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®.
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
Recipe instructions from our friends at Traeger.com, with ingredient inspiration taken from Alton Brown’s Everyday Cook
- 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 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
Kevin stanaland says
At 225 degrees how long should it take to reach the desired doneness?
This should take roughly 2-3 hours.
William Martin says
Cooking time is dictated by temperature but it really is necessary to have some idea of the cooking time in order to plan the cook and serving. I cant find any mention of time in the receipe.
This should take around 2-2.5 hours. You can speed it my making a longer, thinner loaf, if you like.
I will try this soon.
I have been making smoked meatloaf for a few years now and it is a family and neighborhood favorite. My recipe a quite a bit different but on average takes about 3hrs.
Jay Dubay says
This would be great! With made with some Wild Game!! Venison – Elk- Pork !!! Yum Yum
That sounds delicious! Just be aware that most game meats are very lean so pork with a higher fat content would be advisable if you were to use game meats. Maybe grind your own pork butt or even add some ground fatback to your mix. But it’d be a great way to enhance your game day!
My apology if I missed it above, but what is the preferred smoke? I usually use different wood for beef than pork.
You didn’t miss it, I didn’t specify. Smoke choice is ultimately a matter of taste. I used pecan wood for this cook, but apple for a goose I recently smoked. I would use whatever you like for beef.
Is there something I can substitute the chillies with to keep it from being so spicy..thanks for your info really enjoy!!
Feel free to leave them out, if you like. Or use red bell pepper or even some finely diced carrot. We’re going for layers of flavor here, not just a plain beef loaf, so use your imagination!
How many people will this serve? Thanks.
There are thee pounds of meat in it, plus some filler, so I’d say at least 6 people. If you give smaller portions, more people can eat, but with a generous 8 oz portion, 6-7 people can eat from it.
I love meatloaf…Im from the midwest so this was a staple growing up. I also love BBQ…I have more smokers than I feel comfortable admitting, though have reached nirvana with a Kamado…That said…dont get as excited as I was unless you want a meatloaf that tastes like ribs. Also, and this is VERY IMPORTANT and I knew better!!! IF not using ground pork, mind your pull temp!!! 160 is at least 10 degrees too far for beef. I have never made a worse meatloaf! I would also say, dont bother glazing and just make your glaze as a sauce…I am a purest and use ketchup…which turns to BBQ sauce with the smoke. No reflection on the recipe or the author…it seems like a great idea. Also, 225 was a terrible idea…and also depending on various factors pushes the time too far…no need to melt collagen and some like the browned end pieces!!!! I am just guessing (20 years of professional cooking) that 275 with a tented pull temp of 150 (Depending on meats used and quality!) would produce a juicy lightly smoked meatloaf.
What would be a good substitute for the potato chips in this recipe.
Cornflakes ought to do a good job. Though you should be aware of the salt difference!