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Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

smoked meatloaf ready to serve

If you’ve ever had a dry meatloaf, I’m going to give you the secret to solving that age-old problem in this blog.

Meatloaf isn’t often something associated with outdoor cooking. This classic comfort food has had entire cookbooks written about it, but nearly all of those are designed for a meatloaf pan and an oven.

closeup of finished meatloaf

While I grew up loving a good oven-baked meatloaf, some real flavor opportunities are being missed by not smoking this oldie but goodie on the grill. Because the ground meat is so porous, it takes smoke really well, and keeping it out of a pan prevents it from being too greasy.

Unlike an ordinary meatloaf, this smoked meatloaf isn’t just a great weeknight meal, it’s special enough to serve at a dinner party. I know. I know—the idea of serving meatloaf at a fancy dinner party seems a bit off, but trust me on this one. This meatloaf is an absolute show stopper.

square meatloaf is special and  perfect for dinner parties

What Type of Meat is Meatloaf?

Generally speaking, meatloaf is made of ground beef. That’s the most common anyway, but there are tons of variations. In this smoked meatloaf recipe, I use a combination of ground beef and ground pork.

That said, I’ve used other ground meats as well. Ground venison, for example, is excellent for meatloaf. But consider using ground veal, lamb, and even chicken or turkey. The sky’s the limit for meatloaf.

ground beef with vegetables formed into a loaf for smoking

What To Do With Leftover Meatloaf?

Most people would agree it doesn’t get much better than a meatloaf sandwich. I’ll give you a little tip though that will take your meatloaf sandwich to the next level. 

Try placing a nice thick slice of meatloaf directly on your grill over high heat. Grill both sides for 2-3 minutes and glaze with your favorite sauce.

Then, slap it on top of a nice slice of thick bread and top with some homemade garlic mashed potatoes and some French fried onions. The crunch and texture is absolute perfection on this open-faced sandwich.

potatoes, bread, and a grilled slice of meat make great leftovers

How To Make Meatloaf Moist

By far, this is the most often asked question I get about meatloaf. For good reason, we’ve all had our share of less than stellar meatloaf that requires a half gallon of water to choke it down.

The secret to moist meatloaf is not using bread crumbs as a binder. Instead, use day-old bread torn into small pieces and soaked in buttermilk. I promise, this is the secret for a super moist smoked meatloaf. 

Torn Italian bread and buttermilk are the secret for moist meatloaf

Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

Serves: 6-8 | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 2½ hours 

Ingredients
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 lb ground Italian sausage or ground pork
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 medium jalapeño seeded and veined, finely chopped (optional)
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1 package dried onion soup mix
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 thick slices of Italian bread, torn into 1″ squares
¾ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1½ cup barbecue sauce, divided equally

meatloaf spread with barbecue sauce and cooling

How To Make Smoked Meatloaf 

Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat and sauté the onions, celery, peppers, and optional jalapeños. You just want the onion to get translucent and soften the peppers somewhat. Remove them from the heat and let them cool.

Onions, peppers, jalapeños, peppers and celery sauteing

Step 2: Place bread chunks in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add buttermilk. Set aside, allowing the bread chunks to soak until the milk has absorbed.

soaking torn bread in buttermilk

Step 3: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, 3/4 cup of BBQ Sauce, cooled onion, celery and pepper mixture, Worcestershire sauce, soaked bread chunks, eggs, and soup mix. Mix ingredients together, then place in the refrigerator for one hour.

ground beef mixed with vegetables in a boal

TIP: The hour in the refrigerator allows the mix to firm up a bit and makes it easier to form into a loaf. 

Step 4: Light your grill or smoker and set up for two-zone cooking, maintaining the temperature at 235°F. Place a wood chunk on the hot coals to establish steady clean smoke. 

TIP: When smoking meatloaf I like to use hickory, oak, or mesquite wood chunks.

Step 5: Remove the mixture from the refrigerator, divide in half equally, and place both halves on a sheet of parchment paper or tinfoil. Shape into loaves and transfer them to a wire rack for smoking. I usually shoot for loaves about 2” thick in a 4”x 6” shape. 

Meatloaf with a leave-in thermometer, cooking on the grill

Step 6: Place the wire rack with loaves on the smoker and insert a reliable leave-in thermometer in one of the loaves.Close the lid and allow the loaves to cook until an internal temperature of 150°F.

Note: As I’ve stressed in other recipes, a reliable leave-in thermometer may be the single most useful tool in your toolbox. Cooking to time as opposed to cooking to a specific internal temperature is a recipe for disaster.

Step 7: When the internal temperature reaches 150°F, glaze the top of the meatloaf with remaining BBQ sauce and crank the heat up in the cooker to 350 degrees. Cooking at a higher temperature the last 10-15 degrees of cooking allows the sauce to set up and get slightly tacky. 

glazing with barbecue sauce using a pastry brush

Step 8: When the internal temperature of 160 to 165°F is reached, it’s time to pull the loaves off the cooker and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Then slice and serve with garlic mashed potatoes or mac n cheese.

bbq sauce on meatloaf

Also try these other amazing comfort foods:
Beef Stew
Salisbury Steak
The Absolute Best Grilled Cheese

smoked meatloaf ready to serve

Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

5 from 20 votes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef 80/20
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage or ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium jalapeño seeded and veined finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion chopped
  • 1 package dried onion soup mix
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 thick slices of Italian bread torn into 1″ squares
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • cup barbecue sauce, divided equally

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat and sauté the onions, celery, peppers, and optional jalapeños. You just want the onion to get translucent and soften the peppers somewhat. Remove them from the heat and let them cool.
  • Place bread chunks in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add buttermilk. Set aside, allowing the bread chunks to soak until the milk has absorbed.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, 3/4 cup of BBQ Sauce, cooled onion, celery and pepper mixture, Worcestershire sauce, soaked bread chunks, eggs, and soup mix. Mix ingredients together, then place in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • Light your grill or smoker and set up for two-zone cooking, maintaining the temperature at 235°F. Place a wood chunk on the hot coals to establish steady clean smoke. 
  • Remove the mixture from the refrigerator, divide in half equally, and place both halves on a sheet of parchment paper or tinfoil. Shape into loaves and transfer them to a wire rack for smoking. I usually shoot for loaves about 2” thick in a 4”x 6” shape. 
  • Place the wire rack with loaves on the smoker and insert a reliable leave-in thermometer in one of the loaves.Close the lid and allow the loaves to cook until an internal temperature of 150°F.
  • When the internal temperature reaches 150°F, glaze the top of the meatloaf with remaining BBQ sauce and crank the heat up in the cooker to 350 degrees. Cooking at a higher temperature the last 10-15 degrees of cooking allows the sauce to set up and get slightly tacky. 
  • When the internal temperature of 160 to 165°F is reached, it’s time to pull the loaves off the cooker and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Then slice and serve with garlic mashed potatoes or mac n cheese.

Notes

If you’ve ever had a dry meatloaf, I’m going to give you the secret to solving that age-old problem in this blog.
Meatloaf isn’t often something associated with outdoor cooking. This classic comfort food has had entire cookbooks written about it, but nearly all of those are designed for a meatloaf pan and an oven.

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