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My meat loaf recipe is to die for and I am going to share it with you here.
Several years ago I decided to try a meat loaf on the smoker and several people including close relatives thought I'd lost all sense of reality.
I asked my wife to mix up the meat loaf recipe like she normally would then formed it into a rectangular shape about 2 inches thick onto a square cookie sheet.
It was the best thing we'd ever eaten and everyone else agreed.
I have since perfected the process and it's only gotten better and better over the years. Here's how I do it nowadays:
- Preparation time: 30 minutes
- Cook time: 3-4 hours
- Smoker temperature: 240°F
- Meat Finish temperature: 160°F
- Recommended wood: Hickory
- 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 recipe
- Jeff's original rub
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)
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.
Once the milk is soaked in, crack a couple of large eggs onto the bread mixture. Stir gently to combine.
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.
Once the pan is hot enough, pour in the onions, peppers and celery and stir to mix with the oil.
Let them cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to get slightly soft.
Once the veggies are finished cooking, remove them from the pan and into a plate or bowl to cool.
Place the 1 pound of ground chuck and 1 pound of ground sausage into a large mixing bowl.
Add the bread, buttermilk and egg mixture to the top of the meat.
Add the vegetable, sauce and rub mixture to the top of the meat as well.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the top of the mixture and gently combine the ingredients together.
Do not overmix. Do just enough to combine and then stop. Overworking the meatloaf mixture will make it tough.
Pour or scoop the mixture onto a cookie sheet, food grade butcher paper, etc. and form into a loaf with your hands.
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 Bradley 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)
I kept the Bradley 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.
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F 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.
Note: total time will depend on thickness of loaf, temperature of smoker and how often the door/lid is opened.
At about 155°F, 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 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.
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 meat.
After resting, slice and serve. I moved mine to a nice platter and sliced at the table.
- 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.
- Sautéing the vegetables makes them a little softer at the front end and helps the meatloaf to end up more moist.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cook the meatloaf sitting on a sheet pan, bradley 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you are using a cookie sheet, I recommend an old one with holes drilled in the bottom to allow the juices to escape. Setting a foil pan with water below the meatloaf will give the drippings a place to safely fall and keep your smoker clean.