If you've never smoked a meatloaf in the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, then you've been missing a real treat. The smoke flavor compliments almost any meatloaf recipe, and I guarantee that the smoke ring you see when you slice into the meat will bring a smile to your face!
It's important to note that ground meat absorbs much more smoke flavor than a solid cut of meat, so go easy on the smoke wood. You've been warned!
Here are some pictures I took on January 8, 2006 when I cooked this meatloaf.
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Use Your Favorite Meatloaf Recipe
You can cook most any meatloaf recipe in the Weber Bullet, and you'll be amazed at the difference the smoke flavor makes. So go ahead and try your favorite recipe, or mix up a batch of your Mom's meatloaf recipe.
If you don't have a recipe, you can try mine listed below. I'm not much for fancy meatloaf, and I don't like big chunks of onion or other stuff in my meatloaf. This recipe is very basic, but you can use it as a starting point and customize it any way you like.
I've learned that ground veal is a great ingredient in meatloaf because collagen in the meat breaks down easily into gelatin during cooking, and that gelatin helps retain moisture in the meatloaf. If you can't or don't want to use ground veal, just substitute more ground beef instead.
Prepare a 12" round disposable foil pan by poking holes in it to allow fat to drip away from the meat during cooking, then spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix the meatloaf ingredients gently, then turn out onto the pan and form into a 9"x6"x2" loaf. Return the meatloaf to the refrigerator while firing up the cooker.
Photo 1 shows a meatloaf mix of beef, veal, and pork that I purchased at a local supermarket. It contains only meat, with a sprinkling of parsley on top for decoration.
Photo 2 shows the meatloaf ready to go into the smoker, on the prepared foil pan.
Create An Oven-Like Environment, With Smoke Added
When cooking meatloaf in the WSM, you want to duplicate an oven-like environment as closely as possible. This means running the cooker at 300-375°F with an empty, foil-lined water pan for easy cleanup.
Fire-up a Weber chimney full of Kingsford charcoal briquettes and dump the hot coals into the charcoal chamber, followed by another 3/4 chimney of unlit briquettes over the lit coals.
When all the coals are hot, assemble the cooker and put the meatloaf on the top grate. Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the meatloaf to monitor internal temperature during cooking.
Place a small amount of smoke wood through the access door onto the hot coals. I used three small chunks of dry cherry smoke wood for this meatloaf. You can use whatever wood you like—oak, pecan, or apple would be good choices—but as I said at the beginning of this article, don't use too much or you run the risk of over-smoking the meat.
Open the top vent and all three bottom vents fully. Once the cooker comes up to temperature, adjust the bottom vents to maintain 300-375°F for the entire cooking session.
Cook To A Safe Internal Temperature
It's important to cook all ground meats to a food-safe internal temperature before serving. The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160°F for ground beef and ground pork.
I planned to cook this meatloaf to 165°F, which results in meat that is properly cooked but still very moist.
Why is it necessary to cook meatloaf to 160°F when it's OK to cook a steak to only 140°F? Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly, authors of The Complete Meat Cookbook, offer this explanation: With ground meat, "each individual particle of meat and fat has been exposed to the natural germ-filled environment of the butcher shop or packing house where it was ground. While the surface bacteria of a steak will be destroyed by cooking, bacteria in the interior of a hamburger can still be viable and dangerous. The USDA recommendation of 160°F internal temperature, or well-done, ensures safety. Exposure to 155°F for 15 seconds will kill bacteria, and one minute at 150°F is also sufficient. The USDA recommendation thus allows for a margin of error."
Sauce The Meatloaf
When the meatloaf reaches about 100°F internal temperature, carefully score the top in a diamond pattern and slathered on a ketchup-based sauce. You can use a favorite barbecue sauce, a concoction of your own, or the sauce recipe listed below.
Apply 1/2 of this sauce to the meat, reserving the rest to be served on the side at the dinner table.
It will take 1-2 hours to cook a meatloaf of the size shown here. It's difficult to say exactly how long, since it depends on the temperature of the cooker, how much the meatloaf weighs, and how thick it is. The key is to cook it based on internal temperature. Make sure it reaches at least 160°F in the thickest part of the loaf to ensure food safety.
Photo 3 shows my meatloaf after 55 minutes of cooking, at an internal temperature of 111°F. You can see that I've scored the loaf, but not yet applied the sauce.
Photo 4 shows the finished meatloaf after 90 minutes of cooking, at an internal temperature of 167°F.
Notice how the perforated pan allows the fat to drain away from the meat into the empty, foil-lined water pan below. Unlike a loaf pan, the foil pan lets the meatloaf brown on all sides and allows smoke to reach the maximum surface area...and since it's disposable, cleanup is a breeze.
Pass The Mashed Potatoes, Please
Tent the meatloaf with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
In my cooking log, I noted that this looked like "normal meatloaf" on the outside, but when I sliced into it I found a 1/8" - 1/4" smoke ring, as shown in Photo 6. The smokiness was just right, adding a delicious flavor and aroma to the meat, and it was nice and moist.
I hope you'll give meatloaf a try on the Weber Bullet. Serve with a batch of fluffy mashed potatoes and you'll have a classic home-cooked meal that you and your family will love.