This richly flavored smoked meatloaf is loaded with bold barbeque seasonings and lacquered in a sticky BBQ sauce. This can be made in a smoker or grill.
If being a teenager has taught me anything, it is that you need to smoke to be cool. Well, guess what? That is still true as an adult. So bum a light, go hide behind your house, and fire up that smoker! Your neighbors will wish they were your friend, and your family will forever adore you for taking this comfort food to a whole new level by infusing it with delicious smoke flavor! Come on, everyone's doing it.
- Red Onion - A sweet onion would be a good substitute as well.
- Cooking Oil - Any vegetable oil such as Olive oil will work.
- Ground Beef - Gound beef such as 80/20 is best because it has enough fat to really carry the flavors in this loaf. This recipe is for a beef meatloaf, but you can blend with ground pork as well if you wish.
- Plain Breadcrumbs - Using one cup of breadcrumbs makes this a really tender meatloaf.
- Beef Broth - Beef stock is also a good substitute.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Brown Sugar
- Table Salt
- Yellow Mustard
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Barbecue Sauce - I like using my own BBQ sauce recipe, but your favorite BBQ sauce will work fine.
Equipment for Smoking Meatloaf
You will need a smoker to most easily make your smoked meatloaf. I've tried propane, electric, and charcoal smokers and my current recommendation is the simplicity of an electric smoker. The electronic temperature controls make it just as easy to operate as your stove. I thought my charcoal smoker had the best flavor, but the ease of the electric smoker makes me want to use it more. An electric smoker is also better suited for other applications like making venison sausage.
If your smoker doesn't have one, I recommend getting a good digital thermometer to monitor your meatloaf as it smokes. It is best to have a thermometer that allows you to keep an eye on the temperature without having to open the smoker. I use this digital oven thermometer for smoking and roasting in the oven.
Smoked Meatloaf Notes
My smoked meatloaf is BBQ-inspired. The meat is generously seasoned with traditional barbeque seasonings, like those used in a BBQ rub, and lacquered with a sticky BBQ sauce. BBQ flavors are always great to pair with any smoked food. One taste and it will be easy to see why this is one of my favorite meatloaf recipes.
I specifically recommend using 80/20 beef for making the best meatloaf. It has the perfect fat ratio. Leaner is healthier, but it will also create a drier meatloaf. A fattier blend will save you money, but it will be too greasy. 80/20 is what you want.
How to make it
Begin making this smoked meatloaf recipe by preheating your smoker to 250 degrees. While the smoker is heating up saute your chopped onion on the stovetop in cooking oil until tender.
Crumble your ground meat in a large mixing bowl then set aside. Using a separate small bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix well to combine, then add the dry ingredients to this bowl and combine with the wet ingredients. Finally, add this all to the large bowl with the crumbled meat, adding the sauteed onions as well. You can skip using the second bowl and just combine everything with the meat right away, but I find doing this extra step helps all of the ingredients mix more evenly.
Gently combine the meat mixture together with clean hands and then form into a 2" thick loaf shape on parchment paper or aluminum foil then paint with BBQ sauce on top of the meatloaf. Since we are smoking the meatloaf we do not want to use a loaf pan or it will prevent a lot of the smoke from reaching the meat.
Finally, add your wood chips to the smoker and place the meatloaf on the grates and cook until the internal temperature of the meatloaf reaches 165 degrees.
How Long to Smoke Meatloaf
The smoking time will vary depending on the temperature consistency of your smoker, as well as the thickness of your meatloaf. It takes my meatloaf about 2 ½ hours at 250 degrees to finish cooking when it is around 2" thick. Once again, this is why a good thermometer is important.
Best Wood for Smoking Meatloaf
You can use your favorite smoking wood for making this flavorful meatloaf and it will turn out great. However, I particularly enjoy the sweet and strong flavor of hickory. Mesquite would be an honorable mention.
How to Grill Meatloaf
If you do not have a smoker, you can make smoked meatloaf on a charcoal grill. Light a half chimney of briquets and pour them on one side of the grill and set a few wood chips over them. Place the meatloaf on the other side of the grill and let cook with indirect heat. Rotate the meat every 30 minutes to ensure even cooking.
How to store leftovers
Smoked food will quickly stink up your refrigerator, so you will want to store any leftover smoked meatloaf in an airtight container, or at least wrapped in plastic wrap. Enjoy the leftovers within five days.
I recommend reheating the meatloaf as individual slices. You can either reheat in a skillet set over medium-low heat, or in the microwave. Use this to make incredible leftover meatloaf sandwiches!
More Meatloaf Recipes
Meatloaf is a versatile dish that can be prepared in many different ways. If you are stuck in a meatloaf rut check out these great recipes:
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- ½ Red Onion (diced)
- 2 teaspoons Cooking Oil
- 2 lbs 80/20 Ground Beef
- 1 cup Plain Breadcrumbs
- 1 cup Beef Broth
- 1 Egg (beaten)
- 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Table Salt
- 1 teaspoon Yellow Mustard
- ¾ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ¾ teaspoon Paprika
- ¾ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 cup BBQ Sauce
- Hickory Wood Chips (or your favorite smoking wood)
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees.
- Add cooking oil and diced onion to a skillet set over medium heat. Saute until onions are tender and beginning to brown.
- While onions are cooking gently crumble beef into a large bowl and set aside.
- Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add all dry ingredients and seasonings. Mix in cooked onions when done cooking. Pour mixture in the bowl with crumbled beef. *
- Gently combine meat with seasoning mixture, then place meatloaf mixture on parchment paper and shape into a loaf approximately 2" thick.
- Brush BBQ sauce liberally over the top of the meatloaf.
- Add wood chips and meatloaf to the smoker. Let smoke for 2-3 hours, or until the meatloaf reaches 165 degrees. Paint the meatloaf liberally with BBQ sauce halfway through cooking.
- Remove the meatloaf from the smoker and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut and serve.
This recipe was originally published on December 21, 2018 on FoxValleyFoodie.com.