Meatloaf is one of those dishes with a love-it or hate-it reputation. Many of us grew up with cafeteria meatloaf, aka a dry hunk of flavorless meat slapped on a plate with a sweet ketchup glaze. It was usually overcooked and had a weird texture, but worst of all, it was just plain and uninteresting. If this is your experience with meatloaf, we're going to ask you to give it one more try. This smoked meatloaf recipe is tender and juicy, with a sweet and tangy glaze that adds so much flavor to the meatloaf. To top it off, we use the smoker instead of the oven, adding a whole new dimension of flavor to an otherwise boring dish.
If you have a pellet grill like a Traeger, or a propane or electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, this becomes a set-it-and-forget-it recipe. Turn on the smoker, add your meatloaf, and chill until the meatloaf reaches the proper temperature. You can also make it on a gas or charcoal grill turning your grill into a smoker. Set the grill for indirect heat and fill a disposable aluminum pan with water, placing it on the coals or burner. Create a wood packet by wrapping soaked wood chips in aluminum foil, poke a few holes in the packet to let the smoke escape, and place it next to the water pan.
What is the Secret to Moist Meatloaf?
If you want to make the perfect meatloaf, you'll need to keep the loaf from drying out as it cooks. The secret to moist meatloaf starts by choosing the right combination of meat. This isn't the recipe to use lean beef, which doesn't have enough fat to stay moist as it cooks, so we use 80/20 beef. Then, we add some pork to the mix for flavor and additional fat content. You can use ground pork, but we prefer hot sausage here because it means we don't have to add as many seasonings to the meatloaf.
Next, it's important to add plenty of wet ingredients to add moisture to the meatloaf and keep the meat juicy as it cooks. We use eggs and milk here, and we also add a little onion. Grating the onion ensures that it will disappear into the meat as it cooks. Even your pickiest eater won't know there are onions in the finished dish!
Our final secret is the rolled oats. Most meatloaf recipes use bread or breadcrumbs, but using oats creates several benefits. For starters, it makes this smoked meatloaf recipe gluten-free (if you buy gluten-free oats). We've also found that oats don't absorb as much fat as breadcrumbs, allowing all that juicy goodness to stay afloat in the middle of the meatloaf.
What Temperature Should I Smoke Meatloaf?
A traditional two-pound meatloaf is cooked in a 350°F oven for about an hour. Since we're using the smoker, we want to reduce the temperature so the meatloaf has as much exposure to the smoke as possible. You can cook meatloaf as low as 200°F, but we've found that 225°F is the sweet spot. It cooks the meatloaf in about two hours, which is plenty of time to absorb extra flavor from the smoke (we even ended up with a small smoke ring on our test batch).
The USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F. The best way to know--not guess--when your meatloaf is finished is to use a thermometer, either a probe thermometer that stays in the entire cook time or an instant read meat thermometer. You can tell if meatloaf is done without a thermometer by cutting into it to view the color and texture of the meat, but that also releases all the juices. Alternatively, you can press the sides of the meatloaf to see if it springs back (raw meat will stay indented), but you can't be certain of the internal temperature without a thermometer.
How to Serve Smoked Meatloaf
Serve smoked meatloaf the same way you would any other meatloaf: sliced thick with a side of mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. It also pairs well with your favorite bbq side dishes, salad for a healthy spin, or macaroni and cheese for a less-than-healthy but decadently delicious option.
This meatloaf recipe serves about six to eight people, so you may end up with leftovers. That's not a bad thing! Leftover meatloaf makes the best sandwiches, but it can also be turned into sauce for spaghetti, mixed with beans to make chili, or chopped up to become tacos. That said, if you really don't want leftovers, you can cut the recipe in half. We don't use a loaf pan to cook our smoked meatloaf, so you can make it any size you like.
Smoked Meatloaf Recipe
- 1-1/2 pounds ground beef 80/20
- 1/2 pounds hot sausage
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 onion grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat a smoker to 225°F.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, rolled oats, milk, egg, grated onion, ground cumin, and smoked paprika. Using your hands, massage the wet ingredients into the ground meat and mix until well incorporated.
- Pack the meatloaf tightly and form into a loaf on a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Prepare the glaze by combining the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl.
- Smoke the meatloaf for 1 hour. Add the glaze and continue cooking for 1 to 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.