Undercooked Meatloaf: Reasons, Fixes and Prevention

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Meatloaf, a classic comfort food, is a staple on many dinner tables. However, encountering undercooked meatloaf can be a disappointment and a potential health risk.

In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind undercooked meatloaf, effective fixes, and crucial prevention tips to ensure your meatloaf is not just delicious but safe to eat.

Why is my meatloaf not cooking in the middle?

There could be a few reasons why your meatloaf isn’t cooking evenly:

Size and Shape:

If the meatloaf is too thick or large, it might take longer to cook through the center. Try shaping it into a flatter shape or splitting it into smaller loaves to promote even cooking.


Your oven might not be reaching the desired temperature consistently. Use an oven thermometer to check if the temperature is accurate. Also, avoid opening the oven frequently, as it can cause fluctuations in temperature.


The ratio of ingredients, particularly moisture-rich components like vegetables or sauces, can affect how the meatloaf cooks. Excessive moisture might prevent even cooking. Consider adjusting the ingredients or using breadcrumbs to help absorb excess moisture.

Placement in the Oven:

Placing the meatloaf too close to the oven walls or on a lower rack could result in uneven cooking. Aim for the middle rack to allow for even heat distribution.


Covering the meatloaf with foil for part of the cooking time can help retain moisture and promote even cooking. Remove the foil towards the end to allow browning, if desired.

By adjusting these factors and ensuring your meatloaf is of even thickness and properly shaped, you should achieve more consistent cooking throughout.

Can you eat undercooked meatloaf?

Eating undercooked meatloaf can pose health risks because it might contain harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.

Eating undercooked ground meats increases the chance of foodborne illnesses. It’s safer to ensure that meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to kill any bacteria present.

If you’re unsure whether it’s fully cooked, it’s better to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature before consuming.

How to tell if meatloaf is undercooked? 

It is crucial to ensure that meatloaf is fully cooked to a safe internal temperature to avoid any risks of foodborne illnesses. Here are the signs that indicate meatloaf might be undercooked:


The most accurate method is to use a meat thermometer. Insert it into the center of the meatloaf. When the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C), it’s considered safe to eat.


Visually, a properly cooked meatloaf should be browned on the outside. If it looks pale or has a pinkish hue, especially in the center, it might be undercooked.


Undercooked meatloaf might feel too soft or mushy when touched. Properly cooked meatloaf should be firm but still moist.


If you pierce the center of the meatloaf with a fork or knife, juices should run clear. If there are any traces of pink or red juices, it’s likely not fully cooked.

If you notice any of these signs in your meatloaf, it is best to return it to the oven and continue baking until it reaches the appropriate internal temperature. Remember, proper cooking ensures that your meatloaf is safe to consume.

How To Fix Undercooked Meatloaf?

When you find yourself with undercooked meatloaf, there are a few methods you can use to finish cooking it evenly.

Here are three recommended methods:

  1. Continue baking in the oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and return the undercooked meatloaf to the oven. Bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C). To prevent the top from burning, you can cover the meatloaf with aluminum foil.
  2. Finish on the stovetop: Slice the undercooked meatloaf into thick slices. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a small amount of oil. Place the meatloaf slices in the hot skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through.
  3. Use a microwave: This method is quick, but it may affect the texture of the meatloaf. Cut the undercooked meatloaf into smaller pieces and place them in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C).

Testing For Doneness

The only way to ensure that your meatloaf is fully cooked is by checking its internal temperature. Insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the meatloaf, avoiding contact with the pan or bone, if applicable. The meatloaf is considered done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

It’s important to note that meatloaf may still have a pink color even when fully cooked. This is due to the presence of certain ingredients, such as root vegetables, which can cause the meatloaf to maintain a pink hue.

As long as the internal temperature reaches the recommended level, the meatloaf is safe to eat.

How to prevent Meatloaf from being Undercooked

Undercooked meatloaf can not only ruin your meal but also pose health risks. To ensure your meatloaf is cooked to perfection, follow these guidelines for preventing undercooked meatloaf.

Internal Temperature

Cooking meatloaf to the proper internal temperature is crucial in preventing undercooked meat. The USDA recommends cooking ground meat, including meatloaf, to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure it is safe to consume. This temperature kills harmful bacteria that may be present in the meat.

Cooking Time

In addition to reaching the correct internal temperature, cooking the meatloaf for the appropriate length of time is also important.

The cooking time can vary depending on the size and thickness of the meatloaf. It is generally recommended to bake the meatloaf at 350°F (175°C) for about 1 hour.

However, to be certain that it is fully cooked, it is best to use a meat thermometer.

Using A Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer is a valuable tool for ensuring that your meatloaf is cooked thoroughly. Insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meatloaf, making sure it does not touch the pan or any bones.

Check the internal temperature to ensure it reaches 160°F (71°C). If the temperature is lower, continue baking the meatloaf until it reaches the desired temperature.

By following these guidelines, you can prevent the risk of undercooked meatloaf and ensure a safe and delicious meal.

Remember to always use a meat thermometer and cook the meatloaf to the recommended internal temperature.

What should I do if I ate undercooked meatloaf?

If you’ve eaten undercooked meatloaf and are concerned about potential foodborne illness, here are some steps you can take:

Monitor Symptoms:

Keep an eye out for any symptoms of food poisoning, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or any unusual symptoms. These might appear within a few hours to several days after consuming undercooked meat.

Stay Hydrated:

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, especially if you experience vomiting or diarrhea. Water, electrolyte solutions, or clear broths can be helpful.

Seek Medical Advice if Symptoms Occur:

If you start experiencing severe symptoms or if you’re in a high-risk group (e.g., elderly, pregnant, immunocompromised), seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional can provide appropriate guidance and treatment.

Avoid Self-Medication:

Refrain from taking over-the-counter medications unless prescribed by a healthcare professional. These medications might mask symptoms and make it harder to diagnose the underlying issue.

Prevent Cross-Contamination:

Ensure proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly before handling food and properly cleaning utensils and surfaces that came into contact with the undercooked meatloaf, to prevent the spread of any potential bacteria.

While eating undercooked meatloaf does carry a risk of foodborne illness, not everyone who consumes undercooked meat will necessarily get sick.

However, it’s essential to stay vigilant for any signs of illness and take appropriate steps if symptoms arise.

How to Reheat Undercooked Meatloaf?

With these reheating options, you can easily salvage your dish and ensure it’s safe to eat.

Follow these guidelines to bring your undercooked meatloaf back to perfection.

Reheating Options

When reheating undercooked meatloaf, there are a few options you can choose from. Select the method that works best for you:

  1. Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the undercooked meatloaf in a baking dish, cover it with foil to prevent it from drying out, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Check the internal temperature to ensure it reaches a safe level.
  2. Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can use a microwave to reheat your undercooked meatloaf. Place individual slices on a microwave-safe plate, cover them with a microwave-safe lid or microwave-safe wrap, and heat on high for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stovetop: Another quick option is to reheat your undercooked meatloaf on the stovetop. Slice the meatloaf and heat it in a skillet over medium heat until it reaches the desired temperature.

Internal Temperature

It’s crucial to check the internal temperature of your reheated meatloaf to ensure it’s safe to eat. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) for ground meats, including meatloaf.

Use a food thermometer to accurately measure the temperature in the thickest part of the meatloaf.

By reaching the appropriate internal temperature, you can ensure any remnants of undercooked meat are thoroughly cooked, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Serving Suggestions

Once your undercooked meatloaf is safely reheated, it’s time to enjoy it. Here are some serving suggestions to make your meal even more delicious:

  • Classic Side Dishes: Serve your meatloaf with traditional sides like mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a fresh green salad.
  • Sandwiches: Slice your reheated meatloaf and place it between two slices of bread or inside a soft roll for a tasty and hearty sandwich.
  • Pasta Toppings: Crumble your meatloaf over a bed of cooked pasta and top it with marinara sauce and grated cheese for a comforting pasta dish.

Get creative with your favorite flavors and experiment with different condiments and toppings to elevate your reheated meatloaf to a new level!

Health Risks Of Undercooked Meatloaf

Undercooked meatloaf poses health risks as it may contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, leading to food poisoning. Ensure your meatloaf reaches a safe internal temperature of 160°F to prevent these risks.

Undercooked meatloaf can pose various health risks, primarily due to the presence of bacteria and the potential for foodborne illnesses.

It is crucial to cook meatloaf thoroughly to eliminate any harmful pathogens and ensure food safety.

Understanding the health risks associated with undercooked meatloaf can help you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones.

In this section, we will explore the potential foodborne illnesses and bacterial contamination that can arise from consuming undercooked meatloaf.

Foodborne Illnesses

Consuming undercooked meatloaf can increase the risk of developing foodborne illnesses. These illnesses can cause a range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and, in severe cases, even hospitalization or death.

Common foodborne illnesses associated with undercooked meat include:

  • Salmonellosis: This bacterial infection is caused by Salmonella and can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • E. coli infection: E. coli bacteria can contaminate undercooked meatloaf, leading to severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea.
  • Campylobacteriosis: Campylobacter bacteria present in undercooked meatloaf can cause abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea.

Bacterial Contamination

Undercooked meatloaf can harbor different types of bacteria, including those mentioned above.

Bacterial contamination usually occurs when meat has not been cooked to the recommended internal temperature, allowing bacteria to survive and multiply.

These bacteria can cause serious health issues when consumed. It is important to cook meatloaf to the proper temperature to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

The USDA recommends cooking ground meat, including meatloaf, to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure safety and minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.

Food Safety Tips

Undercooked meatloaf can pose health risks, so it’s crucial to follow proper food handling procedures to ensure that your meatloaf is cooked thoroughly and safe to consume.

In this section, we will discuss essential food safety tips that will help you avoid undercooked meatloaf and keep your family safe.

Safe Food Handling

Safe food handling is the foundation of preventing undercooked meatloaf. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your meatloaf is cooked to the recommended internal temperature:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meatloaf.
  • Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked meatloaf to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Do not leave meatloaf at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Thaw frozen meatloaf in the refrigerator or using the defrost function on your microwave, never at room temperature.
  • Dispose of any leftover marinade or sauce that has come into contact with raw meatloaf.

Avoiding Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination can occur when bacteria from raw meatloaf spreads to other foods, utensils, or surfaces.

To avoid cross-contamination and prevent undercooked meatloaf, take the following precautions:

  • Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meatloaf and other ingredients.
  • Clean and sanitize any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with raw meatloaf.
  • Store raw meatloaf in leak-proof containers to prevent any juices from contaminating other foods in the refrigerator.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw meatloaf.

Proper Storage Of Meatloaf

Proper storage of meatloaf is essential to maintain its freshness and prevent the growth of bacteria.

Follow these storage recommendations to avoid undercooked meatloaf:

  • Refrigerate raw meatloaf promptly to keep it at a safe temperature.
  • Store leftover cooked meatloaf in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • If you have leftover meatloaf that you won’t be consuming within a few days, consider freezing it for later use.
  • When reheating refrigerated or frozen meatloaf, ensure that it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill any potential bacteria.

By following these food safety tips, you can enjoy delicious and well-cooked meatloaf while protecting yourself and your loved ones from the risks of undercooked meat.

Remember to prioritize safe food handling, avoid cross-contamination, and store meatloaf properly to ensure a healthy and enjoyable dining experience.

How long after eating undercooked meatloaf are you ill?

The onset of illness after consuming undercooked meatloaf or any undercooked food can vary widely.

It largely depends on the type of bacteria or pathogens present in the food and individual factors such as the person’s immune system, the amount of contaminated food consumed, and the specific bacteria’s incubation period.

In general, symptoms of foodborne illness can appear within a few hours to several days after consuming undercooked meatloaf.

However, for some bacterial infections like E. coli or Salmonella, symptoms might manifest within a few hours to a couple of days after ingestion, while others, like Listeria, could take longer—up to several weeks in some cases—to cause symptoms.

It’s important to stay vigilant and be aware of any signs of illness after consuming undercooked meat. If you experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, or any unusual symptoms within a reasonable timeframe after eating undercooked meatloaf, it’s wise to seek medical advice promptly.

Common Mistakes When Cooking Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a classic comfort food that brings joy to many dinner tables. However, there are some common mistakes that can ruin this delicious dish.

By avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure that your meatloaf turns out perfectly cooked and flavorful every time.

Not Using A Meat Thermometer

One of the most common mistakes when cooking meatloaf is not using a meat thermometer. This simple tool is essential for determining the internal temperature of the meat, ensuring it is cooked to perfection.

Why is a meat thermometer important?

A meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking meatloaf. It allows you to accurately measure the internal temperature, ensuring that it reaches the safe minimum temperature required to kill any harmful bacteria.

By inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meatloaf, you can easily check if it has reached an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) for beef and pork, or 165°F (74°C) for poultry.

Inaccurate Cooking Time

Another common mistake when cooking meatloaf is relying solely on cooking time recommendations without considering other factors, such as oven temperature and the thickness of the meat.

Why is accurate cooking time important?

Cooking time can vary depending on the size and shape of your meatloaf, as well as the temperature of your oven.

It is crucial to follow a recipe’s recommended cooking time as a guideline, but it is equally important to monitor the meatloaf’s internal temperature to ensure it is fully cooked.

An undercooked meatloaf can be unsafe to eat and may lead to foodborne illnesses. On the other hand, overcooking can result in a dry and tough meatloaf.

The best way to determine the doneness of your meatloaf is by using a meat thermometer, as mentioned earlier.

Insufficient Resting Time

Many people make the mistake of cutting into their meatloaf immediately after taking it out of the oven. However, allowing it to rest for a few minutes before slicing is important for the overall texture and juiciness of the meat.

Why is resting time important?

Resting time allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meatloaf, making it moist and flavorful. When meat is cooked, the juices move towards the center.

By letting the meatloaf rest, the juices have a chance to evenly distribute, resulting in a more succulent and tender final product.

It is recommended to let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. This short waiting period can significantly enhance the eating experience and ensure that your meatloaf is at its best.

In conclusion, avoiding common mistakes when cooking meatloaf is crucial for achieving a delicious and safe dish.

By using a meat thermometer, checking the internal temperature, cooking for the appropriate time, and allowing sufficient resting time, you can create a flavorful and perfectly cooked meatloaf that will impress your family and friends.


Enjoying a delicious meatloaf is not just about taste but also ensuring it’s thoroughly cooked. By understanding the reasons behind undercooked meatloaf, implementing effective fixes, and following preventive measures, you can savor a perfectly cooked meatloaf every time, free from worries about undercooked portions and associated health risks.

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