What does putting milk in meatloaf do?

Last Updated on July 3rd, 2023

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When you think of authentic American foods, items like Apple pie and Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches come to mind. Another favorite is meatloaf. 

If you look at the ingredients, you have ground beef, diced veggies, eggs, spices, and seasoning, but also breadcrumbs, which is the key to keeping your meatloaf from being dry.

The reason for pointing out the breadcrumbs will be to answer the need for milk in the recipe, which is to provide moisture to the inside of the loaf. Bread naturally absorbs moisture, which milk provides in most meatloaf recipes. 

Is Milk Added Because of the Meat?

In addition to providing moisture to the breadcrumbs, as touched on above, milk will be able to soak into the ground beef to some degree. This can effectively season the meat, providing a sauce for the beef to marinate in. 

The milk is not just for the meat. It adds some binding agents to help the eggs and keeps the bread sticky, both of which help the meatloaf keep its shape. When you add milk to bread, it creates a “panade,” which creates a gel-like effect when cooked and acts as a binding agent. 


What Difference Does Adding the Milk Make?

As mentioned above, many have experienced a meatloaf that fell apart or easily became crumbly and lacked structure. This can be associated with the lack of binding agents and dry inner portions of the dish. 

The difference milk makes will be in the solid structure of the meatloaf, which is attributed to mixing the dairy product with the breadcrumbs and creating the gelatin glue that is crucial to a successful meatloaf bake. 

In addition, milk carries spices and seasonings more effectively than without, evenly spreading flavor throughout the meat and providing a more consistent dinner dish. 


When Do You Add Milk?

This is usually done within the first few steps of the recipe. Most call for the milk to be mixed with ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, veggies, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. 

Once thoroughly mixed, the meat is then shaped into the classic loaf shape and baked for forty-five minutes at three hundred and fifty degrees. 

Others will use the milk in the glaze or as a means for the spices and seasonings to get poured over the top and then mixed in last amongst the ingredients. 

The main idea for the milk is to provide moisture but also act with bread as a binding agent for which the meatloaf can hold together. 


How Much of it is Added?

Taking a step back and thinking about how many people are being served will change the amount of milk needed. The basic recipe will create six servings, built off the use of one egg, to which the milk will need to measure out to half a cup. 

Then you can use this measurement to help when doubling or tripling the recipe size. Add a half cup of milk and so forth with the rest of the ingredients for each egg. 

Some environments will force a chef to add or subtract some of the liquid-based ingredients, be sure to understand the arid or humid nature of where you live geographically. 


Common Mistakes You Need to Avoid

The worst thing you can do to a meatloaf is overcook it to the point that it is super dry. Then, when you take a bite, it actually dries your mouth out, which usually means you forgot to add milk or enough of a bread crumb to milk ratio to keep the dish primo. 

The next worst thing you can do is to forget to add enough binding agent ingredients, meaning enough eggs or enough of a bread crumb to milk ratio to create the “panade” glue that equates to a well-structured meatloaf. 

Though it might taste just fine, be sure that having a well-structured meatloaf is the end goal. 


Final Thoughts on What Does Putting Milk in Meatloaf Do

Just as with good bread or casserole, having enough body or structure to the loaf equates to a better meal. 

When mixing up your ingredients, just be sure to have enough binding agents, which in this case would be the eggs and the milk–bread combination at the heart of the meatloaf. 

As a reminder, the best meatloaf will have more than just ground beef and egg. Be creative and add chives or other veggies to find a unique combination. There is more to the meatloaf than the basic “mother homemade meatloaf recipe.”


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