As I have mentioned in the past when making meatloaf, one of the things to remember is that over mixing a meatloaf will make it tough so you have to find a way to get good dispersion of ingredients without mixing it too much.
For this reason, I decided to try gently pressing the meatloaf out onto a cookie sheet, adding the ingredients one by one onto the top and then rolling it up.
Here is the process that I used but you can add the ingredients in any order that you like or mix them all together first and then add it to the top of the meat.
2 lbs of 85/15 ground chuck.
The meat is gently pressed flat onto a 9 x 13 cookie sheet.
1 cup of bread crumbs.. I used Panko but you could crush saltines as well.
1/3 cup of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) is sprinkled evenly over the entire area for perfect flavor.
2 eggs are broken into a bowl and lightly whipped to combine the yolk and white. The egg is poured over the top of the meat.
I grated about a cup and a half of smoked Gruyere cheese and added it to the top hoping it would melt into the meat and help to make it more moist.
Add some minced onion.. about a cup (1 medium yellow onion).
Finish off the ensemble with a cup of buttermilk and it's ready to roll up.
Proceed to roll up the meatloaf. It doesn't matter if things fall by the wayside or if it's not pretty. This is simply to reduce working the meat too much and it will all come together perfectly in the next step.
Update: I have received several emails from readers complaining about the “rolling” process and saying that it did not work out so well for them. Maybe I'm the last of the great meatloaf rollers or maybe I just got lucky with my rolling but it worked fine for me. Having said that, If you seem to be having trouble right from the start, just put everything into a bowl and mix it together.. only enough to make sure that things are dispersed, no more than that.
Drop the rolled up meatloaf “dough” into a bowl or loaf pan and carefully press it out to fill the bowl. Place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or even overnight if you want to.
I used a loaf shaped bowl.
Once I was almost ready to cook it, I coerced it out of the bowl on to a Weber grill pan.
The meatloaf ended up being about 2 inches thick.
While the meatloaf is getting cold in the fridge is a great time to get the smoker going.
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F with indirect heat.
If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
This meatloaf will take between 3-4 hours (depending on how thick it is) to reach 160°F so make sure you have enough smoking wood for at least 2 hours of smoke. If you want to add smoke longer, it won't hurt a thing.
I used pecan but other great woods for meatloaf are hickory (if you want something a little more robust) or even cherry which is a great all around smoking wood and really good with beef.
Once the smoker is preheated and ready to go, you can place the pan with the meatloaf into the smoker.
As I mentioned, I used a Weber grill pan and these are very handy but you can also use other types of pans as well but it's a great idea to have a way to drain the grease away from the meatloaf while it cooks.
I placed the Weber grill pan on top of a throw away foil pan while it cooked and this allowed the grease to drain away without dripping all into my smoker and creating a mess I'd have to clean up later.
You could also drill holes into a cookie sheet and place it over a disposable pan or you could use a cooling rack over the top of a pan.. just use some imagination and you'll come up with a great way to make it work best for you.
Let the meatloaf continue to cook in the smoker until it reaches about 150°F at which point you'll want to start thinking about brushing on a heavy layer of Jeff's barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) and giving it plenty of time to caramelize properly.
When the smoked meatloaf reaches 160°F it is perfectly finished and should be removed from the heat promptly.
Be sure to use a tried and true digital thermometer such as the Thermopop for testing the temperature of the meatloaf. This will allow you to scientifically get it done perfectly. This one reads in about 3-4 seconds and is one of my favorites!
Let it rest for 7-10 minutes before slicing into it to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Slice into ½ to ¾ inch pieces and serve.