Why Is My Meatloaf Still Pink In The Middle? (Explained)

Your dinner is almost ready.  The meatloaf is sitting on the counter resting, just waiting for you to slice it. After finishing up the rest of the meal the time has come.  You have your knife and serving platter ready.  You take that first slice and set it on the platter.  Oh No, Why is my meatloaf still pink in the middle?  Is it done?  Is it safe to eat? You have baked it for the hour stated in the recipe. What to do?  In this article, I am going to explain the answers to these questions.

Why Is My Meatloaf Still Pink In The Middle?

There are many reasons why your meatloaf is still pink in the middle. They are nitrates, added vegetables, inefficient burning of gas flames, or that your meatloaf simply is undercooked.

What Are Nitrates?

Nitrates are natural chemicals that are found in soil, air, and water. Sodium Nitrate is used as a food additive to preserve food to control the growth of bacteria and to enhance flavor and color. 

Nitrates are also found naturally in some vegetables, dairy products, and meat. 

Nitrates are added to beef, dairy products, such as cheese, poultry, and fish to make their appearance and flavor more appealing.

They bind to the proteins in the meat thus preventing them from releasing oxygen molecules as they would normally do during cooking. This makes the proteins remain oxygenized and therefore makes the meat maintain a pink color even when the meatloaf is fully cooked. 

Root Vegetables

Using onions, garlic or any other root vegetable in your meatloaf can cause it to maintain a pink color.  Why? Root vegetables are higher in naturally occurring nitrates. Again, those pesky nitrates.

If you were to continue to cook your meatloaf until it was brown inside you will most likely end up with a dry and overcooked meatloaf. 

Inefficient Burning Of Gas Flames

Inefficient burning of gas fumes in the oven can emit small amounts of carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide then mixes with the myoglobin in the meat which can cause the meat to retain a pink tinge.

Is It Ok to Have A Little Pink In Meatloaf?

The answer is yes! But only if your meatloaf is fully cooked. When the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees it is safe to remove it from the oven. It will continue to cook some while resting on your counter. You really don’t want to go over 165 degrees, if so you will end up with an overcooked and dry meatloaf.

How Do You Know If Meatloaf Is Fully Cooked?

As much as we depend on our eyes, they are not accurate thermometers.  You can not tell just by appearance if your meatloaf is actually done.  The most accurate way to achieve this is to use a meat thermometer.  As long as the internal temperature is 160 degrees, your meatloaf is safe to eat whether it is pink inside or not.  

An internal temperature of 160 degrees is the temperature that any harmful bacteria is destroyed. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you really need to get one.  They are not that expensive and the only way to really tell if your meat is not only safe to eat but at the correct temperature as well.

Don’t have a meat thermometer? There are a few other things that you can do to check for doneness.

A metal fork: Poke the fork into the center of your meatloaf. If the fork goes in without much resistance then your meatloaf is more than likely done. This was the technique my mom and grandma used.

Clear Juices: This technique is really not that accurate but will do in a pinch. Press gently down on your meatloaf with your fingers. If the juices run clear= done.

Firmness Of The Meatloaf: Gently press the sides or top of the meatloaf. If it springs back into its original shape then it is most likely done. If not fully cooked, an indent will remain.

How To Fix Undercooked Meatloaf

Return the meatloaf to the oven. Just sprinkle the meatloaf with a little water. Or better yet use some broth for added flavor. Cover it with aluminum foil and cook until done. Don’t forget to add the water or broth to keep the meatloaf from drying out.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why your meatloaf is still pink in the middle. Nitrates, vegetables such as onions or garlic, inefficient burning of gas flames, or your meatloaf just isn’t done.

It is ok if your meatloaf is still pink in the middle and safe to eat as long as the meatloaf is done. There are many ways to check for doneness but the most accurate is a meat thermometer. 

An internal temperature of 160 degrees and you are good to go even if your meatloaf is pink in the middle.

Many times we take our meatloaf out of the oven before it is actually done. After all who wants an overcooked and dried-out meatloaf? But this is an easy fix.

I hope you found this article helpful.  Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts

And As Always

Have A Wonderful Day!

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