I tried meatloaf recipes from Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, and Rachael Ray, and the best tasted like a Thanksgiving dinner

I tried meatloaf recipes from Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, and Rachael Ray, and the best tasted like a Thanksgiving dinner
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I've never made meatloaf before, but it's a comfort food, and I love family-sized meals that provide enough leftovers for me and my husband.

I decided to test out recipes from Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, and Rachael Ray to find the best version of the classic dish.

Here's how the recipes stacked up.

The ingredient list for Garten's recipe was simple.

Ingredients for Ina Garten's meatloaf recipe laid on a marble surface.
I already had most of Ina Garten's meatloaf ingredients in my pantry.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Garten's recipe had a short ingredient list and was very straightforward. It included common pantry items such as olive oil, onions, eggs, and chicken stock.

She also recommended using ground chuck, a version of ground beef that's usually 80% lean and 20% fat.

Garten's recipe required firing up the stove.

Sautéed onions on a stove.
First, I sautéed the onions and spices.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

I sautéed chopped onions, thyme, salt, and pepper in a pan until the onions were translucent.

Then, I removed the pan from the heat and added Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste.

I combined the ingredients in a bowl before shaping and baking the loaf.

Ground meat in a bowl.
I gently mixed the ingredients together in a bowl.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

I placed the onion mixture, ground chuck, breadcrumbs, and eggs in a large bowl.

The recipe recommended lightly mixing the ingredients with a fork to prevent the meatloaf from getting dense. I opted to wear food-prep gloves and gently combine everything by hand.

I shaped the meat and topped it with ketchup.

Shaped meat loaf with ketchup on top.
Some of the comments under Ina Garten's recipe recommended adding ketchup.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

After reading some tips in the comments under Garten's recipe, I lined a sheet pan with two layers of parchment paper before placing the meat mixture on top.

I shaped everything into a loaf and coated it with ketchup, then put it in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cooked meatloaf was surrounded by grease and slightly cracked, but I didn't mind.

Meat loaf in a pan surrounded by grease.
Although the meatloaf was greasy, it was easily removed.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

The full recipe was meant to be baked for about an hour, but I halved it, so it was done after 45 minutes.

I noticed the finished product was soaked in grease, but I easily removed it with a spoon.

Garten recommended putting a pan of hot water in the oven to keep the meat from cracking. But my meatloaf still cracked after following that step, and it wasn't a big deal.

Garten's meatloaf was classic and comforting.

Results of Ina Garten's meat-loaf recipe.
Ina Garten's meatloaf recipe was simple and delicious.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Garten's meatloaf had a short ingredient list, was easy to make, and tasted comforting.

It was moist without being greasy, and I thought it had a good texture from the onions and a nice sweetness from the ketchup. It was basically everything I'd want in a classic meatloaf dish.

Next, I tried Drummond's meatloaf recipe.

Meatloaf ingredients on a marble surface.
Ree Drummond had more ingredients than Ina Garten for her meatloaf.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Drummond's recipe was a bit of a departure from Garten's classic meatloaf. She included ingredients such as white bread, milk, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and bacon.

Like Garten's recipe, all of Drummond's ingredients were combined in a bowl.

Meat, bread, and other ingredients mixed in a glass bowl.
I mixed the milk-soaked white bread and other ingredients in a bowl.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Drummond recommended soaking slices of bread in milk before combining it with ground beef, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, parsley, and eggs.

After putting all of the ingredients in a bowl, I gently mixed them by hand.

The recipe said to use a foil-lined broiler pan for the fat to drain, but I didn't have one, so I improvised.

Meat loaf on a grated sheet.
I used a sheet pan instead of a broiler pan.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Since I don't have a broiler pan, I placed my meatloaf on a cooling rack that I put on top of a foil-lined sheet pan.

Drummond called for wrapping the meatloaf with bacon and a homemade sauce.

Meat loaf covered in bacon and barbecue sauce.
I topped the meatloaf with bacon and sauce before cooking it.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

I topped the meatloaf with bacon and Drummond's sauce, which I made with ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire.

I put about 1/3 of the sauce mixture on the meat before baking it at 350 F.

Toward the end of the baking time, I added some more of the sauce, and I saved the rest for the finished loaf.

Using the cooling rack prevented a buildup of grease.

Meat loaf wrapped in bacon.
The finished product of Ree Drummond's recipe was barely greasy.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Using a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan was pretty successful. Only some of the meat fell to the bottom of the pan, and there was barely any grease when I took the meatloaf out of the oven.

Drummond's meatloaf was more interesting than Garten's, but I don't see myself making it again.

Meat  loaf, per Ree Drummond's recipe.
Ree Drummond's meatloaf recipe had more ingredients and flavors than I'd preferred.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Drummond's meatloaf was moist, and I enjoyed the parsley garnish paired with the sweetness of the tomato sauce.

I didn't love the chunks of white bread at first, but the texture grew on me. But the bacon wasn't as crunchy as I usually prefer it, so I'd skip it if I made this recipe again.

Although this version was more flavorful than Garten's, I didn't return for seconds.

Ray's meatloaf recipe had the longest ingredient list.

Ingredients for meat loaf, per Rachael Ray's recipe.
Rachael Ray's meatloaf ingredient list was the longest of the three.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Ray's meatloaf recipe had an extensive list of ingredients, including chicken broth and apples.

She also recommended using ground turkey instead of ground beef as a base, which was different from the previous recipes.

Similar to Garten's recipe, I started by sautéing some ingredients.

Sautéed vegetables and spices on a stove.
First, I sautéed the onions, apples, celery, and spices.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Ray recommended sautéing thyme, celery, apples, onions, salt, and pepper in a pan to start.

I also rehydrated breadcrumbs with chicken stock and softened dried cranberries with hot water.

Like the other recipes, I combined the ingredients in a bowl.

Meat-loaf ingredients in a bowl.
I mixed Rachael Ray's meatloaf ingredients in a bowl.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

In a bowl, I gently mixed the ground turkey, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, apple mixture, cranberries, extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, and poultry seasoning with an egg.

I halved the recipe and cooked it for 40 minutes.

Meat loaf on a baking sheet.
I shaped the meatloaf and put it in an oven at 400 F.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Since I halved the recipe, I put the meat in my oven at 400 F and baked it for 40 minutes rather than the recommended hour.

It was my first time making gravy, and Ray's version was so easy to follow.

Ingredients for homemade apple-cider gravy, per Rachael Ray's recipe.
Rachael Ray's recipe called for a homemade apple-cider gravy.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

To make Ray's homemade apple-cider gravy, I started by whisking together warm butter and flour.

Then I added chicken stock, apple cider, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper and simmered the mixture until it was thick enough to coat my spoon.

I found the process to be surprisingly easy, and I'd definitely make it again for other dishes.

Ray's meatloaf dish tasted like Thanksgiving, and I loved it.

Meat-loaf dish, per Rachel Ray's recipe.
Rachael Ray's meatloaf recipe was a delicious twist on the classic dish.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Since Ray called for a ground-turkey base, it wasn't as moist as the previous recipes. But the gravy saved it and packed a sweet flavor.

I also enjoyed the addition of cranberries and the slight crunch of the apples.

The dish tasted like a combination of my favorite fall flavors and reminded me of Thanksgiving leftovers.

All three meatloaf recipes were good, but Ray's was my favorite.

Three different meat-loaf dishes.
Overall, I liked Rachael Ray's meatloaf recipe best.Abigail Abesamis Demarest

Ray's meatloaf recipe tasted like Thanksgiving — and came together much faster than roasting a bird and making sides. Even though I halved her recipe, there was still plenty to serve a crowd or save for leftovers.

I can't see myself making Drummond's meatloaf again, even if it was tasty. But if you're looking for a classic recipe, you can't go wrong with Garten's. It's simple enough to whip up with some ground beef and kitchen staples.

Click to check out the other celebrity-chef recipes we've put head-to-head so far.

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