Ina Garten's Pro Tip To Prevent Turkey Meatloaf From Cracking

Ina Garten shares her love of food and breadth of culinary knowledge from her gorgeous home in the Hamptons. Despite bougie surroundings, Garten is a relatable personality because she makes plenty of simple, comforting recipes with a focus on proper execution. In her cookbook, "The Barefoot Contessa," Garten provides a pro tip for the best execution of a comfort food classic: meatloaf.

Garten's recipe for turkey meatloaf instructs cooks to place a pan of hot water under your dish when you bake it in the oven to prevent it from cracking. Cracking is the result of a dried-out meatloaf, and cracks along the top of meatloaf are a common problem that occurs due to uneven cooking. The top of the meatloaf is exposed to the direct heat of the oven cooking faster than the dense middle, resulting in the dreaded cracked, crumbly top. A pan of hot water will infuse the otherwise dry air of a baking oven with humidity, giving the top of your meatloaf the moisture it needs to remain cohesive while the inside finishes baking. Of course, you can use this strategy for any meatloaf recipe. The same concept applies when you see a cheesecake recipe, like our go-to raspberry cheesecake that calls for placing your pan of raw cheesecake in a water bath.

Turkey vs beef meatloaf

While Garten's hot water trick is a safeguard for beef meatloaf, it's especially useful for turkey meatloaf because it's a much leaner protein. Ground beef has plenty of fat and gelatinous marbling, resulting in a juicier, richer texture and flavor that's more likely to keep meatloaf moist from crust to center. Turkey has much less of both fat and gelatin, so it's much more prone to drying out in the oven. That said, turkey meatloaf is a lighter dish with its own flavorful attributes.

The gaminess of turkey pairs well with a whole new set of flavors, opening up the possibilities for novel meatloaf recipes. For example, our favorite recipe for sweet and savory turkey meatloaf muffins draws inspiration from Thanksgiving day feasts by mixing ground turkey with stuffing ingredients and topping meatloaf with cranberry sauce. For an Italian twist, you can add an herby pesto to the ground turkey mix and top it with sun-dried tomatoes. Garten's recipe for turkey meatloaf is nearly identical to her recipe for easy, classic meatloaf, so you know it'll taste just as good with the tried-and-true ketchup glaze.