There are several reasons a meatloaf can come out mushy. The main cause is nearly always the wrong ratio of meat to other ingredients. The ratio of meat in a meatloaf is critical to the final texture.
The main cause of a mushy meatloaf is too much bread and milk for the amount of meat. To fix the issue, try reducing the amount of bread and milk by half. Another fix is to double the amount of meat.
If your recipe does not use bread and milk, read on for other ideas to solve your problem.
Reduce the meatloaf filler
Bread is the classic meatloaf filler, but there are many recipes that call for other fillers. Crackers, breadcrumbs, and oatmeal all make excellent meatloaf when used in the right proportion. Regardless of which filler you use, too much can make for a mushy meatloaf.
You should reduce the amount of filler in your recipe. This will create a meatloaf with a firmer texture. In addition to reducing the filler, you will need to reduce the amount of moisture as well.
Reduce the liquids
If you reduce the amount of filler in your meatloaf, you will also need to reduce the amount of liquids. Some liquid ingredients add flavor, like soy sauce, ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Other liquids are for moisture, like milk and water. You should reduce the liquids that provide moisture by the same ratio as you reduced your filler. So, if you cut the amount of breadcrumbs in your recipe by half, also reduce the amount of milk by half.
Add more eggs
Its fairly standard to add one egg per pound of meat. If your recipe doesn’t call for an egg, you can try adding one. If you’re already adding eggs, you could try adding another. It’s unlikely that it’s going to solve a problem with an extremely mushy meatloaf. But, it will create a slightly firmer structure that holds together better when slicing.
Use the inverted loaf pan or free form method
One possible problem with a mushy meatloaf is that not enough of the liquids are able to drain during cooking. This happens with the classic loaf pan method. Because standard loaf pans don’t have drain holes, your meatloaf ends up simmering in liquids rather than baking.
There are two different methods of baking that will allow more liquids to drain off during cooking. The free form baking method uses a sheet pan with no mold, which allows more liquids to drain out of the meatloaf during cooking. The inverted loaf pan uses a standard loaf pan inverted to preserve the shape of the meatloaf but while still allowing the liquids to drain off.
Both methods are described in our Ultimate Guide To Meatloaf.
Cook it longer
A mushy meatloaf is unlikely to be caused by undercooking. But, you can definitely tighten up a meatloaf a bit by cooking it longer.
As temperature increases, the meat fibers contract and squeeze out moisture. This happens most commonly with steaks, which is why a rare steak is much juicier than one that is well done. The same thing happens to meatloaf.