Many people consider meatloaf as their comfort food, and has gained popularity worldwide. If you’re someone who wants to follow meatloaf recipes you see online and wonder how long you can store meatloaf in the fridge, then you’re on the right page.
Today we take a look at the best storage techniques, tips, and tricks to make this delicious meaty dish last as long as it can. And I’ve even included some amazing freezing tips as well.
If you would like to learn more about storage techniques for other foods, make sure to check out my site! One that my readers find most helpful is How To Tell When An Onion Is Bad. You’d be surprised to learn the correct storage techniques for these kitchen staples!
What Is Meatloaf?
Meatloaf is one of the most popular meat dishes in the world. But, in every country, you will see that the recipes can look quite different from what you may know meatloaf as.
This can naturally affect the final flavor of the meat dish, its texture, and even how it is prepared and cooked.
So, for those who aren’t familiar with this dish, a meatloaf is essentially a baked dish made out of ground meat, bread crumbs, and aromatics like spices, herbs, garlic, and onion. Again, there isn’t a right or wrong flavor combination for this dish.
Most traditional meatloaf dishes are made with ground beef. However, again depending on where you are, there are versions made with ground poultry like ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb, and even various seafood.
Into a loaf pan, the mixture should be packed and baked in an oven for almost an hour (depending on the size of the meatloaf) with the help of a meat thermometer.
Once the cooking time is done, it is removed from the pan and served with a gravy sauce and side dishes.
If you would like to know more about how meatloaf is made and how to cook it, go check out my article How Long To Cook Meatloaf At 375?
How Long Does Meatloaf Last In The Fridge?
On average, fully cooked meatloaf will last between 3-4 days in the fridge when properly stored. You cannot store meatloaf leftovers at room temperature because it is made from highly perishable meat.
The exact time depends on many factors, including how old the ingredients were, how you stored the meatloaf leftovers, at what temperature you stored the meatloaf, and of course, if it has been previously frozen.
Raw Homemade Meatloaf Recipes
Uncooked meatloaf only stays perfectly safe in the fridge for about two days. However, I always recommend cooking meatloaf recipes immediately to avoid cross contamination.
Meatloaf contains raw meat that needs refrigeration at all times. Meat is very prone to spoilage and develops an off odor more easily when mixed with other ingredients, as in meatloaf.
Factors That Will Affect The Shelflife Of Meatloaf
Now, to better understand what to do when it comes to storing meatloaf, it’s best to take a look at what not to do first! This will help you better understand the severity of a storing mistake.
Bacteria cause food to spoil and eventually rot completely. And some can even be the cause of severe food poisoning and, in many cases, even death!
These microorganisms grow because of three factors: moisture, an ideal temperature, and oxygen. They only need trace amounts of one of these elements to ultimately cause food to spoil.
So, to extend the shelf life of the meatloaf, you need to eliminate as many of these factors as possible. This will give you the ultimate answer to “How long does meatloaf last in the fridge?”
Now, how do you remove moisture? Well, there are two ways. The first is by properly storing the meatloaf in an airtight container. This way, you won’t introduce excessive moisture.
The second is storing the container away from heat sources and direct light. Both cause condensation inside the container. This introduces more moisture.
The temperature danger zone for food ranges between 40-140ºF (4.5-60ºC). In this range, bacteria can thrive! Outside this range, they are either killed or made dormant – both of which extend the shelf life of the meatloaf.
That is why you must store perishable ingredients inside the fridge. It won’t kill the bacteria, but it will slow their reproduction and delay the inevitable spoilage of the ingredients.
Removing as much oxygen from the equation as possible is easy: simply store the meatloaf in an airtight container.
Ideally, you would be able to vacuum-seal the meatloaf. That would remove as much oxygen as possible without misshaping the meatloaf.
However, for us average Joe’s, a simple airtight container or re-sealable bag will do. It won’t extend the shelf life for as long as the vacuum sealing technique would, but it’s better than nothing.
How To Properly Store Meatloaf In The Fridge
To start, wrap the entire meatloaf, or any leftover meatloaf slice, in plastic wrap or saran wrap. Don’t wrap it so tightly that it disfigures, but make sure it’s airtight. You can also wrap the meatloaf in heavy duty aluminum foil. But I found that some of these materials tend to leave a metallic taste on the meat. So I prefer plastic wrap.
Once wrapped in plastic, you can refrigerate it as-is. But again, for extra protection, I place it inside an airtight container.
Keep the wrapped and stored meatloaf in the cooked meat section of your fridge. The best is to keep cooked meats (and other foods) on the top shelf.
This way, no raw juices or food can “fall” onto the already-cooked food.
Can You Freeze Meatloaf?
So, we know now how long you can keep meatloaf in the fridge. But how long can meatloaf be kept frozen? And is freezing meatloaf even recommendable?
The quick answer is yes, you can freeze cooked meatloaf. Meatloaf actually freezes incredibly well for up to 6 months. But, there are some crucial steps to help ensure it keeps its freshness.
First, you will need to wrap the meatloaf in plastic or saran wrap. Then, place it inside heavy duty freezer bags or a plastic container. Remove as much air from the bag as possible.
Once the meatloaf is wrapped up, you can cover it with a layer of foil. The foil is crucial. It helps prevent the meatloaf from excessive freezer burn, which ultimately ruins the flavor and texture of the dish.
Once wrapped up, don’t forget to label the meatloaf. Remember, the longer you freeze it, the less great it will be once you eventually thaw and serve it.
How To Thaw Frozen Meatloaf
The safest and recommended method is to thaw the frozen meatloaf in the refrigerator. Place the wrapped meatloaf on a plate or a tray to catch any drips, and allow it to thaw slowly in the refrigerator. Depending on the slice size, it may take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for the meatloaf to thaw completely.
Cold Water Thawing
If you’re in a hurry, you can use the cold water thawing method. Ensure the meatloaf is tightly wrapped to prevent water from seeping in. Place the meatloaf in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to maintain its cold temperature. Thawing time varies, but roughly it takes about one hour per pound.
Remember, once the meatloaf is thawed, cook it promptly to an internal temp of 160°F (71°C) to ensure it’s safe to consume. Thawed meatloaf should not be refrozen, so plan your portions accordingly.
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