method was called a Chicago Metallic roasting pan. I just placed a grill rack inside a 9x13 pan.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I used to do a cooling rack ON TOP of a 9x13 (since my cooling rack was too big to go IN the pan). But...I wanted to do a small roast a while back and didn't want to deal with my big All Clad roaster - wanted something smaller. So I bought the Chicago Metallic thing since I didn't have a rack that fit inside of the 9x13 pan.

                              1. re: jbsiegel

                                Thanks, JB. I've put that device in my Amazon cart.

                        2. free form on a jelly roll pans

                          1. I use a 13 X 9 metal pan, free form.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Floridagirl

                              Half-sheet pan. I'm going to try it on a wire rack next time. Thanks for that suggestion, everyone.

                            2. I make it on a rack perched in a jelly roll sheet, because I like James Beard's suggestion to drape bacon slices over the loaf, and when it's on a flat pan you can get the bacon to go around the sides, too. It looks pretty when it cooks, but if you leave it flat on the sheet without a rack, the bottom just kind of braises in the rendered fat and doesn't get crisp enough for me.

                                  1. Loaf pan, I'm weird about it needing to be in neat slices.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                      Not wierd. Although I've started using a baking dish, and "free form," I try to make it rectangular so that the slices are good for sandwiches the next day, same shape as the bread. I was just wondering about that... if folks that free form it do round shapes or rectangular shapes.

                                      1. re: wyogal

                                        Meat loaf pan with a perforated insert that elevates the meat above the drippings so it is never soggy or greasy. It shrinks from the sides as it cooks so they get brown too. I like the fact that the lower pan contains all the drippings as the base for tasty gravy. There is fond along the sides and on the bottom of the insert. When you use a baking sheet it's easy for the drippings to go from fond to burnt.

                                        Most often, I make frikadellen - meat loaf formed into patties and sauteed over med-low heat in a nonstick pan. This way, I can easily make any amount that's convenient based on how much meat and other ingredients I have on hand. And there is tasty crust all the way around. I only use the meat loaf pan when I want a glazed loaf. Frikadellen require more minding but cook faster than baking in the oven.

                                    2. On a rack sitting inside a foil lined baking pan usually. Fat collects on the foiled pan and the edges get crispy the way we like it.

                                      1. Free-form on a broiler rack covered with aluminum foil, with slits cut through so fat can drain into lower part. BTW, rather than breadcrumbs, I use brown basmati rice (cooked) as the starch.

                                        1. I always liked mine pan fried in patties .. then they whole outside is crispy. Yum. :D

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: eperdu

                                            Wouldn't you call that (flattened) meatballs? Or something.

                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              Or burgers? ;-)

                                              That said, I made bacon wrapped individual meatloves recently. Those were basically burgers with a bacon "edge".

                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                I suppose you can call it anything you want. I just make meatloaf, portion it out and pan fry it. If you feel the need to call it burgers or flattened meatballs that's fine. ;) I call it meatloaf patties myself. I've never made meatballs, flattened or otherwise. :)

                                                1. re: eperdu

                                                  Well, it's not a loaf unless it's a loaf. (I'm really just trying to have some fun with you.)

                                                2. re: Jay F

                                                  As mentioned a skip-and-a-jump upthread, 4 hrs previously, they are called frikadellen. Singular: frikadelle. Alternate spelling fricadellen.

                                                  1. re: greygarious


                                                    When I want to remember something, sometimes writing it down a few times helps.

                                              2. I like my pyrex meatloaf pan for my typical one pounder. I have a bigger shallow pyrex dish for the rolled variety. When I do a giant 3 or 4 pounder I use a metal roasting pan. I like the moist meatloaf I get in the pyrex.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Berheenia

                                                  Barheenia, do you get a good crust too?

                                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                                    I do on the big one. Not so much on the rolled version and it depends on the amount of fat in the one pounder. More if I go with 85 fat burger, less if I use extra lean.

                                                2. Like tardigrade posted above, I now do the Alton free form method.
                                                  However, due to a recent thread here on chow I did my first ever ham loaf and wished I had done it in a loaf pan.

                                                  1. I use Julia Child's recipe from The Way to Cook and bake it free form. Ends up looking like a pain de campagne.

                                                    My mom always used a loaf pan, and I hated meat loaf growing up because of the texture of gooey fat and meat juice. Since my husband loves meat loaf (better than steak) I was thrilled to find a technique that created a meat loaf that I am happy to eat. Also makes great sandwiches.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: dkenworthy

                                                      I thought making meatloaf sandwiches was the entire point of making meatloaf!

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        Oh yes!!! Another way my mom used leftovers was warm them up with a slice of American cheese on top...really good (in a comfort-food-kinda way!)

                                                    2. Always on a baking sheet. I LOVE concentrated/ crusty magic that happens to the sauce or ketchup I have used on the outside of the loaf. Also, the fat rising to the top in a loaf pan really turns my stomach.

                                                      1. Since getting some outside with the glaze on it is the whole point of eating meatloaf, I use a flat pan with sides---maximizes outside part, minimizes running over in oven. Glaze for meatloaf: Dark brown sugar with just enough ketchup to moisten and make it spreadable, plus a good hit of grated nutmeg.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          Quer, are you using ground beef with that flavoring or another type?

                                                        2. Indoors, in the oven, it's in a loaf pan.
                                                          Outdoors, on the grill, it's free-form on, well, the grill.
                                                          Now why haven't I tried it on a rack when it's in the oven? No idea... I think I should.

                                                          1. i like a free form meatloaf so i generally use a baking sheet. more crispy edges to enjoy!