How to Cook a Beef Meat Loaf Frozen or Thawed

Meatloaf is a delicious comfort food that's made with ground meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. Although this dish is fairly simple to make, it can be time-consuming to prepare. However, it's often healthier to prepare and freeze meatloaf at home instead of buying it ready-made.

Meatloaf is a delicious comfort food that’s made with ground meat, vegetables, herbs and spices.
Credit: Nikolay_Donetsk/iStock/GettyImages

Making Homemade Meatloaf

Making meatloaf at home is a very healthy choice. Homemade meatloaf often contains less sodium than ready-made varieties, a nutrient that the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends you consume in moderation.

Homemade meatloaf is also made with your choice of ground meat. The meat you've chosen to integrate into your meatloaf determines how much saturated fat you're consuming. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. Saturated fat, which can be found in most animal products, can be bad for your cardiovascular health.

You might want to try making our Turkey Meatloaf instead of beef meatloaf as there's less saturated fat in poultry compared to beef, lamb and pork. If you'd rather stick to traditional beef-based meatloaf, make sure you choose a lean type of ground beef. Meatloaf that's made with lean ground beef and vegetables, like our Veggie-Packed Meatloaf, is still lower in saturated fat compared to the meat used in most pre-prepared meatloaf products.

Read more: 15 of the Best Lean Animal Proteins

Preparing and Freezing Meatloaf

If you've previously made meatloaf, you'll know that these recipes can be easily be scaled up and made in large amounts. If you're cooking large amounts of meatloaf, like when you make meatloaf in an 8-by-8-inch glass pan, the proper way to freeze cooked meatloaf is to cut out pre-prepared portions and reheat them individually.

This allows you to reheat serving-sized portions, rather than repeatedly reheating and defrosting the meatloaf every time you want to eat some. Alternatively, you can also cook multiple single-serving sized portions of meatloaf in ramekins or other small oven-safe containers, then freeze them.

However, you don't need to cook your meatloaf before freezing it. It's also possible to prepare your meatloaf mix and freeze it. In such cases, you can cook fresh meatloaf directly from frozen.

Alternatively, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says that you can thaw meat products like meatloaf overnight in your refrigerator, then cook it once it's thawed. You may prefer to thaw your meat first, since defrosted meatloaf takes less time to cook compared to frozen meatloaf.

Read more: 9 Muscle-Building Proteins That Won't Bust Your Budget

Cooking Frozen Meatloaf

Frozen meatloaf is cooked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you've defrosted your meatloaf the night before, it should take about 45 to 60 minutes to cook. If you've made single-sized servings of meatloaf, your cook time will be less (as little as 20 to 30 minutes).

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, frozen foods take around one and a half the normal amount of time to cook. This means that your meatloaf may take 90 to 120 minutes to cook if you're cooking it from frozen.

It's safest to assess your meatloaf with a meat thermometer. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says that ground meat needs to be cooked to a higher internal temperature than whole meats. Hamburgers, meatloaf and other dishes that use ground meat are safe when they've been cooked to a temperature of 160 F.

If you've decided to use ground poultry to make your meatloaf, your meat will need to be cooked to a few extra degrees higher. Ground poultry ought to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F.

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