This newsletter found me working on a stuffed smoked meatloaf recipe that I've had rolling around in my head for a few months. I usually make large loafs for smoking and then slice them for serving but I've been thinking about making individual meat loafs that are much smaller and would be served one per person.
This recipe changed a few times as I worked on it but I think it has the beginnings of something that I will repeat many times. The end result is a mini meatloaf, stuffed with a “cream cheese stuffed jalapeño”, topped with my very own barbecue sauce and bacon crumbles served with hefty portions of colorful peppers and onions cooked on the grill seasoned with my rub. All I can say is I think you're really gonna like this one!
What You'll Need
- A muffin pan (square cutouts instead of round work best)
- 8 or more jalapeños (cleaned and seeded)
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 2 lbs 80/20 ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Jeff's Barbecue Sauce (purchase recipes here)
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 2 Tablespoons of Jeff's Rub (purchase recipes here)
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Prepare the Stuffed Peppers
Start by cutting off the stem end of the pepper, cut them in half lengthwise then remove seeds and veins. There are tools for making this process faster but I just use a really sharp knife and it goes pretty fast.
Tip: if the peppers are really hot ones (take a little bite to see if they are really hot or if they just have a nice zing to them), soak them in sprite for a couple of hours or even all night to remove most of the hotness from them.
Blanch the Peppers
This process comes out of necessity since the jalapeños do not soften as much as they should while inside the meatloaf. By blanching them it pre-softens them and they end up nice and soft when the meatloaf is done.
I failed to do this on my first go around and the peppers, while tasty, were still quite crunchy even after cooking in the meatloaf for more than 3 hours.
To blanch the peppers, just bring a pot of water to boiling then remove it from the heat. Place the cleaned and seeded jalapeños in the super heated water covered with a lid for about 10 minutes or so.
While the peppers are blanching, mix the cream cheese with the grated cheddar and set aside.
After blanching, stuff the inside of the pepper halves with the cream cheese mixture.
Lay a stuffed jalapeño into the bottom of each of the muffin pan holes and set aside while you mix up the meatloaf.
You can find this mini loaf pan on Amazon or at Walmart.
Tip: You will most likely have cream cheese mixture left over so I recommend that you buy extra jalapeños. The extras do not need to be blanched. Just cut them off at the stem, cut them in half lengthwise, clean them, seed them and stuff them with the cream cheese. You can then wrap them with half pieces of bacon. Smoke them for 3 hours for a killer appetizer.
Making the Meatloaf
Place the ground beef, onions, buttermilk, egg, barbecue sauce, and rub (purchase recipes here)into a large bowl and mix just enough to combine the ingredients.
Note: This custom recipe does not use bread crumbs or other fillers but you can feel free to use about a 1/4 cup of quick oats or fresh bread crumbs if you like to make the meat go just a little further and/or to add some bulk.
Once mixed, fill each muffin hole with meatloaf mixture right over the top of the stuffed pepper. Just fill level with the top.
At this point I like to place the pan of meatloaf in the fridge to help the meatloaf to firm up a little.. about 30 minutes ought to do it.
I used my Bradley racks to place the meatloaf on. This works great but you can also place them on a cookie sheet or whatever you can find. The more accessible they are to smoke, the better they will taste.
I turned the muffin pan upside down and whacked it down hard on the bradley rack, most of the mini meat loafs fell out at this point. Another whack or two got the rest of them. You can see the pepper now slightly buried in the meat and looking so pretty!
Smoking the Meatloaf
Unlike a lot of meats that we smoke, meatloaf can be smoked a little hotter if you so desire however, I will tell you that smoking them slow allows more time with the smoke and seems to keep them from drying out as bad. I kept mine at about 240 degrees F for the entire time and it took right at 3 hours. I highly recommend placing a pan underneath the meatloaf or just let the juices fall into the water pan.
If you have a water pan, use it.. it doesn't necessarily moisten the meat but the steam makes the air's ability to dry out the meat a lot less effective. plus the super heated steam helps to maintain a more regulated temperature inside the smoke chamber.
Open the door to the smoker only when necessary and this is so much more important when the outdoor temperatures are on the low side and especially if there is a wind. I have heard that opening the door increases your cook time by 15 minutes.. I have not tested this but I don' t doubt it a bit.
Use a good robust wood like mesquite, hickory or pecan for best flavor. Feel free to mix in some fruit wood such as cherry or apple if you like and if you are using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker, keep the smoke flowing for the entire time.
Make the Sauce and Fry the Bacon
You will also want to fry some bacon or you can place the pieces on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes. Once the bacon is nice and crispy, remove it from the oven or frying pan and let it cool.
Once cool you can break it up into small bits and pieces.
When the meatloaf is about 30 to 45 minutes from being finished or at about 145-150 degrees if you are monitoring the temperature, quickly open the door of the smoker and brush barbecue sauce onto the tops of the mini meat loafs.
Once sauced, sprinkle the bacon crumbles on the tops of the meat loafs and close the door to let them finish cooking.
When the meatloaf reaches 160 it is done to perfection. I recommend monitoring the temperature with a digital probe meat thermometer. I like to remove the meatloaf just shy of 160 say at 155-157 since I know that the temperature will continue to rise just a few degrees once I remove it from the heat. Cooking meatloaf past 160 just ensures that it will be dryer than it should be so this is important.
Serving the Meatloaf
Meatloaf is great with mashed potatoes, a salad, corn, fried okra, almost any kind of side that you would eat with a hearty home cooked meal like meatloaf.
I chose to do some colorful peppers and onions on the grill seasoned with my rub and it was outstanding. In fact, I ate an entire bowl of the peppers and onions that were leftover before leaving the table. I could have eaten more but alas.. they were all gone!
Peppers and Onions
The peppers and onions are super easy on the grill.. just lay a large sheet of foil on the grill and preheat the grill on high and once it's good and hot, pour a pound of red, yellow and green peppers (sliced) onto the foil with a medium sized vedalia onion sliced up into quarter round pieces.
About 20 minutes over high heat, stirring often, or until they get as “wimpy” as you like them. sprinkle my rub onto the veggies generously or to taste once they've been on the heat about 5 minutes. The rub caramelizes on the vegetables and is absolutely out of this world!
Tip: I recommend 1 lb of peppers + 1 medium onion for every 2 people that are eating. To make your life easy, you can usually buy 1 lb bags of colorful peppers already sliced and ready i n the freezer section of the local grocery store.
With the meatloaf and side done, we can serve up our wonderful masterpiece!
The jalapeño, with the cream cheese, my awesome sauce and the bacon crumbles on top melds so well with the meatloaf.. I was blown away by how good this was. Smoked meatloaf is great all on it's own but this version just takes it to a whole new level of goodness. You have to try this and I think you will agree.
- Clean and deseed jalapeños
- Blanch jalapeños
- Make cream cheese filling
- Fill jalapeños with cream cheese filling
- Make meatloaf mixture and stuff into muffin sections on top of jalapeños
- Place pan of meat loafs into fridge to firm up for about 30 minutes
- Drop meat loafs onto cookie sheet or Bradley rack
- Place into smoker
- Fry or Bake bacon for making “crumbles”
- Top meat loafs with Jeff's barbecue sauce and bacon crumbles about 30 minutes before done
- Smoke for 3 hours or until they reach 160 degrees internal temperature
- Serve with side of grilled peppers and onions
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