Sunday dinner was often Mom’s favorite meal of the week. She would prepare meatloaf before church and preset the oven to cook while we were gone. As soon as the car door opened, I can remember the smell of the meal baking.
Meatloaf can often be the brunt of jokes. It can be dry, tasteless, boring, and usually the bottom of a family’s list of favorite foods. My mom’s meatloaf is different: full of hearty flavor and somehow surprisingly light with a melt-away texture.
Let’s face it: meat can be tricky. You would think just mixing together some ground beef with salt and pepper would be pretty easy. But that’s not the case. Ground beef pressed together can become tough and lack flavor.
Mom’s trick for a delicious meatloaf is quick-cooking oats. The difference between quick-cooking oats and old-fashioned oats is simple. Quick-cooking oats are rolled and become smaller than old-fashioned oats. This helps them cook faster and absorb liquid easily. Adding the oats helps bind the meat together and absorb the liquid the meats release during baking. While baking, the oats disappear, leaving a tender and perfectly textured loaf.
To add flavor, I switched up Mom’s method in a few ways:
- Onions. Mom often added raw onion to the mixture. I find sautéing the onion until softened boosts the flavor and is just better than raw onion.
- Tomato juice. Mom always added tomato juice to the meatloaf and I couldn’t agree more. Instead of imparting tomato flavor, the tomato juice balances out the meat and provides a slightly sweet flavor.
At its core, this is a meatloaf with no hidden agenda. And to make it even better, it’s a sheet pan dinner, making it a for-sure winner that couldn’t be easier. Rather than making an entirely separate side dish, I added thickly sliced sweet potatoes around the meatloaf that cook at the same time. During the cooking time, a golden crust forms on the bottom of the sweet potatoes, while retaining a perfectly creamy interior.
Altogether, this sheet pan meatloaf is simple and straightforward with a well-balanced flavor that creates a perfect dinner. Never dry, never tasteless… and definitely not boring!
Watch how to make this sheet pan meatloaf:
Sheet Pan Meatloaf
For the meatloaf
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground beef (92% lean preferable)
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
- 1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 2 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 lb sweet potatoes, cut in 1" slices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp garlic granules
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the ketchup sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, adding garlic in the last minute, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- On a large sheet pan, arrange the sweet potatoes in an even layer leaving space for the meatloaf. Drizzle with olive oil, rubbing to coat potatoes on all sides. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, dried thyme, garlic granules, and 1 tsp black pepper.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, quick oats, eggs, tomato juice, sautéed onion, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined and all the ingredients are well mixed together, showing no individual streaks.
- Place the prepared meatloaf on the large sheet pan, shaping it into a large loaf. Place in the preheated oven and prepare the ketchup topping.
- In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, honey, and mustard. Whisk to combine.
- Once the meatloaf is browned and reaches 150°F, about 40-50 minutes, spread the ketchup mixture over the top and return to oven to caramelize, 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before cutting.