Ina Garten's Trick For Ultra-Moist Meatloaf

Something about meatloaf seems uniquely American, and one of the reasons why may be because of its role in U.S. culinary history. The cafeteria classic grew in popularity during the Great Depression because it was a way to stretch a small amount of meat into a filling meal for the family, notes Bon Appétit. During World War II, the meal was dubbed "Vitality Loaf" by food writer Penny Prudence and contained beef, pork, and liver. A decade later, even Betty Crocker had a recipe for it, and meatloaf has remained a stalwart of American cuisine ever since.

There are several variations on this classic dinner dish, but one thing they all have in common is the unfortunate possibility of coming out dry. There are numerous tricks to keep your meatloaf moist, including adding a higher fat content, mixing in eggs and sauces, and finishing it with toppings. Ina Garten, though, has a meatloaf-moistening hack that doesn't affect your ingredients list at all.

Put a pan of water on the lower oven rack

According to Ina Garten, the easiest way to keep your meatloaf moist is to, well, add extra moisture — not to the loaf mixture itself, but to the oven. Garten's ingredients stick to the classics: She still uses breadcrumbs as a binder in her recipe, as well as eggs. But after putting her meatloaf into the oven, the Barefoot Contessa fills a separate pan with hot tap water and places it on the rack below the meatloaf. This way, as the meatloaf cooks, the water in the pan evaporates into steam and moistens the loaf during its hour-long cooking process. Underneath her video of the recipe, multiple fans who have tried the method confirmed that it results in the "best meatloaf EVER," with a "moist and tasty" finish.

Garten isn't alone in her water technique. The Birch Cottage notes that adding a pan of water underneath your meatloaf gives it a "melt-in-your-mouth" quality that is lacking in many versions of the dish. Best of all, this simple trick can be done with any meatloaf recipe, whether your favorite has old-school liver or is topped with bacon. All you have to do is turn on the tap and voilà!