Honestly, in this day and age, we can all agree that meatloaf has become an integral part of the American culinary tradition and culture. As a matter of fact, the long history of this popular dish can be traced all the way back to Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania in the 1700s.
We can’t say we are entirely surprised by this – meatloaf tastes so good and packs so much nutritional value it was destined to become a common staple at the tables of hard-working American families.
However, we also have to agree that this wholesome love affair often goes off the rails. If we got a dollar every time we have overestimated just how much meatloaf we can put in ourselves, we could probably save enough for a solid European vacation.
But what do we do with these leftovers?
Usually, they find a short way to the garbage bin. Here, we are going to see can you freeze meatloaf and save the leftovers of this delicious thing from such an unceremonious end.
Let’s Talk About Meatloaf
One of the main problems we founded when researching this all-important topic was that meatloaf doesn’t really have one universal list of ingredients we can work with. Some recipes feature elements that are more freezer-friendly – others don’t offer nearly as much staying power.
And then there are the vegan meat loafs (you may be on the fence about this, but give them a try, we are sure you won’t regret it) that are playing in an entirely different league.
So, all the numbers we are going to discuss here will be painted in very, very broad strokes. We will do our best to keep estimations conservative – it’s far better to see your meatloaf alive and kicking even though you have already written it off.
Also, the shelf life of this favorite comfort food can be drastically extended by storing it properly. We will provide you with short instructions about this further down below.
How Long Can Meatloaf Last In The Fridge And The Freezer?
And now that we have moved this short disclaimer off the table let us see just how long can meatloaf leftovers be preserved in your go-to cooling unit.
Let us start with refrigerators. Here, the things are not terrible but not entirely spectacular either. If properly stored, meatloaf can wait for solid 3 to 4 days for the next serving.
Here we have to point out one crucial thing – bacteria that can be founded in some of the meatloaf ingredients tend to grow at a rapid pace at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F. If you don’t put the cooked meatloaf in the refrigerator within two hours after you take it out of the oven, you can say goodbye to 3 to 4 days we mentioned above.
Now freezers… They are an entirely different story. Once again, the shelf life you are eventually going to get will, to no small extent, depend on the way you store the leftovers. If you, however, follow the guidelines we will give you below, you will be able to save your favorite meals for as much as 3 to 4 months.
The freezer temperature should be set between 0 °F and 40 °F.
In this case, as well, the speed in which you are going to store the leftovers in the freezer will impact their shelf life and may even buy you that additional one month. So, do your best to wrap everything up in no more than two hours after the loaf has been baked.
How To Store Meatloaf In The Refrigerator
So, we have finally answered questions like can you freeze meatloaf, and how long this popular comfort food can remain unspoiled in your cooling units. Now, let’s do our best to maximize that shelf life, shall we?
In the previous paragraph, we have mentioned that food bacteria thrive at room temperature. When you put the meatloaf leftovers in the fridge, you will significantly slow down this process. But that doesn’t solve all of your problems.
The other peril you should take into account is an oxidation – a process in which air interacts with food components and changes their quality and nutritional content. As you can probably guess, these changes are never for the better.
Therefore, the only thing you can do to extend your food’s shelf life is to wrap the loaf in the stretchable plastic foil. If you also have aluminum foil lying around somewhere, you can give the loaf an additional layer of protection. But this first layer needs to be as air-tight as possible.
How To Freeze Meatloaf?
That was the fridge. As you can see, relatively simple, but still a couple of things you need to take into account. Fortunately enough, things don’t get any more complicated even when we try to preserve the loaf in the long run.
Even so, there is one crucial thing you should know about these delicious loaves. The real danger here is not freezing as much as thawing. No matter how well you have stored the leftovers in the freezer, thawing will allow bacteria to once again sink their teeth in the ingredients and cut the loaf’s lifespan. Every new defrosting will only make the problem worse.
So, we need to make sure you will be able to ration the leftovers without going through this hell every time you feel hungry. Cut the loaf into thin slices and you will not only effectively root out this issue but make the leftovers easier to store.
From this point on, the steps are pretty much the same – air-tight plastic foil with one additional layer of protection. This time we suggest you use transparent self-seal plastic bags. You want to keep the slices visible for the sake of visual inspection.
Another step we would like to suggest is to let the loaf completely cool off before packing it into bags. Of course, you are not going to simply leave it outside at room temperature but rather put the leftovers in the refrigerator.
How To Defrost And Reheat Meatloaf Leftovers?
There you have it – these were some of the techniques for adequately storing meatloaf leftovers. And now, it’s time to indulge ourselves a bit and find the safest way to put this treat back on your plate.
Unfortunately, the safest way is not only the fastest. In this case, you will need to plan your meal one day in advance. But, our goal is to keep the food tasty and healthy, and if this is the price to pay, we are more than ready to play along.
Once again, your goal is to prevent bacteria from multiplying. So, instead of leaving the loaf at room temperature or sinking it into hot water, we suggest that you allow it to properly defrost and reach a reasonable temperature by leaving it in the freezer overnight.
When you are ready for serving, just take the slices out of the fridge, put them in the oven, and give them a 90-minute treatment at the temperature of 350 °F. Sure, it takes some sweet, sweet time, but you need to make sure that the loaf has reached proper internal temperature.
If you, on the other hand, are going to use the microwave, this whole thing will go along considerably faster. Keep the unit on the low settings and use short two-minute increments until you are sure that the slices are warm enough. Covering leftovers with a damp paper towel will help you to prevent the surface from becoming too dry and crispy.
How To Know If Meatloaf Is Bad?
We are finally at the end. And keeping in mind that we have answered the question, can you freeze meatloaf, it would only be responsible to give you a couple of guidelines that will help you determine if the stored slices have gone bad.
Here, the situation is made a bit complicated by the fact that meatloaf uses a lot of different ingredients and that all of them have been thermally processed. So, there is not that much room to examine the quality of the leftovers without defrosting them, unpacking, and trying to see if they feature any unpleasant odor.
At least in the case of deeply frozen leftovers. The slices that have been stored in the fridge will smell pretty bad when ingredients start degrading. With things as they are, we have to rely on the good old visual inspection, so pray havens that you didn’t wrap the leftover into aluminum foil.
Essentially, the two things you should look for are stains and traces of mold. If you notice any of the two (pay special attention to eggs), feel free to show the leftovers the nearest way to the disposal bin.
So there you have all the essential considerations you will need to know before putting your meatloaf in the freezer. We say it’s worth the effort. Meatloaf has not become one of the most famous American meals for no reason – it simply tastes too good to carelessly throw leftovers away whenever you overestimate your appetite (in our experience, almost always).
Why wouldn’t you simply save them for some other time? Well, now you know how to do that properly.