Chef John's Prison-Style Meatloaf Recipe -
Chef John's Prison-Style Meatloaf Recipe
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Chef John's Prison-Style Meatloaf
This incredibly moist, tender meatloaf is based on Italian meatball technology. See more
  • READY IN 2 hr

Chef John's Prison-Style Meatloaf

Recipe by  

"The main point of this prison-style meatloaf video is to show you what happens when you make meatloaf like your grandparents did. And no, I'm not accusing your relatives of spending time in the joint. During the Great Depression this type of dish was a popular strategy for stretching what little meat you had into as filling a meal as possible."

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Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 1 meatloaf Change Servings
  • PREP

    20 mins
  • COOK

    1 hr 15 mins

    2 hrs


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion with a pinch of salt in hot oil and butter until onion is golden brown and soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and cool onion mixture to room temperature.
  3. Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add milk and stir with a fork until combined. Let sit until all of the milk is absorbed into the breadcrumbs, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Combine ground chuck, cooled onion mixture, parsley, Parmesan cheese, eggs, 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Grab a handful of breadcrumbs and squeeze very gently to remove excess milk. Repeat with remaining breadcrumbs, transfer breadcrumbs to ground chuck mixture, and discard excess milk. Stir ground chuck mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Turn chuck mixture out into prepared baking dish, and shape meat into a 3x4x10-inch meatloaf. Pour tomato sauce over the loaf and into the bottom of the dish.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 1 hour 10 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Let meatloaf rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
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Reviews More Reviews

Most Helpful Positive Review
Jan 11, 2015

I thought this recipe was great! The only thing I did differently was I used ground turkey, and it came out delicious.

Most Helpful Critical Review
Oct 19, 2014

Well. I wasted 4 pounds of fresh Angus Chuck in this along with 4 perfectly good eggs and 10.00 worth of freshly grated parmeson cheese.. To be honest, probably is because I used boxed breadcrumbs instead of maybe making my own. This is supposed to have a lot of filler...but what I made was just way way way too much. Shelving this one.

Sep 20, 2014

I used ground beef mince and it was delicious. But it was my 5 year old that really liked it. Definitely cooking again.

Jul 15, 2014

This recipe was easy to make and a great variation of the typical meatloaf dish. I used Panko bread crumbs. Although you need to add a little more than the recipe calls for because of the texture of these crumbs. I also used Barilla Tomato & Basil sauce. Great the next day too!

Nov 30, 2014

I made this exactly as Chef John said. All of his recipes are made in a sensible fashion and taste delicious. This recipe produced a delightfully tasty and comforting family dinner. My son just requested it again.

Nov 07, 2014

Chef John rocks!! Oh so good. ! Have made my mother's meat loaf for years (Sorry Mom) but this is the best!

Nov 03, 2014

As the basic go-to meatloaf recipe, this is perfect: John understands all the things like soaking the bread crumbs and using dairy to keep the meatloaf moist and light. I would add sauteed veggies (mushrooms, peppers, celery and carrots, and whatever else was lurking in the veggie drawer), a spoonful of Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste, and use a mix of beef, pork and veal for the loaf. What is so great about this recipe is that John ROCKS. He just does. No arguments, please.

Oct 24, 2014

This was a real good treat for myself. I omitted the onion and garlic and used a pouch of Birdseye Southwestern frozen corn microwave for 5 min then browned, I also added two tbs worcestershire sauce all else the same. Oh so good. The Birdseye is always good and it adds some nice color to the food.


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  • Calories
  • 286 kcal
  • 14%
  • Carbohydrates
  • 19.4 g
  • 6%
  • Cholesterol
  • 91 mg
  • 30%
  • Fat
  • 14.5 g
  • 22%
  • Fiber
  • 2.1 g
  • 9%
  • Protein
  • 19.6 g
  • 39%
  • Sodium
  • 1153 mg
  • 46%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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