Meatloaf & Meatballs – Freezer Cooking 101

Are you someone who does a lot of freezer cooking? I am, and I really enjoy doing it. I put a lot of effort into cooking meals from scratch at home, so when I do, I like to make large quantities and portion it out and freeze it to make life simple later. Cooking everything homemade and from scratch is both labor intensive and time consuming as we all know, so anything you can do to try to ease some of that load is a great idea. Although I stay home with my son full time, time is still precious and I don’t want to spend the entire day in the kitchen if I don’t have to.

So when I make things like meatloaf or meatballs, I tend to make a lot at once. Why put the effort into just one meal serving when you could do 4 or 5, right? We are only 3 people at our house so I also think of portion sizes when I do this. It is definitely something you have to play with and learn as time goes, but once you have the portions figured out for how many ingredients you might need, you are good to go!

The other day I decided to make a few meatloaf and meatball staples that I like to always have handy in my freezer. Also, why does meatloaf have such a bad rap? I always hear a lot of people whining if they have to eat meatloaf, but I say bring it on! If it’s made right, it’s so delicious and versatile. Come to mama! My ingredients for both the meatloaf and meatballs are the same, so depending on what I might need, I make the mixture and make one or the other, or both. Let’s get our hands full of raw meat folks!

Ingredients:

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
½ yellow onion, diced fine
1 ½ cups finely ripped up bread crumbs, dried
½ cup whole milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic, fresh
1 tablespoon parsley
2 teaspoons allspice seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

Glaze Ingredients:

¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup BBQ sauce (I use Baby Ray’s or sometimes Jack Daniels – whatever you like!)
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

Instructions:

In a small bowl, pour milk over the dried bread crumbs just enough to have the bread absorb all the milk completely. Do not completely saturate. Let sit for 5-10 minutes for the milk to completely be absorbed and the bread softened.

Mix together glaze ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your ground beef and ground pork. Add in the diced onion, eggs, worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Pour the milk/bread mixture in. With a wooden spoon, or your hands, stir until just combined. Do not overmix – this can make the mixture too dense when it cooks.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take out two baking sheets with a cooling rack on top of each. This provides a rack for the meat to lay on and allows the fat to drip into the baking sheet as it cooks. Spray the cooling racks lightly with an olive oil cooking spray.

Shape your meat mixture – this recipe will make 3 small meatloaf (one meal serving each) and about 18-24 meatballs. With a spoon or pastry brush, coat the meat with the glaze, over the top and sides.

The meatloaf will bake for about 1 hour and the meatballs can be taken out at 30-35 minutes. Check for desired doneness and bake longer if necessary.

Here’s how it turns out:

I break up my bread crumbs in the morning or the night before and let them fully dry out for a while on the counter so they are nice and hard. The more firm the bread you use, the better, so it doesn’t get soggy and mushy in the mixture.

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Then pour over the milk. Just enough to completely soak it through but not drown it. We don’t want to teach the bread to swim in this recipe. I know this seems like an odd addition if you haven’t seen this before, but I saw this on the Pioneer Woman cooking show one time and gave it a shot. It’s a binder, but also a wonderful “moist maker”. The soaked bread gives the meatloaf a tenderness that I had never had before trying this. It’s a nice option instead of just using dried, fine breadcrumbs. I’m hooked for life now.

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Then I get all the ingredients mixed together for my glaze. You should have about ½ cup, which is enough for this amount of meat.

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Then get your ground beef and ground pork completely mixed together. I like the mix of the two meats. The pork makes it so tender and soft. Veal is also a nice option!

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Then start adding in your seasonings. Garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, allspice.

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Worchestire, eggs and onions.

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And lastly, the soaked bread crumbs.

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Use a wooden spoon, or sometimes the best option is your hands, to mix it all together. Gently. Don’t over mix this. You don’t want your meat to get tough!

It should look like this.

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Then get your oven preheated to 375. Take out two baking pans and on top of them, lay on a cooling rack. This is the method that works best for me. I like laying the meat on the cooling rack so that the fat drips down into the pan. The bread will soak up some of the fat, which is great for flavor, but you don’t really want it cooking in the fat. I like it a little less greasy, personally.

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Now go ahead and form your loaves. I made three small meatloafs first. Each being able to fit in my hand. This is enough for the three of us, for one meal each.

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Just like that.

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Then on the second baking sheet I used the rest of the meat to make larger sized meatballs and I got 18 from the remainder of the mixture. Smaller will give you more.

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Then use a spoon or pastry brush to completely coat all the meat with your glaze.

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Put both of these pans into the oven. I left the meatballs for about 35 minutes to cook through and the 3 meatloafs I left longer for just about an hour.

The meatballs were perfect. So tender and juicy and they literally melt in your mouth.

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The meatloaf was the same. Just firm enough to cut into slices, but so incredibly tender and soft you only need a fork to eat it with.

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For serving, I like to take one whole meatloaf and cut it into slices and take the remaining glaze I have and drip some between the slices and then return it to the oven for about 10 minutes. The glaze coats each piece on each side and the brown sugar makes it nice and sticky and golden. It’s divine!

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I take the other two loaves and put them on foil, let them cool and wrap them up.

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Then put them into a freezer bag and they are ready to go for another meal on another day. Same things with the meatballs. Divide and conquer!

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Meatloaf doesn’t have to be boring. Use any combination of sauces to make a sweet or spicy sauce. Or make a mushroom gravy to pour on top with mashed potatoes. Or slice them up a little thinner and make yummy, juicy sandwiches with freshly baked homemade bread for a quick lunch.

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Make a sweet & sour meatball dish one night with rice, or put them on top of a comforting pasta dish, or a yummy BBQ sauce. Oh, and swedish meatballs! Yes!

This versatile staple is one that is easy to make, has a billion possibilities for dinner time and freezes so well.

With a little planning, you can have so many options at your fingertips for those nights when you just don’t want to make something totally from scratch and you need a quick idea. Take the days when you have a little free time to fill up your freezer with homemade comfort foods. It’s worth the time and effort and nobody in your house will complain.

Meatloaf for the win! Come on….am I really the only one here?

– The Homesteaders Wife

7 thoughts on “Meatloaf & Meatballs – Freezer Cooking 101

Add yours

  1. I am a meatloaf snob. It’s my favorite meal and has been for a long, long time. The only possible way to ruin meatloaf, in my opinion, is to over-bake it……all of which is a lead-up to thank you for this recipe. You can be I’ll be trying it!

    Happy Sunday to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a great idea to make more and freeze. I must do this more often, I’m not very good about doing that and I know it would help on busy nights! Recipe sounds yummy!! Thanks for sharing. 😁🥰❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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