Smoked meatloaf may be your key to tailgating-party fame. Look, everyone’s done chili. Ribs are delish, but unless you’re a member of a Kansas City BBQ championship rib team, people might not be that impressed. And yes we all love some homemade bratwursts, but we’ve all had them. This weekend, close out the tailgate season—or spice up your Championship Weekend football party—with something new.
Meatloaf is a beautifully simple food: quality meats bound together and seasoned in any way you want. Its flavor can range from plain and honest to complex and even whimsical, and the binding ingredients—egg and (usually) breadcrumbs—help ensure a moist, hearty finished product. For our smoked meatloaf, we will use eggs, milk, and crushed ruffle-style potato chips.
Meatloaf is a much-maligned food, often associated with greasy-spoon diners and lumpy mashed potatoes. But with care and attention, you can serve up a juicy, tender dish that is more like a carefully constructed meat cloud than the clod that has given the dish a bad name. Part of the key to that success will be the smoker, and the other part will be a super-accurate leave-in probe thermometer, like the ThermaQ® WiFi.
And the Extra Point Goes to the Smoker
Using a smoker, with its gentle heat and delicious flavors, is a fantastic way to up your meatloaf game-plan. Smoking the meatloaf gives you the thermal space to cook your meatloaf carefully. It won’t be rushing through the temperatures, and the smoke itself will give you a flavor that no one will want to pass up.
While the binders in a meatloaf help to keep it moist, they can’t do everything, and a dried out meatloaf is as enjoyable as a dried out burger (not very), so we want to watch that temperature carefully. We’ll smoke this loaf at 225°F (107°C), and use the free ThermaQ app on our tablet or smartphone (iTunes/Google Play) so we can tackle some other task—or pay attention to the game—while still keeping our eye on the temperature. This loaf has three kinds of ground meat, so we’re going to cook it to a pull-temp of 160°F (71°C) for food safety. And, as always, we’ll verify that temperature with an instant-read like the Thermapen® Mk4.
To get a balance between smoked-meat flavor and that tasty-sticky glaze, we’ll wait until the meatloaf reaches 120°F (49°C) before glazing it. The plain-loaf cook will allow for smoke penetration (we’ll even get that smoke ring!) and the glazed finish will make the dish sticky and wonderful.
Plus, remember that you can attach multiple smart devices to the same ThermaQ, so have some friends download the free ThermaQ app and hook them up to your thermometer to help you monitor your cook. After all, there is a game on, and you might get distracted.
Tailgating Smoked Meatloaf Recipe
- 1 lb ground beef chuck
- 1 lb ground sirloin
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 red chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced (don’t seed it if you want a spicy meatloaf!)
- 1/2 tsp ground sage
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 6 oz crushed, ground, ruffle-style potato chips
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus 1 Tbsp adobo
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Combine all ingredients for meatloaf in a large bowl and mix thoroughly but gently. Overmixing will create a meatloaf with a tight, sausage-like consistency—not all bad, but not light like the meat-cloud we’re looking for.
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Form your meat into a tightly packed loaf on a half sheet pan or cookie sheet.
- Set up your ThermaQ WiFi and place your probes. Place the meat probe in the very middle—the thermal center—of the loaf for greatest accuracy in cooking. Use the grate clip to place your air probe near the grates surface of your smoker.
- Set your air probe high alarm to 240°F (116°C) and the low alarm to 210°F (99°C) to make sure your smoker temperature stays steady.
- Set your meat probe high alarm to 120°F (49°C) and place the meatloaf in the smoker.
- Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing all glaze ingredients in a bowl.
- When the meat temperature reaches its target and the high alarm sounds, brush generously with glaze.
- Reset your meat probe high alarm to 160°F (71°C) and continue cooking.
- When the meat probe high alarm sounds again and the ThermaQ reads 160°F (71°C), verify your temperatures with your Thermapen Mk4 by sticking it through to the bottom and slowly pulling it up through the loaf.
- If your lowest temp is 160°F (71°C), take it off the smoker and let it rest a few minutes before serving. This will allow the carryover cooking to bring the temp the rest of the way up to 165°F (74°C) and will allow the juices to re-settle into the meat.
Meatloaf is an amazing addition to a tailgate party, and a smoked meatloaf even more so. Cooking this meatloaf low and slow allows you to enjoy the party and still get a great a final product. And by keeping an eye or two on the temperature with your ThermaQ WiFi, you know your food will be safe as well as delicious.
Not your momma’s meatloaf, from Traegergrills.com
Ingredient inspiration from Alton Brown’s Smokey the Meatloaf, Everyday Cook, pg 66