Can You Put Raw Bacon in Meatloaf? Tips for Adding Bacon Flavor

Meatloaf is a comforting family favorite, and bacon makes everything better, right? Many meatloaf recipes call for laying raw bacon strips over the loaf before baking. But can you chop up raw bacon and mix it right into the ground beef for even more bacon flavor in every bite? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of cooking bacon in your meatloaf.

Why Add Bacon to Meatloaf?

There are several good reasons to add bacon when making meatloaf:

  • Flavor – Bacon adds a smoky, salty, umami flavor that enhances the beef.

  • Fat – The fat from bacon helps keep the meatloaf moist and tender

  • Texture – Crispy bacon bits add nice texture contrast to the soft beef and binders

  • Appearance – Strips of bacon on top make for an attractive presentation.

So bacon can boost the taste, texture and appearance of your meatloaf recipe. But what’s the best way to include it?

Raw Bacon Mixed In

Many cooks like to chop or crumble raw bacon into their meatloaf mix. This disperses bacon flavor throughout and you get little bursts of smokiness in each bite.

To add raw bacon to meatloaf:

  • Cook the bacon just until some fat renders but not crisp.

  • Drain then crumble or pulse in a food processor.

  • Mix the raw bacon crumbles into the ground beef and other ingredients.

  • Proceed with forming the loaf and baking as usual.


  • Maximum bacon flavor infused into the meat.

  • Textured bacon bits distributed evenly.

  • Simple to mix into the beef and binders.


  • Raw bacon releases more fat, which can make meatloaf greasy.

  • Cooked bacon crumbles don’t get as crispy compared to whole strips.

  • Can get a mealy, soggy texture if overmixed into beef.

Layering Raw Bacon on Top

Another common way to include bacon is by layering raw strips on top of the meatloaf right before baking.

To layer raw bacon on uncooked meatloaf:

  • Form the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan or free-form shape.

  • Lay bacon strips widthwise across top of meatloaf.

  • Tuck the bacon ends under the loaf if needed.

  • Bake as directed until bacon is browned and sizzling.


  • Achieves crispy, candied bacon with rich browned bits.

  • Allows excess bacon grease to drip away during cooking.

  • Gives an attractive striped appearance.


  • Bacon flavor concentrated only on the top layer.

  • Bottom of loaf not enriched by bacon fat.

  • Can overbrown if not monitored while baking.

Cooking the Bacon Separately

For the best of both worlds, many bakers pre-cook the bacon before adding to meatloaf. This allows you to get crispy bacon bits infused throughout the meatloaf.

To separately cook bacon for meatloaf:

  • Bake or fry bacon until fully crisp.

  • Drain on paper towels then crumble when cooled.

  • Mix crumbled cooked bacon into the ground beef.

  • Form loaf then top with raw bacon strips if desired.


  • Infuses entire loaf with crispy bacon flavor.

  • Avoids excess bacon grease in meat.

  • Allows custom crumble size based on food processor pulses.


  • Requires dirtying extra pans to cook bacon separately.

  • Cooked bacon won’t render much added fat into meat.

  • Can get chewy reheated if crumbled too finely.

Tips for Adding Bacon to Meatloaf

No matter which method you use, here are some tips to get the best results when adding bacon to meatloaf:

  • Use a bacon that provides lots of smoky flavor, like applewood smoked.

  • Cook bacon just until pliable but not crisp before crumbling.

  • For meatloaf topped with bacon strips, brush strips with maple syrup or brown sugar for candied crispness.

  • Mix crumbled bacon in gently to avoid compacting meat too much.

  • Let meatloaf rest at least 5 minutes before slicing for juicier results.

  • For reheating, microwave meatloaf slices topped with a damp paper towel.

Best Meatloaf Recipe with Bacon

This classic bacon meatloaf recipe uses the separately cooked bacon method to give you both crispy bacon flavor through the meat, plus lovely baked strips on top.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1⁄4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 slices raw bacon for top


  1. Cook 4 slices bacon until crispy; drain, cool and crumble.

  2. Mix crumbled bacon into ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

  3. Form into loaf in baking pan; spread remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup on top.

  4. Layer raw bacon slices widthwise across top of meatloaf.

  5. Bake at 375°F for 50-60 minutes until cooked through.

  6. Let sit 5 minutes before slicing to serve.

And that’s how you can get the best of both worlds by adding bacon both mixed into the meatloaf and layered on top! Adjust cooking methods based on your preferences, but bacon will always boost a meatloaf.

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf: moist and juicy on the inside, and crunchy on the outside!


How cooked does bacon need to be?

Even if your bacon matches the perfect Munsell color code remember that it needs to be at the proper temperature, 145 degrees for pork with a resting time of 3 minutes (yes a long time to wait for bacon, but well worth it), to be considered safe for consumption.

Why don t you want to cook the meatloaf in the loaf pan?

So, yes, we want our meatloaf moist, but we don’t want it grease-laden and soggy. If we take a pile of ground beef and pack it into a loaf pan, the fat that renders out has nowhere to go, and so the loaf swims in its own juices…but not in a good way.

What makes meatloaf not fall apart?

To help your meatloaf stay together add things such as eggs, bread, crushed croutons, oatmeal, crackers, and breadcrumbs, these are all key ingredients that help meat stick together. I hope that this helps to answer your question. What are the secrets to a firm, sliceable meatloaf that slices and won’t fall apart?

What makes meatloaf soggy?

Not Cooking the Meatloaf Long Enough Undercooking the meatloaf can also contribute to excess moisture. Make sure to cook the meatloaf thoroughly to evaporate any excess liquid. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature reaches at least 160°F.

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