How to Best Store and Freeze Meatloaf for Optimal Flavor

Turkey meatloaf with cranberry ad chili sauce recipe

​The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Meatloaf is a time-honored favorite for family dinners and you can freeze meatloaf so it's ready to go on a busy weeknight. It's the perfect make-ahead dish or you can double the recipe the next time you make meatloaf and save the extra loaf to eat later. The ground beef mixture can be combined, formed into a loaf, and frozen either before or after cooking.

Refrigerating Meatloaf

Although a somewhat humble dish, meatloaf can take some time to prepare. If you have time today to prepare it but don't plan on eating the meatloaf until tomorrow, you can place the uncooked meatloaf in the refrigerator overnight. In fact, some cooks believe this improves the flavor of the finished dish. Just be sure to wrap or cover the loaf tightly before refrigerating.

If you'd rather bake the meatloaf ahead of time, make sure to cool it completely before wrapping and placing it in the fridge. The meatloaf should be baked and eaten within a day or two.

Freezing Meatloaf

For anything longer than two days, you will want to place the meatloaf in the freezer until ready to use. Mix the ingredients and form the loaf, then wrap it very well with plastic wrap and place it in an airtight freezer bag. Raw meatloaf should last up to six months in the freezer.

You do need to consider if the meat was frozen before you made it into the meatloaf. Depending on how it was defrosted, it may not be safe to refreeze. Frozen meat that was thawed in the refrigerator is ok to refreeze, according to the USDA. If the meat was previously frozen and you are not sure of how the meat was handled, you may want to play it safe and bake the meatloaf before freezing it. Just let it cool to room temperature before wrapping in foil, then place in a sealed plastic bag and store in the freezer up to six months.

Baking Frozen Meatloaf

When planning to cook the frozen raw meatloaf, it's best to take it out of the freezer and place it in the fridge the night before to thaw. Then bake as directed by the recipe. If you didn't have the forethought to thaw it, simply use the temperature called for in the recipe but bake the meatloaf 1 1/2 to 2 times longer than directed. Always check for doneness with a meat thermometer—it should read 160 F for beef meatloaf and 165 F for poultry meatloaf. 

If the frozen meatloaf was previously cooked, it can be reheated in the oven or microwave. Remove the wrapping and place it in the oven at 350F for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it reaches the appropriate internal temperature. It should take just a few minutes in the microwave; heat it on the low settings in 2-minute increments until warm. Covering it with a damp paper towel will prevent it from drying out.

Using Leftover Meatloaf

There's no need to worry if you find yourself with too much leftover meatloaf because you'll find plenty of interesting ways to serve this dish. Sandwiches are a perfect use for leftover meatloaf. Sliced meatloaf can be warmed in a skillet or the microwave then used as sandwich meat; it's fantastic when made into a patty melt.

Another option is to crumble pieces of cooked meatloaf for use in ground beef dishes. Add it to chili or a casserole or mix it into a sauce served over pasta or rice.

Small squares of meatloaf make a great cold appetizer—place on mustard-topped cocktail bread and garnish with sliced olives or your choice of condiments. For a warm appetizer, toast cocktail bread and top with horseradish sauce, meatloaf, and grated cheese. Then heat quickly in a hot oven.