Make Room For Smoked Meat Loaf

Getting ready to smoke the meatloaf with plenty of hickory.

Sure, you’ve baked many a meat loaf. But have you ever smoked one — over hickory chips no less?

It may spoil you for any other version.

A beguiling smoky, woodsy flavor permeates this very moist “Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf” from “Cooking My Way Back Home” (Ten Speed Press) cookbook, of which I received a review copy late last year. The cookbook is by Mitchell Rosenthal, co-owner and executive chef of three San Francisco restaurants: Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor and Hope. The book features more than 100 hearty, Southern-inspired dishes from those restaurants.

This is one flavorful meatloaf, as the mixture of ground beef, pork and veal is suffused with your favorite barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard, grated Parmesan and a spice mixture that includes cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, celery salt and dry mustard.

Meat loaf that's as good as it gets.

The meat loaf can be cooked either inside a loaf pan or on top of a sheet pan. The latter will expose it to more of that lovely smoke, so that’s the method I chose.

We cooked ours inside my husband’s Big Green Egg. The recipe says to cook the meatloaf for 3 to 3 1/2 hours at about 250 degrees, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees. However, our meat loaf was done in about 90 minutes. So, just be aware that yours may cook quicker than what the recipe states.

I don’t know if it’s from the low-heat cooking necessarily, but this meatloaf definitely has a really lovely texture — a little more fluffy and tender than so many others that are more dense.

Serve slices of the meat loaf with extra barbecue sauce on the side. Or not. This meat loaf is so tasty on its own, you don’t really need anything more.

Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf

(Serves 6)

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground veal

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups white bread, torn into small pieces (3 to 4 slices, depending on the thickness)

1/2 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup barbecue sauce of your choice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Town Hall Spice Mixture (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon salt

2 or 3 handfuls hickory chips, soaked

Take the meats out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes while you get the fire ready.

Prepare a barrel smoker with an offset firebox. Light the coals in the smoke box. When the temperature reaches between 225-250 degrees, add soaked hickory chips.

If you are using a kettle grill, set it up for indirect heat, so that the coals are off to one side before lighting them. Then, place a foil pan of hot water next to the coals to add moisture. When coals are ready, add soaked hickory chips.

In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool. While onion is cooling, combine bread and milk in a bowl and let stand for about 2 minutes, or until the milk is completely absorbed.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon), combine soaked bread, cooled onion, eggs, Parmesan, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, spice mixture, and salt. Beat on low speed just until combined. Add ground meats, and mix on low speed just until combined. Shape mixture into loaf on a sheet pan, or pack into a standard loaf pan.

Place meat loaf in the smoker and add a handful of the soaked hickory chips. Cover with lid. Smoke the meat loaf until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers 165 degrees. This may take as little as 90 minutes or as long as 3 hours. Be sure to add charcoal every hour or so to maintain the temperature inside the smoker at about 225 degrees. Add more soaked chips as necessary to keep the smoke flowing.

Remove meat loaf from the smoker and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Any leftovers will make a great sandwich.

Town Hall Spice Mixture

(makes a scant 1/3 cup)

Note: If you halve this recipe, you will end up with just enough for making the meat loaf.

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon celery salt

Mix together all ingredients until well combined. Store in an airtight container in a cool cupboard. The mixture will keep for up to 6 months.

Adapted recipes from “Cooking My Way Back Home” by Mitchell Rosenthal

More: Town Hall’s Cookbook Party

Print This Post


  • Oh, that mealoaf must taste fantastic! I wish I had a smoker…



  • That sounds amazing. Then again, any recipe from Town Hall is fabulous.

  • oh my goodness I’ve got to try this! The pictures here are just bringing out the carnivore in me!

  • Wow, this meatload sounds and looks great…the mixture of spices is just unbelievable…
    Hope you are having a fantastic week Carolyn 🙂

  • Drape some bacon on top of that, and you’ll be in heaven!

  • oh girl i am a meatloaf junkie. i love the stuff (only if I make it). I adore coming up with new ways to making it. This is a KEEPER

  • I love meatloaf – such a great family meal. But I have never smoked it and I don’t know if we can buy hickory chips here in Australia. Your meatloaf looks amazing. Love how you plated it and then served it with that sauce – you’ve elevated the humble loaf to a gourmet level!

  • Smoked meatloaf?! That sounds so good! I am totally a meatloaf girl, and I don’t know why meatloaf gets such a bad rap… I love it! And I think this recipe is a winner! Thank you!

  • Oh how I wish I had a backyard and covered grill. But I don’t think I could smoke this meat loaf in my apartment because my smoke alarm would go crazy. What a cool idea though.

  • Oh my…. ok I already know the friends that I am going to cook this with. They have a smoker and they would adore it! 😀 Thanks!

  • I don’t a smoker so I cook my meat loaf in an oven. It is pretty good too but I am sure it will taste even better cooking in a smoker. The next time I make meatloaf I have to try the Town Hall spice mixture.

  • Carolyn, I may just be the only America to have never made my own meatloaf! Now I have no excuse not to try:)

  • Smoked meatloaf really sounds amazing! So flavorful with this spice mixture too!

  • Oh this looks and sounds so delicious! I would have never thought about smoking a meat loaf. I am excited to try this!!

  • Smokey goodness! Love it 🙂

  • Mmmm this could actually make me like meatloaf again! The smoking must give it tremendous flavor but look at all the wonderful spices and ingredients that go into it! Fabulous! I want to try this, grill or no grill!

  • smoked meat–yum. atta way to make meatloaf appealing! that spice mix looks marvelous too.

  • It seems that it is not easy to smoke a meatloaf since it is not easy to cook through. Smoke fish is more common. This is special and sounds great. 🙂

  • You should never soak wood for cooking. That grayish-white smoke is bad, tastes like an ashtray. Thin blueish smoke is good.

  • Somehow, I think I’m the only American kid who didn’t grow up eating meatloaf. But now I’m making up for lost time. And smoked meatloaf, that sounds damned good!

  • I have made a number of things on my electric smoker from ham to turkey to brisket but everyone goes nuts over my smoked meatloaf. Using either hickory or mesquite gives it distinctly different flavored and smells. Two hours+ at 250 works perfectly. Once you smoke a meatloaf you will never go back tithe oven. Smoker works great on chili as well

  • Yes, I have done this. It’s one of the best things I have ever made. Actually, I got it from the show Best Thing I Have Ever Made, where it was Alton Brown’s contribution.

    He does a very geniusy thing. Instead of bread crumbs, he uses crumbled barbecue flavor potato chips to punch up the smokiness.


  • Smoked Meat Loaf are the best ever. Thank you for sharing this

  • I’ve made meat loaf on my Weber grill before, and it has turned out great. I’ve got a barrel smoker as well, but I’ve yet to try making a meat loaf on it, I might have to give it a try. Yours looks really tasty too, I like the sound of your recipe.

  • I never knew anyone else was smoking meatloaf. I started smoking mine in around 2008 and will never go back to the oven again.

    My meatloaves are all a little different . Tonight I made the loaf for smoking tomorrow. I have three pounds of ground beef and three Italian sausages, crumbled up, which weigh about 3/4 pound. Two celery stalks finely chopped and four medium carrots, shredded, give your taste glands a workout

    Sometimes I will add a finely chopped medium onion, didn’t do that tonight. I did add three beaten eggs, about three tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, about a cup and half of Progresso bread crumbs, and spices. Tonights loaf didn’t get the full spectrum of my usual spices. I am feeding an older couple who get most of their food at Dollar General and think eating a Subway sandwich is a mind-numbing experience.

    But before I put it on the smoker, I will lace bacon over the top. I cook in a cheap aluminum throw-away pan, never covered. My smoker is real simple. I build a slow fire in the bottom of one side and put the meat up on the grill on the other side. Air in down low on the fire end and smoke out a high vent on the meat end.

    I usually use mesquite or oak. Most of the time it’s tree-trimmings off our own trees. I smoked salmon on hickory about 40 years ago and it was pretty good, but for beef you can’t beat oak and mesquite.

    Don’t worry about my lack of measurements, it’s pretty hard to mess up smoked meatloaf. There have been times the cooked loaf would fall apart, others, where it held together fine.

    One night I fed a bible study group and one woman couldn’t get over the taste. She took a picture of her plate of meat loaf and sent it to her husband so he would think about smoking one someday.

    Whenever you can take a so-so food and turn it into something people talk about for months, you know you hit a home run.

  • Butch: Your smoked meatloaf definitely sounds like a total home run! Your friends and family are lucky to feast on something so special, cooked with such care, and made with such passion. Your descriptions definitely had me wanting to pull up a chair to your table. 😉

  • great post, thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *