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Smoked Meatloaf – Better than Ever

even better smoked meatloaf2

Over the years we have posted several recipes for smoked meatloaf and, of course, the accolades just pour in and especially from those who have just tried it and realize that it is really good. Now we’ve gone back to the drawing board to create a smoked meatloaf that’s better than ever.

After writing out the steps, I realized that it looks complicated at first glance. It’s actually easy in spite of how it looks. You will notice below that I used 3 bowls to combine ingredients. It’s just the way I chose to do it. If you want to add everything to the same large mixing bowl that will work just as well.

Helpful Information

  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 3-4 hours
  • Smoker temperature: 240°F (116°C)
  • Meat Finish temperature: 160°F (71°C)
  • Recommended wood: Hickory

What You’ll Need

  • 1 lb ground chuck (80/20)
  • 1 lb ground breakfast sausage, hot or regular
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper (yellow, green, red mixed), diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (1 small onion)
  • ½ cup celery, diced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 slices of loaf bread or a hamburger bun top and bottom
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Jeff’s barbecue sauce
  • Jeff’s original rub

Step 1: Soak the Bread

Take two slices of loaf bread or the top and bottom half of a bun and tear it into small pieces. (About 1 cup of bread)

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With the bread in a small bowl, pour ½ cup of buttermilk over the bread.

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The bread will soak up the buttermilk and this will be part of what makes the meatloaf so moist.

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Once the milk is soaked in, crack a couple of large eggs onto the bread mixture. Stir gently to combine.

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Set aside

Step 2: Sauté the Vegetables

Cooked vegetables release more moisture, are more tender and tend to be sweeter. Thus we will sauté them before use.

Dice bell peppers, onion and celery so that you end up with about ½ cup of each.

If you have extra, place them in a zip top bag and place them in the freezer for later.

Pour 2-3 TBS of olive oil into a skillet over medium heat.

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Once the pan is hot enough, pour in the onions, peppers and celery and stir to mix with the oil.

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Let them cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to get slightly soft.

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Once the veggies are finished cooking, remove them from the pan and into a plate or bowl to cool.

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Add 1/4 cup of Jeff’s barbecue sauce and 3 TBS of Jeff’s original rub  to the sautéed vegetables. Stir to combine.

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Step 3: Mix the Meatloaf

Place the 1 pound of ground chuck and 1 pound of ground sausage into a large mixing bowl.

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Add the bread, buttermilk and egg mixture to the top of the meat.

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Add the vegetable, sauce and rub mixture to the top of the meat as well.

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Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the top of the mixture and gently combine the ingredients together.

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Do not overmix. Do just enough to combine and then stop. Overworking the meatloaf mixture will make it tough.

Step 4: Form Into Loaf

Pour or scoop the mixture onto a cookie sheet, food grade butcher paper, etc. and form into a loaf with your hands.

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You can also place the mixture into a loaf pan to form it and then dump it out onto the pan, rack or tray that you will use to cook it.

You will notice that this mixture may be a little wetter than what you are used to using but that’s ok. It will form and hold together just fine.

I recommend about 2 inches thick in the shape of a rectangle but you can get creative with this if you like.

If using a rack, I recommend placing a piece of parchment paper under the meat so it will be easier to remove once done. (I forgot to do this)

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I kept the rack over a pan until I got out to the smoker to make sure I did not drop anything. I used the same method for bringing it in once it was finished.

If you have this heavy duty stainless steel pan and rack, you won’t need the flimsy foil pan and it will work a LOT better!

Step 5: Smoke the Meatloaf

Set up your smoker for cooking at about 240°F (116°C) using indirect heat with hickory smoke or whatever smoking wood you have available.

If your smoker has a water pan, I recommend that you use it.

Once your smoker is maintaining the proper temperature, the cooking can commence.

Place the meatloaf in the smoker.

Keep a light smoke going for at least 2 hours.

Let the loaf cook for 3-4 hours or until it reaches about 155°F (68°C).

Use a digital probe meat thermometer such as the “Smoke” by Thermoworks to monitor the temperature of the meatloaf while it cooks.

Note: total time will depend on thickness of loaf, temperature of smoker and how often the door/lid is opened.

Step 6: Top with Sauce

At about 155°F (68°C), brush the top and sides of the meatloaf with plenty of Jeff’s barbecue sauce. Give it about 25-30 minutes to caramelize then remove from the smoker.

Finish temperature for ground beef is actually 160°F (71°C) but knowing that it will continue to cook and rise in temperature even after being removed from the smoker, it is ok to remove it a few degrees early.

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Step 7: Rest and Serve

Once the meat is brought into the house, tent some foil over the top and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving. This resting period gives the juices in the meat time to redistribute throughout the loaf.

After resting, slice and serve. I moved mine to a serving platter and sliced at the table.

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Tips for Meatloaf:

  1. Soaking the bread in milk before adding it to the meatloaf does a great job of helping the meat to be moist. I chose buttermilk for a richer flavor.
  2. Sautéing the vegetables makes them a little softer at the front end and helps the meatloaf to end up more moist.
  3. Making sure to remove the meatloaf at or just slightly before 160°F will ensure that it safe to eat but not dried out at all.
  4. Do not overmix the meat. It is easy to overwork the meat trying to get a perfect balance of ingredients throughout the loaf but it is best to just mix as little as possible. Mixing the non-meat ingredients first then adding them to the meat helps to minimize the mixing process.
  5. Cook the meatloaf sitting on a sheet pan, pan with a rack or even a wooden plank instead of leaving it in a loaf pan. Letting it sit in juices, grease, etc. does not bring great results.
  6. If you are worried about it being salty enough or overly salty/seasoned, fry a teaspoon of the mixture in a skillet and taste it before proceeding to form the loaf. This takes mere minutes and you will know exactly how well the meat is seasoned and/or if it needs a little extra salt.
  7. Let the meat rest before slicing into it. We do this for many meats that we cook to allow the juices to settle back into the meat before cutting it open to minimize moisture loss.
  8. If you are using a cookie sheet, I recommend an old one with holes drilled in the bottom to allow the juices to escape. Place a foil pan with water below the meatloaf to give the drippings a place to safely fall and keep your smoker clean.
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Smoked Meatloaf – Better than Ever

Smoked meatloaf is always good but this one uses milk soaked bread and soft cooked vegetables to give it a texture and moisture that takes it over the top.

  • Author: Jeff Phillips
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb ground chuck (80/20)
  • 1 lb ground breakfast sausage (hot or regular)
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper (yellow, green, red mixed), diced)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 slices loaf bread or a hamburger bun top and bottom
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup Jeff’s barbecue sauce
  • 3 TBS Jeff’s original rub

Instructions

  1. Take two slices of loaf bread or the top and bottom half of a bun and tear it into small pieces.
  2. With the bread in a small bowl, pour ½ cup of buttermilk over the bread. The bread will soak up the buttermilk and this will be part of what makes the meatloaf so moist.
  3. Once the milk is soaked in, crack a couple of large eggs onto the bread mixture. Stir gently to combine and set aside.
  4. Dice bell peppers, onion and celery so that you end up with about ½ cup of each.
  5. Put 2 TBS of olive oil into a skillet over medium heat.
  6. Once the pan is hot enough, pour in the onions, peppers and celery and stir to mix with the oil.
  7. Let them cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to get slightly soft.
  8. Once the veggies are finished cooking, remove them from the pan and into a plate or bowl to cool.
  9. Add ½ cup of Jeff’s barbecue sauce and 3 TBS of Jeff’s rub to the sautéed vegetables. Stir to combine.

Step 3: Mix the Meatloaf

  1. Place the 1 pound of ground chuck and 1 pound of ground sausage into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the bread, buttermilk and egg mixture to the top of the meat.
  3. Add the vegetable, sauce and rub mixture to the top of the meat as well.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the top of the mixture and gently combine the ingredients together gently.
  5. Pour or scoop the mixture onto a cookie sheet, food grade butcher paper, etc. and form into a loaf with your hands.
  6. You can also place the mixture into a loaf pan to form it and then dump it out onto the pan, rack or tray that you will use to cook it.
  7. I recommend about 2 inches thick in the shape of a rectangle.
  8. If using a rack, place a piece of wax paper under the meat so it will be easier to remove once done.
  9. Set up your smoker for cooking at about 240°F (116°C) using indirect heat with hickory smoke or whatever smoking wood you have available.
  10. If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.
  11. Once your smoker is maintaining the proper temperature, the cooking can commence. Place the meatloaf in the smoker.
  12. Let the loaf cook for 3-4 hours or until it reaches about 155°F (68°C).
  13. Brush the top and sides of the meatloaf with plenty of Jeff's barbecue sauce. Give it about 25-30 minutes to caramelize then remove from the smoker.
  14. Tent some foil over the top and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Did you make this recipe?

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18 Comments

  1. Pat Kimball:
    How does your suggestion improve this recipe? If you need nutritional info, look it up. Jeff does a phenomenal job sharing what he does. When it comes to smokin, “nutritional information” is not what folks are concerned about.

  2. Jeff…I’m a longtime follower of your site. I have one suggestion that might improve it. If you could add the nutritional information to each receipt, it would sure be helpful to us weight conscious folks that always count calories. Most food websites now do that. Haven’t tried this yet…but looking forward to it.

  3. I did this and it was great. I have to admit though that I did not mix sausage and hamburger but rather all hamburger with a a bacon weave around the loaf. Excellent recipe.

  4. Jeff,
    Just made this today, followed your instructions to the letter. Mine was at temperature (160*) in just over an hour using a RecTec 700 set at 240* – the recipe said 3-4 hours or until temp. That’s a big difference. Did I not account for something or do something wrong?

    1. Mark, Was your meatloaf ~2 inches thick? Maybe I pack mine a little tighter?

      It’s hard to say why it would have gotten done so quick.. but if I’ve learned anything in smoking meat, strange things can happen that make no sense. I have had 17lb briskets get done in less time than a 10 pounder.

      I have also had plenty of things take WAY longer than they should have. My entire family gives me a hard time on Thanksgiving Day just because my turkey took 2 hours longer than normal that one Thanksgiving almost a decade ago.. I will never live it down ;-)

  5. You basically stole my recipe. I might prefer a 3 to 1 or even 4 to 1 ratio of ground beef to sausage but besides not adding BBQ Sauce to the mix (I add to the top and again at the end as you describe), you’re spot on. I’m a BBQ Pro and Smoked Meatloaf hits every note and is my absolute favorite BBQ bar none (sorry Brisket)

    1. I didn’t necessarily do that with this one but it’s never a bad idea to refrigerate the meatloaf mixture for an hour or two or even overnight if you have the time and the patience.

  6. This really is the best meatloaf I have ever tasted. I changed one thing, we used half breakfast sausage and half venison sausage that we made recently. I cant wait to invite people over and make another one.

  7. This smoked meatloaf recipe is so good, I wanted to share it with friends. I started making the recipe into smoked meatballs for parties.
    Everytime they are gobbled up and get rave reviews.

  8. Okay I’ve got a question. I’ve got an electric smoker which I absolutely love. It smokes at a constant 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Can a person smoke a meatloaf at that temperature without it keeping or generating any harmful bacteria? I’d love to try this recipe but everything I’ve read shows anywhere from 225 to 250 degrees. I’d really appreciate some insight on this. Thanks!

  9. I have made this twice and the flavor is awesome. My only issue is that it is so wet it does not hold it shape well. It tends to spread out on the smoker. Is there something to make it hold its shape better without losing the moisture?

  10. I’ve made this twice now. I used just onion (one medium) and half a dozen cloves of garlic instead of the peppers and celery. I used plain ground pork instead of breakfast sausage, although that (or Italian sausage) would probably be really good too.

    It came out great both times, it’s a keeper.

  11. I recently purchased Jeff’s rub and sauce and decided on trying it out on the new and improved meatloaf. Well let me tell you something – my wife said that the meatloaf making is now in my hands. We both thought the recipe was fantastic and can’t wait to try the rubs on my next batch of baby backs.

    Has anyone tried the rub on a smoked turkey?

  12. Made this meatloaf recipe, as written, excellent!!! Rave reviews from all that tasted it!
    Jeff’s rub and sauce recipes are must haves as is his “Smoking Meat Cookbook”.
    Everything we have smoked, using his recipes, has been a success!

  13. Tried this yesterday. My fans say it was the best yet! Great recipe. Did Jeff’s smoked mac and cheese along with it. Great everytime as well. Love the new ideas every week. Thanks!