Meatloaf can take some time to prepare, but once cooked, it can be a real lifesaver on busy weeknights. Simply pull it out of the fridge or freezer for a healthy ready-prepared meal.
- Types of Meatloaf
- Can I Freeze Meatloaf?
- How To Freeze Uncooked Meatloaf
- How To Freeze Cooked Meatloaf
- How To Thaw Frozen Meatloaf
Meatloaf is generally eaten as a main protein with vegetables. Leftover meatloaf can be used in sandwiches, crumbled into stews, soups, casseroles, chili, and mixed with sauce and pasta.
Below is a guide to successfully freeze, thaw, and reheat meatloaf for delicious no-fuss dinners.
Types of Meatloaf
True to its name, meatloaf is a dish of ground meat formed into the shape of a loaf. The meat is mixed with spices and other ingredients before shaping and is then baked. Mini-loaves or hand-formed shapes can also be made on a baking tray to make smaller portions.
Although generally made with ground beef, other varieties of meatloaf include the use of lamb, poultry, pork, and venison. Vegetarian versions can be made with pulses. Prone to dry out quite easily, recipes may include the addition of cheese, fatty meats, vegetables, and often suggest serving with a sauce.
Can I Freeze Meatloaf?
Regardless of the type of meat used in your meatloaf, it can be frozen raw or cooked. Making a double batch is, therefore, a great time saver as you can place one loaf in the freezer and cook the other one, saving you prep time at a later stage.
How To Freeze Uncooked Meatloaf
When freezing uncooked meatloaf, you need to keep in mind that the meat may have already been frozen once in-store. If the ground meat was previously frozen and you are unsure of how the meat was handled, you might want to play it safe and bake it prior to freezing.
Step 1: Prepare the Recipe
Prepare the meatloaf mixture as per the recipe, combining all the ingredients well.
Step 2: Line the Pan
Line a loaf tin with cling film so that the plastic drapes over the edges and can be used to pull the loaf out once frozen. If you are making smaller portions, you can line a muffin tin in the same way or place a layer of cling film on a baking sheet to prevent the meat mixture from sticking.
Step 3: Portion
Fill the loaf tin or muffin tray with the mixture. If you are making freeform size balls, shape them and place them on a lined baking sheet. Making smaller loaves or shapes allows you to take out only what you want to cook at any given time without having to thaw the entire batch.
Step 4: Short Freeze
Place the tin in the freezer for a few hours, just until the mixture is frozen to hold its shape well.
Step 5: Wrap
Remove the meatloaf or mini loaves from the freezer and take it out of the tin. Wrap the loaf in a layer of cling film or foil, ensuring there are no open gaps where air can enter. Wrap mini loaves individually.
Step 6: Bag and Seal
Place the loaf in a zip lock freezer bag to protect it further from contact with air. To keep it airtight, press out any remaining air in the bag and seal tightly.
Step 7: Label and Freeze
Write the date of freezing on the freezer bag with a permanent marker to keep track of how long your meatloaf has been frozen.
How To Freeze Cooked Meatloaf
Step 1: Cool
Freezing meatloaf that is still warm will cause steam from the food to turn into ice causing freezer burn, drying out your meatloaf, and ruining its taste. Make sure the meatloaf is fully cooled down to room temperature before preparing it to go into the freezer.
Step 2: Portion
If you do not plan on using the entire meatloaf at once, slice it into sizes suitable for defrosting at any given time. This way, you can thaw only as much as you need at a time. Thawing and reheating smaller portions will prevent the meatloaf from becoming too dry.
Step 3: Cling Wrap
Wrap your loaf, or slices with a layer of cling film or foil, ensuring there are no open gaps. Wrapping the meatloaf fully will not only prevent contamination of other food in the freezer but also keep the meatloaf from drying out.
Step 4: Bag and Seal
Place the loaf in a zip lock freezer bag to protect it further from contact with air. Press out any remaining air in the bag before sealing.
Step 5: Label and Freeze
Write the date on the freezer bag with a permanent marker to keep track of how long your meatloaf has been frozen.
How To Thaw Frozen Meatloaf
The method of preparing the frozen meatloaf for your meal will depend on whether or not it was cooked prior to freezing. Here is how to safely thaw and prepare your meatloaf for a delicious and safe meal.
How to Thaw and Cook Raw Frozen Meatloaf
Step 1: Refrigerate
Remove the meatloaf from the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Keep the meatloaf in its wrapping to prevent it from contaminating other foods in the fridge.
Note: If you need to cook the meatloaf as a last-minute arrangement and do not have time to thaw it in the refrigerator, you can place it unwrapped in the oven to thaw while your oven is preheating for cooking.
Step 2: Cook
Spray or grease your loaf tin and place the meatloaf back into the tin with all the wrapping removed. Set the oven temperature to 350 °F (180 °C) and cook it for 90 minutes.
The cooking time will depend on the size of the meatloaf, as well as whether it was fully defrosted before baking. If the loaf was still frozen before placing it in the oven, you will have to extend the cooking time significantly.
If you are using a meat thermometer, you want it to reach 160 °F (71 °C) when sticking it into the center of the meatloaf to confirm whether the meat is fully cooked. The temperature should be slightly higher for poultry meatloaf.
How to Thaw Frozen Cooked Meatloaf
Step 1: Refrigerate
Thawing cooked meatloaf in the refrigerator preserves the texture and prevents it from drying out. Remove the meatloaf from the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Keep the meatloaf in its wrapping to prevent it from contaminating other foods in the fridge.
Step 2: Preheat Oven
Preheat the oven at 350 °F (180 °C).
Step 3: Rewrap and Heat
Remove any plastic wrapping from the meatloaf and wrap it in a layer of foil to prevent it from drying out in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes to reheat, depending on the size of the meatloaf.
See more: How To Reheat Meatloaf
Whether you want your fill of beef, pork, or poultry, meatloaf is a great dish to make ahead of time and incorporate into various dinners, breakfasts, or lunches for a little extra pizazz. Once cooked, keep it in the freezer in smaller portions to use for a hash, chili, omelet filling, or decadent sandwich. Add your favorite sauce or a little cheese if you find it has dried out.
Meatloaf is a great healthy quick fix when pre-made. Just ensure to keep track of how long it has been in the freezer as you don’t want to store it any longer than 3 months. Get creative and you will get a lot more than you bargained for out of one meaty loaf.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Cooked Ham?
Image by depositphotos/Nikolay_Donetsk