Growing up, the thought of meatloaf made me cringe. Maybe it was because my Mother always dried it out or maybe the name meatloaf just sounded weird. But boy do I wish I had this smoked meatloaf then! Make this smoked meatloaf with the added BBQ glaze at your next gathering and change everyone’s mind about how meatloaf should taste.
- 2 pounds ground beef, 85% or 90% lean
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 cups ketchup
- 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the smoker
Preheat smoker to 225°F. Most pellet grills don’t need it, but you can add a pan of water in the corner of the smoker to keep moisture inside.
Mix meatloaf ingredients
In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatloaf. Mix well to combine.
Shape the meatloaf
Form mixture into a meatloaf shape by hand or use a standard size loaf pan to form it easily by layering a piece of parchment paper inside the pan and then pressing the meat into the pan. If using a pan, remove meat by grabbing the parchment paper and lift out. Discard the parchment paper.
Smoke the meatloaf
Place meatloaf on the smoker and cook until an internal temperature of 140°F.
Make the BBQ glaze
Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and spread over the meatloaf. You can do this on the grill with a long brush to avoid getting burned or remove it from the grill, glaze it, and then return it to the grill. Optionally, continue doing so every 15 minutes to build a nice layer of glaze. Continue cooking the meatloaf until it reaches an internal temperature of 155°F using an internal meat thermometer.
Let the smoked meatloaf rest
Transfer the smoked meatloaf to a cutting board, glaze one final time, test loosely with foil, and let rest for 10-20 minutes before serving.
What type of ground beef makes an ideal meatloaf?
Many meatloaf recipes rely on much higher fat content ground beef to try to keep it moist, this pretty much always results in a really greasy, heavy meatloaf. Instead, it’s much better to use leaner ground beef and rely on a proper cooking process and additions like fresh onions, eggs, and milk to add moisture. Less fat content in the ground beef allows the beef flavor to shine and absorb the smokiness while cooking without adding extra grease. 85% lean or even 90% will give a nice balance of fat and beef. Want to have some fun with it? Try making this smoked meatloaf recipe with bison or other wild ground meat.
What type of breadcrumbs should I use in this smoked meatloaf?
While technically any breadcrumbs can work in a meatloaf recipe, panko breadcrumbs are preferred in this smoked meatloaf recipe. Panko breadcrumbs are crunchier and less likely to “melt” into the meat, keeping it sturdy without getting gummy or soggy. Grocery stores typically carry panko breadcrumbs in the Asian foods aisle, although they could be near the regular breadcrumbs. Some brands even make gluten-free panko breadcrumbs if you need to alter this recipe.
If you can’t find panko breadcrumbs, use really crusty and slightly stale bread, such as ciabatta or sourdough bread. Toast slices in a toaster or broiler until very dry and crunchy but not burnt, and use a food processor to break up the bread into small pieces. Don’t process the bread down to a sandy texture, but stick with slightly bigger breadcrumbs that can hold up to mixing into meat and smoking.
How can I keep the meatloaf moist without it becoming too greasy?
Instead of using higher fat ground beef, this recipe uses a leaner blend of ground beef. That means relying on some of the other ingredients to keep the meatloaf moist. Onions will help add a lot of moisture and great texture to the meatloaf, and the milk and eggs will both help bind the meatloaf while maintaining moisture.
The most important method of keeping a meatloaf moist is not to overcook it. Most people have bad memories of meatloaf cooked into a dry brick, so we’re going to avoid that. Using an internal thermometer is crucial for smoking and cooking a meatloaf to perfection. Cooking the meatloaf just until it reaches 155 F, and resting after that will keep it perfectly moist and tender inside, while the glaze coating will seal that inside.
Should I saute the onions or mix them in raw?
This recipe calls for fresh chopped onion, and while they could be sauteed first before adding, that creates an extra step to making this recipe that is simply not necessary. In addition, the fresh raw onion will help add moisture as the meatloaf smokes. The texture is another reason to prefer raw onions, as sauteed onions will soften even more as the meatloaf cooks. Fresh raw chopped onion will add a nice texture and slight crunch to the meatloaf.
Why should I not leave the meatloaf in a loaf pan on the smoker?
This recipe is made for cooking on the smoker, and the goal is obviously to get as much smoke flavor absorbed into the meatloaf as possible. Leaving the meatloaf in a loaf pan will cover up 5 sides of the meatloaf, keeping the smoke flavor out! So after forming the meatloaf, make sure to pop it out of the loaf pan and cook it without the pan in the smoker. This will also allow the barbecue glaze to drip down the sides and coat more of the meatloaf, adding moisture and sealing in the amazing smoky flavor. Not using a loaf pan will also allow the excess fat drippings to run off rather than soak back into the meatloaf, preventing a greasy meatloaf.
If you’re worried about the meatloaf falling apart, you can use a piece of folded heavy-duty aluminum foil or a sheet pan to place the meatloaf on in the smoker. However, if you press the meatloaf together firmly, it should hold together well.