We have done meatloaf before, as a bacon wrapped pesto meatloaf, but I wanted to do something different to take it over the top. I had recently come up with a pineapple BBQ sauce that we were using on chicken, but I thought “why not on meatloaf?”
The other thing I hadn’t tried with meatloaf yet, although I’ve been doing it for burgers and tacos for a while now, was to grind the meat myself. I got the idea from the excellent blog post at Griffin’s Grub, and will really never go back to buying pre-ground meat! The flavor, the control of the final product… it’s really a no brainer.
For this meatloaf, we used three different meats: sirloin, chuck, and pork tenderloin.
You may have noticed the mass of each of these selections is roughly 1.3 kg… In this case I was making three total meatloaf loaves for a company lunch, but the ingredients list below is for just a single meatloaf. I mean, don’t let me stop you… go ahead and make a bunch of them! Invite some friends over, get some extra beer, and freaking enjoy!
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to buy pre-ground meat, when you can see this little batch of ground sirloin tips… the color, the texture, it’s all so gorgeous! Since I don’t have a dedicated meat grinder, I just do the work in my food processor (a 9-cup Kitchen Aid) and it works out just fine. In fact, for this meatloaf, the only kitchen gadget I needed was the food processor… it literally did just about everything! And you’d think grinding and then building nine pounds of meat into lovely loaves would leave a mess, but since it was all done in the Kitchen Aid, clean up was actually the fastest part of this endeavor! (No, I don’t work for them… 🙂 )
So, once the meat was all ground up, I started making the sauce. My plan was to have the sauce simmering away as I added the other items to the batches of meat. As it turned out, it took the sauce longer to reduce than I thought, but it all worked out in the end. If I were to do it again (oh, and I will!) I’d start the sauce before even grinding the meat.
The sauce is pretty simple, if you think about it. What you want is a nice complexity, with a blend of sensations, without any one of them overpowering another. To achieve that, it’s important to use various sources of sweet, sour, and spice.
In our case, the base is pineapple juice. It’s an awesome base, because it already has sweet and acidic components! We layer it with apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, and lemon; brown sugar, molasses, and ketchup; then chipotle (en adobo) and mustard.
Tasting this sauce… oh my! It starts off nice and sweet, with the fruity pineapple, and it fades into a kick from the mustard, then the heat from the chipotle. Lots of action!
You have to make sure to reduce this by half, otherwise the sauce will be too runny.
How do you know when it’s been reduced by half? That question bugs me every time! Generally, I would just watch the sides of the pot or pan and “guess” when I thought it had reduced sufficiently. Then, while making this batch of meatloaf, I hit on an idea… I’m sure someone has done this before, but I don’t know who, so I can’t credit them. I just use a bamboo skewer and dip it into the sauce before starting it to boil. Make a mark at that point. Measure halfway down the stick from the first mark, and make a second mark. When the sauce is at the height of the second mark, it’s volume has been reduced by half. So freaking simple, I don’t know why it took me this long to think of it! Obviously, this only works with straight sided pots (because “half way” won’t always mean “half volume” for, say, sloped sides).
In this case, it took about 45 minutes of gentle simmering to reduce my sauce by half.
As the sauce cooked, I added the other items to the batches of meat: onions, chipotle, bread crumbs, milk, eggs… the usual suspects. The final step for “prep night” was assembly…
Yeah… I’m getting hungry all over again just pasting these pictures into this post! I laid out the bacon on some heavy foil, overlapping them for a span of 12 inches. Do it however is easiest, but just leave two or three slices to place on top, as shown.
The whole process of making these loaves took a few hours, mostly because I didn’t time things well with the sauce.
All that was left to do was pop them in the frigidaire over night, and the next day, fire up the Egg and go for it!
As you can see, the three of them barely fit on our large Big Green Egg, but I made it work. And finally, we had the finished product!
What I did was, after the three loaves reached about 140-150F internal (measured with a little temp probe to be sure, but at 200F it took about three hours), I removed them from the Egg. Then, one by one, I applied more sauce as a glaze and returned each one, by itself, to the Egg for another 15 minutes at 350F. This firmed up the glaze, finished cooking the top-most bacon, and gave it all a lovely warm glow! When each came off the Egg, I just wrapped it in foil to rest.
1 pound chuck steak (I used eye rounds)
1 pound sirloin tips
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 pound bacon
1 c bread crumbs (or for gluten free meatloaf, use regular oatmeal)
1/2 c whole milk
1 red onion
2 chipotle en adobo
crushed red pepper
1/2 c pineapple bbq sauce
Sauce Ingredients (makes just over 2 cups)
2 c pineapple juice
1 chipotle en adobo plus 1 T of the adobo sauce
3/4 c ketchup
3 T apple cider vinegar
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T dark brown sugar
2 T molasses
2 T mustard
1 T rum
1 T lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Make the sauce first. Mix all the ingredients, bring to boil, and simmer until volume reduces by half.
Grind the meat in a grinder or food processor, one pound at a time, for about 10 pulses if using a food processor. In the same processor bowl, chop the onion and chipotle on low speed for about five seconds. Beat the eggs. Except for the bacon and crushed red pepper, mix all ingredients together.
Lay long sheet of heavy duty foil on counter and layer the bacon on the surface, covering a 12 inch span. Reserve 2-3 slices bacon. Dump meat mixture onto bacon “sheet” and form meat into roughly 12″ x 4″ loaf. Pull up edges of bacon around sides of loaf. Top with remaining strips of bacon. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper. Wrap in foil.
When ready to smoke, poke a few holes in the bottom of the foil (to allow grease to drain). Get smoker to 300F, set up for indirect cooking. Roll foil back to create a shallow “baking pan” with the meatloaf. Add flavored wood chips, if desired, to fire box of smoker. The addition of the wood chips and the meatloaf will lower the temperature, which is why we start it at 300.
Stabilize the temperature around 200F, and let it smoke for a few hours. Once the internal temperature reaches 140-150F, baste with more sauce. Raise smoker temperature to between 300-400F and cook another 15 minutes to let the glaze firm up.
Finally, once the internal temperature is near 160F, remove meatloaf from smoker, wrap in foil, and let rest for 10-20 minutes. Slice, and enjoy!
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].