Meatloaf. Just the word itself makes my tongue tingle. Meatloaf and gravy on mashed potatoes. Meatloaf and crisp sweet corn. Meatloaf sandwiches…
Oh, yes, meatloaf sandwiches! Are you kidding me? A nice thick slice of yesterdays meatloaf, cold from the icebox, placed gently on lightly toasted sunflower seed bread… [Oh, yes!] with a slathering of creamy mayo and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese [Oh, yes, yes!] The juxtaposition of warm, crispy, nutty toast and the cool, beefy, succulent meatloaf… [Oh, god, yes!]
<ahem>. On to the actual topic…
So the strategy here is to create a moist, flavorful meatloaf. For the longest time, I thought of meatloaf as just a loaf-sized hamburger. Such a philosophy makes passable meatloaf… but it was always crumbly and dry the next day – thus, terrible for left-over sandwiches. My thinking has evolved to consider the meatloaf its own little ecosystem, with its own specific needs, and certainly not just an over-sized burger. We borrow ideas from casseroles and lasagnas, and some from the world of burgers, to build a yummy meatloaf that tastes great hot over mashed potatoes, and tastes fantastic cold the next day in a sandwich.
1 pound ground beef (I use 80/20)
1 pound ground pork (I use 80/20)
1 pound thick-sliced bacon
3/4 c commercial pesto
3/4 c crushed bread crumbs (the best are from stale French bread)
1/2 c whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 chipotle en adobo
1 T of the adobo sauce
1/2 T crushed red pepper
You don’t want the meatloaf to sit in the juicy run-off… that results in boiled meatloaf, not baked or smoked meatloaf. You’ll want a pan large enough to catch the run-off (I use a baking sheet with 1/2″ sides), and a rack of some sort (I use a cooling rack) to fit in the pan. Then, cover the rack with parchment paper, and poke some holes in the parchment paper. This lets the juices run into the pan, from which you can collect them after the meatloaf is done to make gravy. When I smoke the meatloaf, I just put the meatloaf in an aluminum baking dish that I’ve poked holes in the bottom.
Set the oven to 375F, or the smoker to 250F. In the oven, you’ll need between 60-90 minutes of cook time, and in the smoker, about 3-4 hours.
Oh, and if you’ve never smoked a meatloaf, do so! If makes vastly superior meatloaf!
Except for the bacon and crushed red pepper, mix all ingredients in a large bowl, combining well. Place the mixture on your prepared cooking surface and form into loaf. Wrap with the bacon. Sometimes it’s easier to lay the bacon down first, then make the loaf, then pull the bacon up. Use whatever method works best for you. Sprinkle the crushed red pepper over the surface of the bacon, and spread evenly with your hands – work it in!
My cook times are, as above, 60-90 minutes in the oven, or 3-4 hours on the Big Green Egg. Regardless of cooking method, you want the internal temperature of the meatloaf to be 160F. After removing from cooker, let it rest under a foil tent for 10 minutes.
Enjoy, but in moderation… you want to save some for cold leftover sandwiches!
Here is a Big Green Egg smoked version of the bacon wrapped pesto meatloaf… yeah, a meatloaf with a smoke ring. Sweet! [Photo credit: Derek Price].