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How To Check That Meatloaf Is Done (With Or Without A Meat Thermometer)

Quick Answer: How To Check That Meatloaf Is Done? The easiest and most reliable method of checking if a meatloaf is done is to use a meat thermometer, preferably one with an instant-read. Probe the meatloaf with the meat thermometer and check that the internal temperature has reached at least 155°F, preferably 160°F. Alternatively, a meat fork can be used and if it can reach the center of the meatloaf without excessive resistance then it should be done.

Meatloaf can be a strange dish to check whether it is done, partly because it is not a whole piece of meat, but rather ground meat that is combined with several ingredients.

You should want to know the internal temperature as undercooked meat can be dangerous but a dry meatloaf is not appetizing either.

How To Check That Meatloaf Is Done (With Or Without A Meat Thermometer)

How To Check That Meatloaf Is Done With A Meat Thermometer?

A meat thermometer is your ideal choice for checking whether any meat has been sufficiently cooked.

They can also be used discreetly and only create a small hole where the probe goes in. 

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Active Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 65 minutes

Difficulty: Medium


  • Meatloaf
  • Oven
  • Baking Tray
  • Meat Thermometer


  1. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and place the baking tray on a stable surface.
  2. Probe the meatloaf with the meat thermometer and leave it to sit for a few seconds until it fixes on a temperature reading
  3. If the reading is between 160°F and 180°F then the meatloaf is ready to be removed from the oven where it can be left to rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving
  4. If the reading is below 155°F then remove the probe and return the meatloaf to the oven to cook for a bit longer when you can check it again and confirm that the meat temperature is closer to, or over, 160°F

The Ideal Internal Temperature Of Meatloaf

The ideal internal temperature of meatloaf may depend on how you have it.

As there will be grounded meat involved, including beef and pork, it helps to stick to a certain temperature to be safe.

This internal temperature should be 165°F (71°C) which is a relatively safe internal temperature for ensuring that meat is completely cooked. 

However, some prefer their meatloaf to be a bit softer and for that, the aim should be to hit the internal temperature at 155°F.

This should be checked in the center of the meatloaf as this will be the section that takes the longest to cook.

Ensuring that the middle of the meatloaf is done will guarantee that the edges of the meatloaf are sufficiently cooked too.

When using a loaf tin, you simply have to plunge the meat thermometer into the middle and then down into the center. 

How To Check That Meatloaf Is Done Without A Meat Thermometer?

If you do not have a meat thermometer, you can use more traditional methods to check if your meatloaf is done.

The last thing you want to do is serve a meatloaf that clearly is not done.

Not only will it make others doubt your culinary skills but it will delay your meal when everyone is ready to eat. 

As the dish is mainly made from grounded meat, you could look out for the liquids that seep out of the meatloaf.

If they run clear, that is a good indication that the meat is done yet you should want to check the inside of the meatloaf, albeit discreetly.

The beef should no longer appear red but should be browned completely though a little bit of pink may be fine, just as it is with a juicy steak.

Use A Meat Fork

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Active Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 65 minutes

Difficulty: Medium


  • Meatloaf
  • Oven
  • Baking Tray
  • Meat Fork


  1. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and poke it in the center with the meat fork.
  2. Judge how easy it is to reach the center of the meatloaf. If the meatloaf can be pierced quite easily by the meat fork then it is cooked
  3. If there is a bit of resistance for the meat fork then return the meatloaf to the oven to cook for a while longer

Using A Metal Cake Tester

Similar to a meat thermometer, a metal cake tester is typically used for sweets, cakes, and desserts.

However, its function is more or less the same as a meat thermometer in that it checks the internal temperature of whatever you are cooking.

It may not work quite as you would expect yet as long as you can discern that the internal temperature is sufficient to serve then it will work fine.

Follow The Recipe Precisely

Follow The Recipe Precisely

An effective way of checking your meatloaf may not even involve touching it.

If you trust your instincts and trust the recipe you are using then follow it to the letter and your meatloaf should be done.

Typical meatloaf recipes call for the dish to be cooked at 350°F for a whole hour though this may depend on how big or small your meatloaf is.

Should you have followed the recipe precisely and used exact measurements then you should be able to rely on the instructions. 

If you regularly cook meatloaf then you should have a good idea of what it looks like when it is done.

How the top should look browned and how soft the middle is when you begin to cut into it.

Be careful if your oven has hotspots as the top could look done while the inside of the meatloaf still needs more cooking.

Practice makes perfect, especially with cooking the same dish numerous times. 

You also want to ensure that your meatloaf is not excessively cooked as it will be dry.

Dry meat is particularly difficult to rectify as at least you can cook undercooked meat for a bit longer to get it just right.

You could add a bit more water to the meatloaf before it goes in the oven yet not too much, only about three-quarters of a cup for every two pounds of ground beef.

Gradually add in the water so you can judge the consistency of the mix, and your eventual meatloaf, and ideally, it will no longer remain stuck to the side of the mixing bowl.

If you do suffer from a watery meatloaf then you may have added too much water into the mix.

The ratio of meat to water and other ingredients such as bread should create a firm, dense dish.

If there is too much water then that can overwhelm the bread until it cannot bind the mixture properly.

Should this happen on your meatloaf, the next time you use the recipe then you should either add more meat or reduce the amount of liquid like milk and water.

The amount of time you leave a meatloaf to rest is also important and the recipe should state that.

You may be tempted to cut straight into it but you may be releasing some of those juices that preserve the delicious moistness in the dish.

Instead, be patient and give the meatloaf some time to rest and that could be around ten minutes while the table is set for its arrival.

That resting time should mean that the meatloaf will hold its structure once you do slice it up.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Meatloaf?

Meatloaf is a traditional American dish that can be cooked during the week for a family dinner, or on special occasions such as Thanksgiving.

The dish is made mainly from ground meat which is then bound together with other ingredients such as eggs, oatmeal, and breadcrumbs.

This can also be considered a regional dish when it includes local variations such as a ketchup-glaze in the Midwest or dry spices for an Italian twist.

You can also find meatloaf to have been combined with chopped vegetables but it is almost certainly shaped into a bread loaf and then baked.

How Long Do You Cook Meatloaf For?

For most meatloaves, you can almost rely on the cooking time being around an hour and the cooking temperature being 350°F.

However, if you have a bigger loaf tin and a need for a bigger meatloaf then you will need to extend that cooking time to 80 minutes.

At that temperature, the meat should brown properly which is to do with the Maillard Reaction, a chemical term linked to how food browns during the cooking process.

There is a danger of burning the top of a meatloaf if you ramp up the cooking temperature to around 400°F though it may be done after being cooked for between 40 and 50 minutes so you should be able to smell that it’s done too.

Jess Smith