Yes, You Can Grill Meatloaf!
If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you already know that Dear Hubby and I are more than slightly obsessed with cooking outside on the grill. One of the best things about grilling is that most proteins are naturally gluten-free, a must-have for dishes served at our table.
Grilled foods are among our favorites – but grilled meatloaf? REALLY?
Fire up the Grill and Make this Saucy, Smokey Barbecue Meatloaf with Attitude!
Around our house, meatloaf has always been a good idea. It’s cost-effective, relatively easy to make, and it scores high at the dinner table regardless of the season. But during summer, we thought it could use a more seasonal twist, so that’s where this budget-friendly Saucy, Smokey Meatloaf on the Grill enters as our latest grilling recipe.
After our most recent experiment in learning everything we could about grilling meatloaf, we’re convinced more than ever that you CAN grill just about anything. Most importantly, what we’ve learned about grilling this meaty comfort food is that it’s not too difficult to do when you follow these steps.
Picture the recipe step-by-step...
1: Set Up the Grill Properly
The most crucial step in grilling meatloaf is to set up the grill properly. You’ll want to set up the grill so that one side provides a direct heat source for heating the wood chips while the other side of the grill is clear of any charcoal or active burners. This makes an indirect heat zone for smoking and cooking the meat to juicy, tender perfection as it cooks low and slow.
Before your loaf goes on the grill, you’ll want to light the grill and preheat it. You’re aiming for medium-high heat with an internal temperature of about 325° Fahrenheit.
2: Use Wood to Enhance the Flavor
To up the ante and add another dimension of flavor to your grilled meatloaf, we suggest adding some wood chips in a smoker box to generate a nice smokey flavor. We’ve added cherry wood chips that pair very well with beef, but you could also use hickory wood chips for a delicious smoky flavor synonymous with BBQ.
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3: Only Add Jalapenos, Onions, or other Vegetables Once They’re Cooked and Cooled
Sautéed onions and jalapeños are necessities when making this meatloaf with attitude. The jalapeno adds a nice spicy flavor, while the white onion adds a little sweetness. You could also sauté them with a bit of minced garlic (added to taste) for even more flavor in the meatloaf.
Most importantly, ensure everything is completely cooled before mixing them with ground meat and other ingredients.
4: Avoid Crunchy Veggies (Unless they’re Cooked Ahead)
Unless you are sautéing them ahead of time, resist the urge to include crunchy vegetables like carrots or celery when grilling meatloaf. These vegetables take longer to become tender while cooking, resulting in them being undercooked when the loaf is done. So, unless you’re into crunchy veggies in your meatloaf, you’ll want to save those veggies for an oven-baked version.
5: Consider the Meat
While ground beef and pork are popular natural choices for meatloaf (we’ve used 80/20 ground sirloin and zesty spiced pork sausage), one of the great things about meatloaf is that you can go with any ground meat, including buffalo, veal, turkey, or venison. Any relatively lean ground meat should work fine for grilling.
If you are sticking with traditional beef, ground sirloin or ground chuck will provide the best flavor and texture for meatloaf. Avoid using ground-round or fattier ground beef blends since those can be greasy and grisly, resulting in a less flavorful loaf.
Also, remember that the higher quality/grade of meat you choose will increase the flavor of the final dish.
Another beautiful thing about meatloaf is that making it doesn’t require a cupboard filled with fancy seasonings or using a lot of different seasoning, spice, or herb combinations. Don’t over-apply seasoning, and stick with traditional herbs and seasonings that you like and are readily available.
Some great options include:
- Salt and Pepper
- Dijon mustard
- Hot sauce (to add a bit of kick)
- Worcestershire Sauce
7: Do Not Over-Mix the Ingredients
To make the juiciest and most tender meatloaf, avoid over-mixing your ingredients. Over-mixing ground meat tends to break down the meat fibers too much, allowing them to dry out quickly while cooking. And the last thing anyone wants to eat is a tough, dry meatloaf!
8: Keep the Loaf Uniformly Thick
Finally, get it out of your head that you’re going to end up with perfectly shaped domed-topped meatloaf like you get when baking it in the oven. It’s not going to happen when making it on the grill! Your goal is to end up with a uniform rectangular-sized loaf that is not too thick. We achieved about an 8 x 4-inch loaf (about 2-1/2 to 3-inches high) that worked well. The trick is not to have a loaf that is too thick where the ends char and become overcooked before the center reaches the right temperature. So, ensure you have a good meat thermometer to monitor the cooking.
9: No Pans Allowed
Forget the metal loaf pan when grilling. Instead, when freeform grilling the meat on foil placed directly on the grill grates, you’re allowing the smoke to flavor the meat while keeping the loaf from making a hot drippy mess all over your grill.
We did end up with some fat pooling at the base of the meatloaf as it cooked. To remedy having an overly greasy loaf, we transferred the loaf (using grill tongs to move it) from the foil to a plate to rest and cool once the cooking was done.
Another option we’ve read about in similar grilled meatloaf recipes is to place the loaf directly onto oiled grill grates with a foil drip pan set beneath. Admittedly, we haven’t tried this option because we were worried about the tender loaf falling through the grates.
10: Cook by Temperature, NOT Time
As we’ve learned from many outdoor grilling experiments, cooking to an internal temperature versus watching a timer provides a higher success rate. This is especially important to ensure that you don’t over or undercook meatloaf cooked on the grill.
News Flash!! – Many options in digital instant-read thermometers won’t require taking out a second mortgage. (LOL!) Your meatloaf will be ready to come off the grill after it reaches a safe internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat. We pulled ours at 155° Fahrenheit, and the flywheel reached the safe internal temperature of 160°F during resting.
11: The Hardest Part - Let it Rest
Okay, now is the time for self-control. The meatloaf is going to look and smell amazing! But don’t be tempted to slice into it immediately.
As with other grilled meats, it will be better if it rests. During resting, the juices settle, and the collagen in the beef thickens. This is an essential thing that needs to happen so that the smoked meatloaf firms up while sealing in the juices before slicing, therefore, helping to keep the smoked meat mixture from falling apart before it’s seared on the grill.
12: Sear the Slices!
Please stick with me; we’re almost done. It’s time to head back outside to the grill to finish over direct heat.
Increase the grill heat to high (450° to 500°F) and oil the grates. Cut the cooled meatloaf crosswise into even thick slices (about 1-inch thick). Place each one separately onto the oiled grill grates over direct heat and sear both sides uncovered until the edges become crispy and grill marks appear for about 3-4 minutes per side.
13: Finally, the BBQ Glaze!
The final step is to glaze the meatloaf slices with your favorite BBQ sauce once the edges become crispy and grill marks appear.
It’s important to note that waiting to glaze each slice until it has a nice exterior crust has benefits. Especially if the glaze is a sugar-based barbecue sauce, that’s because if the sauce is slathered on too early, the sugar will quickly burn, charring the outside of the slice.
So now you’re ready. Brush each slice on top with the remaining ½ cup of barbecue sauce (about 2-3 tablespoons per slice) and continue to grill for about 1 minute until the sauce becomes slightly caramelized.
14: Now It’s Time to Devour!
The long wait is over! Serve this fantastic saucy, smokey meatloaf with a simple green side salad, potato salad, or corn on the cob alongside a hearty slice of Texas garlic toast. Serve leftovers – if there are any – in sandwiches the next day!
Get Set to Grill Some Meatloaf Today!
In summary, preparation is crucial to ensuring your barbecued meatloaf success. We can’t stress enough to “ensure that you have ample time set aside.” This recipe is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon, spending time enjoying the grilling, resting, and finally eating the rewards of your masterful grilling patience process. Take the time to slow down so that your barbecue meatloaf doesn’t fall apart or end up being an overcooked or undercooked mess. This includes the preparation of your grill, the ingredients, and the loaf itself.
In the end, we know you’ll want to share your triumph with family and friends. Shout about it from the rooftop! Then when anyone asks, “Can you really grill meatloaf?” You can confidently say, “Yes. Yes, you really CAN!”
Now, set aside some time. Gather up everything you need, and let’s make food GfreeDeliciously together!
For more recipes you can prepare on the grill, check out this round-up of ideas in the BBQ, Smoker & Grill Recipe Archives!
P.S. Have you tried grilling meatloaf? What was your experience? Let us know. Share it, rate it, or add a comment – it’s super helpful for other readers and us. Just click the blue-green comment bubble on the bottom right of your screen to jump to the comment area below.
And as always, don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #CookingGfreeDeliciously on Instagram. We love seeing what you cook up!
Saucy, Smokey Meatloaf on the Grill - Barbecue with Attitude
- ¾ cup white Onion chopped
- 1 large Jalapeno chopped
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- Wood Chips for smoking
- Preheat the grill to medium (350°-400°F) using indirect heat. Fill a smokebox with cherry wood chips.Wood Chips
- Add the onions, jalapeno, and grapeseed oil to a small frypan. Sauté over medium heat until the onions become translucent. Set aside to cool completely. Then combine the ground beef and pork and set aside until needed.1 pound 80/20 lean Ground Beef, 8 ounces Ground Pork, 3/4 cup white Onion, 1 large Jalapeno, 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- In a large bowl, stir the breadcrumbs, cooled onion and jalapeno, eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup barbecue sauce. Let stand until the breadcrumbs soften, about 5 minutes. Next, add the beef and pork mixture, stirring everything gently to combine. Then shape the mixture into a uniform rectangular-sized loaf that is not too thick; an 8 x 4-inch loaf (about 2-1/2 to 3-inches high) works well, placing it on an ungreased sheet of foil.1-1/4 cup fresh gluten-free Breadcrumbs, 2 large Eggs, 1/4 cup whole Milk, 1 tablespoon gluten-free Worcestershire Sauce, ½ teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Black Pepper, 3/4 cup Barbecue Sauce
- Put the meatloaf with the foil placed on unoiled grates over the unlit side of the grill. Freeform grill the meat with the lid closed for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, allowing the smoke to flavor the meat as it cooks. You’ll know it’s ready to remove from the grill when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 155° to 160°F. Take off from the grill and let it rest for about 45 minutes. 
- Increase the grill heat to high (450° to 500°F) and oil the grates. Cut the cooled meatloaf crosswise into even thick slices (about 1-inch thick). Place the pieces on the oiled grill grates and sear both sides of the exterior uncovered until grill marks appear for about 3-4 minutes per side. Brush each slice on top with the remaining ½ cup of barbecue sauce and continue to grill for about 1 minute until the sauce becomes slightly caramelized.
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(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)
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