Meatloaf has always been a popular family favorite. Growing up in my household included eating meatloaf at least once a month. I have refined the recipe over the years to come up with my version of the best ever meatloaf. Smoking the meatloaf gives it such a nice flavor profile and really complements this popular comfort food. I prefer using pecan pellets in my cooker for this recipe. Other woods that will work well are hickory, maple, and cherry. I use a Traeger wood fired grill for the meatloaf, but any smoker will work well, but it needs to maintain a constant temperature throughout the cook.

Best Ever Meatloaf Smoker

Tips to a Great Meatloaf

  • Use higher fat ground meats. Lean ground beef does not have the fat content to prevent the meat from drying out. Use medium ground beef if possible. I like to add ground pork in addition to the ground beef. The ground pork has a higher fat content and works well with the meatloaf.
  • Do not over mix the meatloaf. Over mixing will produce a dense and tougher meatloaf.
  • Refrigerate before cooking. I like to refrigerate the meatloaf, once it is in the loaf pan. Cooling down the ground meat mixture for a short time makes the meatloaf easier to handle. If the meatloaf gets too warm, it has a tendency to fall apart.
  • Use a digital thermometer throughout the cook.  
  • Let the meatloaf rest. This locks in the juices and makes it easier to slice.

How To Make The Best Ever Meatloaf on the Smoker

Step 1: Gather Ingredients (Mise En Place)

Best Ever Meatloaf Ingredients

  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Green onion
  • Yellow onion
  • Roasted red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Bread crumbs
  • Favorite BBQ sauce
  • Ground beef
  • Ground pork
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Favorite BBQ rub
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Minced garlic

Step 2: Roast the Red Peppers

best ever meatloaf roasted red peppers

Preheat the oven on broil. Cut the red pepper in half and remove seeds. Then cut the pepper in half again, and toss in olive oil. Make sure that the peppers are coated well on all sides. Lay them in the center of a nonstick baking pan and place in the oven on a middle rack. The peppers can also be roasted directly on your BBQ grill if you prefer.

Set a timer for 10-12 minutes, and flip them halfway through the cooking process. You are looking for wrinkled skins with a good amount of char and blackening on the outside. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place them in a sealable bag to sweat for 10 minutes. Allowing the peppers to sweat makes it much easier to remove the roasted skins. Remove the skins and dice the roasted peppers ¼”. Set aside for later in the recipe.

Step 3: Form the Meatloaf Mixture for the Smoker

best ever meatloaf before smoker

Preheat the smoker to 225F. Lightly beat the eggs and milk together in a small bowl. Mix in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, BBQ rub, and Worcheshire sauce. The BBQ rub that I prefer is Holy Cow BBQ Rub by Meat Church and is a great all-purpose BBQ rub that really highlights the flavors of the ground beef and pork.

Transfer the ground beef and pork to a large mixing bowl. Dice the onions and roasted peppers ¼” and add to the bowl. Add the minced garlic, bread crumbs, and egg/milk mixture to the bowl. Use clean hands to mix the meatloaf ingredients until just mixed. Do not over mix, over mixing will cause the meatloaf to have a tough and dense texture.

Line a loaf pan with plastic cling wrap. Fill the loaf pan with the meatloaf mixture. Try not to overwork the meatloaf while gently forming it into the pan. Place the meatloaf in the fridge for 10 minutes. This will cool down the meat and make it easier to handle when removing it from the loaf pan. Remove from the refrigerator, and place the pan meat side down on the counter. Carefully remove the pan from the meatloaf mixture. Remove the cling wrap to expose the formed meatloaf.

Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray, and place it on a nonstick baking sheet. Place the meatloaf on the rack. Lightly season the top of the meatloaf with additional BBQ rub.

Step 4: Smoke the Meatloaf

Best Ever Smoked Meatloaf

I am using a Traeger Pellet grill for this recipe and prefer to use pecan pellets for the cook. My Traeger has a super smoke feature that fills the chamber with more clean smoke during the cook. Super smoke is only available when cooking between 160F to 225F. So I like to take advantage of this feature and start the cook at 225F and then raise the temperature after 1 hour. If you do not have this feature, maintain the temperature at 280F throughout the cook.

Transfer the meatloaf to the smoker, and set a timer for 2 hours. Raise the temperature of the smoker to 280F after 1 hour. Insert a temperature probe into the meatloaf to monitor the internal temperature for the remainder of the cook. The internal temperature is more crucial than a set specific time. The cooking time remaining on the meatloaf is approximately 1 hour, but this is only a guideline.

The most critical determining factor indicating when the meatloaf is done is the internal temperature. The meatloaf is ready to be removed from the smoker, once the internal temperature reaches 160F. This is the safe minimum temperature to consume ground beef. This temperature will also ensure that the center of the meatloaf is fully cooked with no mushy texture. The probe I have inserted into this meatloaf is in the top corner, but it is angled down toward the center of the meatloaf.

Once the internal temperature reaches 150F, glaze the meatloaf by brushing it with your favorite BBQ sauce, There should be approximately 10-15 minutes remaining in the cook. This will allow enough time for the glaze to caramelize and set on the meatloaf. Glazing the meatloaf will help keep it moist and add additional flavor.

Step 5: Serve and Enjoy

Best Ever Meatloaf with Asparagus

Remove the meatloaf from the smoker, once the internal temperature reaches 160F. Do not slice the meatloaf immediately, after removing it from the smoker. Give it time to rest for 10 minutes. This will allow those delicious juices to lock in and redistribute evenly throughout the meatloaf. Transfer the meatloaf from the cooking rack to a cutting board and tent the loaf with foil allowing it to rest and stay warm.

Slice the meatloaf and serve with your favorite starch and vegetable. I really enjoy some creamy mashed potatoes and asparagus with mine.

Yield: 8 portions

Best Ever Meatloaf Recipe

Best Ever Meatloaf with Asparagus

This is a delicious smoked version of the classic meatloaf with roasted red peppers.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp Favorite BBQ rub
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • 1 Green onion (sliced ¼ inch)
  • 1 cup yellow onion (diced ¼ inch)
  • 1 roasted red pepper (diced ¼ inch)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven on broil. Cut 1 red pepper into quarters, and remove the seeds. Coat red peppers on all sides with olive. Lay the peppers on a nonstick or foiled baking sheet. Place the tray on the middle rack of the oven for approximately 10-12 minutes. Flip peppers halfway through the cooking time. Remove the peppers, once the skin starts to blacken on both sides. Place the peppers in a sealable plastic bag for 10 mins. This will allow the skins to be easily removed. Remove the skins from the peppers, dice ¼” and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together eggs and milk. Mix in salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, BBQ rub and Worcestershire. Set mixture aside.
  3. Preheat the pellet grill or smoker to 225F. If you’re using a Traeger, enable the super smoke feature if available. 
  4. Transfer ground beef and pork into a large bowl. Add the onions, roasted peppers, minced garlic, bread crumbs, and egg/milk mixture to the bowl. Using clean hands, mix the contents until just combined. 
  5. Line the inside of the loaf pan with plastic cling wrap. Lightly press the meatloaf mixture into the lined loaf pan. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Cooling the meatloaf will make it easier to remove from the pan and handle before going on the smoker.
  6. Remove from the refrigerator, and place the pan meat side down on the counter. Carefully, remove the pan from the meatloaf mixture. Remove the cling wrap to expose the formed meatloaf.
  7. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Place the meatloaf on the rack. Lightly season the top of the meatloaf with additional BBQ rub.
  8. Transfer the meatloaf to the smoker, and insert the thermal probe into the center of the meatloaf. Smoke for 1 hour at 225F. Then raise the temperature to 280F and continue to cook for another 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  9. Brush the meatloaf with BBQ sauce, when the internal temperature reaches 150F. Close the lid and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160F.
  10. Remove the meatloaf from the grill, once the internal temperature reaches 160F. Let the meatloaf rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  11. Slice and serve with your favorite starch and vegetables. 

Notes

  • If you are using a smoker or Traeger without the super smoke feature, maintain the temperature at 280F throughout the cook.
  • Omitting the roasted red peppers will drop the prep time by 20 minutes. If time is an issue, use fresh diced red pepper instead.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 175mgSodium: 897mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 2gSugar: 15gProtein: 36g

About the Author:

Our founder, Steve brings his experience as a Red Seal Chef to our Best Ever Food channel. Learn more about Steve here…