If you recently started making meatloaf for dinner, you might still be trying to perfect your technique. Have you had a bit of a difficult time figuring out whether it’s done?
This happens to a lot of people because it’s easy to overcook meatloaf. If you leave it in the oven a bit too long, parts of it will be burnt.
You could also easily take it out a bit too soon when you’re trying to avoid burning it, but it won’t be good to eat it when it hasn’t been cooked all the way through.
How can you check if your meatloaf is done reliably? Read on to get information about how you can determine if it’s time to serve dinner or if you need to keep cooking things for longer.
Use an Instant-Read Thermometer
One of the most reliable ways to determine if meatloaf is finished cooking or not is to use an instant-read thermometer. These are handy types of thermometers that allow you to tell if you’re done cooking things or not.
Simply grab one and place it in the middle of the meatloaf. There will be a portion of the thermometer that is designed to stick inside of food dishes to determine the temperature.
Your meatloaf can be considered done cooking if it has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also okay for the temperature to be a little bit higher than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but you don’t want to let it go too much higher.
When the number is still too low, it simply means that you need to cook it longer. Try cooking it for a little while longer and then use the instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature once more.
If you want to be able to be absolutely certain that you’re doing things right, buying a thermometer such as this is a great idea. Thankfully, they aren’t expensive at all, and this makes it easy enough to get one even if you’re on a budget.
Can You Tell If it’s Done Without a Thermometer?
What if you don’t have an instant-read thermometer at the ready? If you have a meatloaf in the oven right now, you might need an option that doesn’t involve using a thermometer.
Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do. Keep reading for other ways to know when your meatloaf is finished cooking.
Use a Fork to Check
Using a fork to check whether the meatloaf is done is a very common method. You might have seen your mother or your grandmother doing this when you were younger.
Get a metal fork out of the utensil drawer and poke it into the middle of the meatloaf. If you’re able to pierce the meatloaf very easily, this shows that it’s cooked.
When you have a bit of resistance to deal with, it’s a sign that your meatloaf hasn’t yet been cooked all the way. You’re likely going to need to cook it for a while longer if it was tough to poke your fork into it.
This is a very simple strategy that anyone can use. The only problem with this is that it isn’t as accurate as using an instant-read thermometer.
Even so, it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to do this without having to go out to buy a thermometer. Everyone is likely to have a metal fork that they can use to get this done.
You Could Use Your Fingers
This next idea is not nearly as good as using a fork. Truthfully, you should just use a fork because it’s more sanitary and it just makes more sense.
That being said, you could also try to test the temperature of the meatloaf using your fingers. The basic idea is that you’re going to poke your finger inside the meatloaf to see how hot it is and how it reacts.
You do run the risk of burning yourself when doing something such as this. That’s why it’s generally not a recommended idea.
Some people do this because it’s the way that their families have always done it. It’s not very sanitary to think of someone poking the meatloaf with a bare hand, though.
At the very least, you should thoroughly wash your hands before attempting this. That way you’ll know that you didn’t contaminate the meatloaf too much.
When you poke the meatloaf with your index finger, it should be easy to penetrate it. If it’s still quite firm, that’s a sign that it needs to be cooked longer.
The basic idea is the same as using a metal fork. If you have a metal fork, just use that instead.
Just Follow a Recipe Closely
You might be able to make meatloaf without having to check to see if it’s done or not. If you simply follow a recipe closely, it should be fairly easy to cook it and finish things up.
For instance, a recipe might ask you to cook it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. If you prepared the meatloaf correctly using the proper ingredients, things should turn out fine.
You can simply take it out of the oven after an hour has passed. It should be fine to expect the meatloaf to be done after it has been cooked for an hour.
Many people just do this and continue to make meatloaf the same way each time. If you just put it in the oven and cook it using the proper temperature, things should turn out the way that you expect them to.
Granted, there can sometimes be unexpected problems. For example, your oven could have hot spots that will cause the meatloaf to cook unevenly.
However, this is not a very likely scenario. If you know that your oven works as intended, you should be able to follow a recipe and do what you’re supposed to.
Determining whether a meatloaf is done or not won’t be too hard overall. The most reliable way to get this done is to have an instant-read thermometer on hand.
You can simply poke the thermometer into the meatloaf to test its internal temperature. If it has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll know that it’s done.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you might wish to try using a metal fork. Meatloaf is usually done cooking if a metal fork can be poked into the center without much resistance.
You could check the condition of the meatloaf using your fingers as well. Just be careful not to burn yourself.
Finally, you can easily just try your best to follow the recipe that you’ve been given. If you prepare a meatloaf properly, it should turn out fine when you cook it for the recommended amount of time.
Do your best and you’ll surely be able to enjoy a delicious meatloaf. Buying an instant-read thermometer is a good idea, but you can get by even if you don’t have one.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.