Meat loaf is the ultimate comfort food. I like it served with a sweet and tangy sauce alongside a helping of creamy mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese and some simple green beans. This meal warms your belly and your soul. Until recently I had not thought of smoking a meatloaf, but why not? The thought of that smoky flavor infused into the meat just makes good culinary sense.
I have experimented with different cuts of ground protein for meatloaf. In my many years of experimentation I have managed to make some moist, tasty loaves, a few dry as desert ones, and some fairly greasy messes. The dry loaves have been from using lean ground turkey with not enough added fat. The loaves that have ended up in a pool of grease are from adding too much fat, such as a lot of bacon, and cooking the loaf in a bread pan with nowhere for the fat to go.
The genius of cooking meatloaf in an Electric Masterbuilt Smoker is that there is no need for a pan. Any excess fat can drip off. At the same time, the low and slow cooking method, with a bowl of steaming liquid below, allows for even cooking and results in a moist loaf. You just need the right ingredients and a little attention to the smoker during the process.
The recipe developed here is a throwback to my childhood when my mom would make beef meatloaf with ketchup based tangy glaze baked on top. She also made extra glaze that could be served in a gravy boat on the side. That was fancy for humble meatloaf. My father would insist that we leave 2 slices and a little glaze for him to make a meatloaf on deli style rye sandwich the next day to take to work. I suggest you double this recipe if you want plenty of leftovers. Meatloaf freezes well.
- 2 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)*
- 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups minced onion, about 2 medium yellow onions
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper minced (optional)
- 1-1/2 tsps Italian seasoning (dried)
- 2 tsps sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBS tomato paste
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken broth or whole milk
- 1/2 cup Panko or plain bread crumbs
* I have made this recipe with 1-1/2 pounds of beef + 1/2 pound of ground pork to impart more fat and flavor. Feel free to mix up your ground meats, such as beef, lamb, pork, veal, or offal.
Glaze (double for extra sauce):
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 TBS yellow mustard
- 2 TBS brown sugar
A side note about this glaze: Mom never measured anything. When she made the glaze she tasted it and tweaked it for the right balance of acid and sweetness. Taste your glaze and decide if you want to add more mustard or more sugar for the specific likes of your family or guests. The key is that the main ingredient is a good quality, basic ketchup.
Total time:3 hour 20 min – Prep time:20 min – Smoke time:3 hour – Serves:4 people
1. In a large bowl, place the ground meat and allow it to rest so it comes to room temperature. Place your eggs in a separate bowl and beat them lightly. Allow the eggs to also come to room temperature.
2. Prepare your smoker by filling the tray with wood chips of your choice. Fill the water bowl 1/2 way with plain water. Preheat the smoker to between 225°F and 250°F with the top vent cracked open.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, bell pepper, herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook this mixture for approximately 6 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions just start to wilt.
4. Turn off the heat and allow the onion mixture to cool for a few minutes. Then, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and broth or milk. Reserve a little broth or milk for mixing in later if needed.
5. Add the onion mixture, eggs, and bread crumbs to the ground meat. Gently combine all of this using your hands. Try not to make it too mushy. It can be rustic so it isn’t dense after smoking. If it feels too dry add some more broth or milk.
6. Shape the meat into a large rectangular loaf or 2 smaller loaves. Place it inside your preheated smoker directly on the rack. If you are smoking sides to go with your loaf, place the meat on the lower rack to avoid any raw juices dripping into your sides.
7. Make the glaze by whisking all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
8. Check the wood chips and water every 60 minutes, or when you don’t see enough smoke coming through the vent. Replenish as needed.
9. After 2 hours, brush enough glaze all over the meatloaf and return it to the smoker for approximately 1 more hour. The loaf is ready when the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
Serve with some sides and a bit of warmed up glaze.
While the smoker is already going, consider smoking your side dishes. A starch and a vegetable are perfect pairings. Remember to place the sides on the racks above the meatloaf. Here are 2 sides that I recommend.
Smoked Fresh Green Beans
- 1-1/2 pounds of fresh green beans, woody stem ends trimmed off
- Your favorite Italian salad dressing to coat
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Total time: 2 hour – Prep time: 1 hour – Smoke time: 1 hour
1. Wash and trim the beans. Soak them in a clean sink or bowl filled with cool water for 1 to 2 hours.
2. Drain and pat dry the beans with paper towels.
3. Make a rectangular aluminum foil pan or use a pre-bought disposable foil pan with shallow sides. Place the beans in the pan in a single layer and lightly coat with the dressing.
4. Place the pan of beans on the upper shelf of the smoker and cook for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. They can go in the smoker after you have glazed the meatloaf.
5. Remove from the heat and squeeze lemon juice over the beans. Close the foil around the hot beans, or cover the pan with foil. Allow them to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese
I do love mashed potatoes with meatloaf. That is a solid and easy side. If you want to elevate your starchy side dish, try this smoked macaroni and cheese recipe that incorporates 2 boldly flavored cheeses that are creamy when they melt.
Smoking meatloaf elevates it to a new level. You may have to experiment with the proportions of meat, fat, liquid, bread crumbs, and timing. Not every smoker produces the same results. Likewise, not every oven produces the same meatloaf results. As humble as meatloaf sounds, it is a slightly tricky dish to get just right. I think that is what I like about this entrée that so many home cooks and roadside diners labor over. It always smells so good when it comes out of the smoker or oven.