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Smoked Meatloaf Recipe (Juicy Lucy Style)

If you’re a fan of classic comfort food with a twist, you’re in for a treat! Imagine the savory goodness of a traditional meatloaf combined with the irresistible charm of a Juicy Lucy burger!

Our smoked meatloaf recipe takes this beloved dish to the next level by infusing it with a smoky flavor and stuffing it with gooey, melted cheese.

Smoked meatloaf sliced into pieces with a cheesy drip. Better than Mama's meatloaf!
A New Family Favorite: Smoked Meat Loaf Filled with Cheese like a Juicy Lucy Burger!

Perfect for family dinners, gatherings, or simply indulging your taste buds, this Juicy Lucy-Style Smoked Meatloaf will become your new favorite. Get ready to savor every cheesy, flavorful bite!

How To Prep Your Barbecue Smoker For Smoked Meatloaf

Any indirect heat method can be used to smoke meatloaf, from a wood smoker to an electric smoker. The full smoking time is about 4 hours so you’ll need wood or pellets to cover that amount of time.

Most pellet grills and electric smokers burn pellets at about 1 pound per hour and it’s good to have a little extra during the cold months just in case. 

Traditional wood choices for smoked meatloaf include hickory, maple, pecan, oak, and blends of these neutral fragranced woods. As always, wood selection comes down to personal preference and you should smoke with the woods you most enjoy.

In addition to a clean and wood-loaded smoker, you will need an aluminum half pan, a wire rack, and a probe thermometer. We use the Thermoprobe.

How To Make Smoked Meatloaf

As with a traditional meatloaf recipe, our Juicy Lucy Smoked Meatloaf starts with a flavorful panada. 

A panada is professional chef lingo for the mixture of breadcrumbs, milk, eggs, and seasonings that are folded into the ground meat to provide flavor, and moisture, and bind the meatloaf. 

The cooking process involves making a panada, shown here, a bowl of the meatloaf wet ingredients with milk, eggs and flavorings.

A Panada Has 3 Main Functions:

  • Mixing up the panada first allows us to evenly distribute the spices, sauces and vegetables into a paste of breadcrumbs and milk. Then we can add this panada mixture to the ground meat and know the ingredients are evenly distributed. 
  • The panada technique is also used to create the juiciest meatloaf, by providing the mixture with breadcrumbs that will soak up fat and juices during cooking. 
  • The best meatloaf avoids overworking the meat which can make the texture hard and compacted. Using a panada to combine the other ingredients before gently folding in the meat ensures the final meatloaf is light and tender. 

You can use this technique when making homemade meatballs, classic meatloaf in the oven, or even when making Juicy Lucy-Style Hamburgers. 

How Do You Make A Panada?

In a large mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients like milk, eggs, sauces, and ketchup first. 

Add any seasonings like herbs, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, or smoked paprika, to the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.

Then add your breadcrumbs and fresh vegetables like fresh garlic and chopped onion. Stir well, then use this flavorful panada to fold into the ground beef, creating a flavorful binder for juicy meatloaf. 

The completed meatloaf mixture in a wooden bowl
The panada is gently folded into the meat adding flavor, soaking up juices, and binding the meat.

Assembling The Smoked Meatloaf

Use the disposable pan as a guide to create the footprint of the meatloaf. To correctly protect the block of cheese nestled inside, make the footprint about 1 inch thick.

Cut about 2 oz. off the block of cheese and reserve for another use. A 6 oz. block of cheese is the perfect length. Place it in the middle and build the shape of the meatloaf around it.

Moving the Meatloaf To The Rack:

The perfect smoked meatloaf needs a delicious smoke ring and so we need to elevate the meatloaf on a rack so smoke can circulate. Scoop it up with 2 hands (gloved is best) and place it on the rack. Season well.

The raw meatloaf mixture placed on the rack for smoke circulation.
The uncooked meatloaf sits atop a wire rack for smoke circulation.

Substitutions For Smoked Meatloaf Recipe

  • Instead of a ketchup glaze, you can make a bbq meatloaf by substituting your favorite barbecue sauce as a glaze, and sprinkling the meatloaf with bbq rub. 
  • ​Use fresh breadcrumbs, or pulverized cracker crumbs in place of the breadcrumbs. You can even use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
  • Some people prefer a mix of ground sirloin and ground pork for their meatloaf mix. You can even experiment with adding some Italian sausage to take this to a whole new level.
  • For a more robust glaze, substitute chili sauce for ketchup, which contains horseradish

Tips For Smoking Meatloaf

Smoking meatloaf is a relatively easy and inexpensive smoke. It’s generally well received by the whole family and makes delicious leftover sandwiches.

We don’t fuss with our recipe. It’s made to set it and forget it, smoking at the low temperature of 225°F. We bump the temp after 3 hours to 325° to help set the glaze and move things along because the smoke flavor is already infused into the meat.

How To Store Leftover Meatloaf

Smoked meatloaf can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Cool fully before storing. 

You can also wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and freeze them for about a month. To reheat frozen meatloaf, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then remove the plastic wrap and gently reheat slices in the microwave.

Leftover smoked meatloaf makes delicious sandwiches with a nice smokey flavor!

Delicious smoked meatloaf recipe stacked on a plate
This easy smoked meatloaf recipe wows the whole family!

What To Serve With Smoked Meatloaf

Any side dishes you serve with the classic recipe can be served with smoked meatloaf including green beans, baked potatoes, potato salad, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or your favorite comfort food side. 

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Delicious smoked meatloaf recipe stacked on a plate
Yield: Serves 4-6

Smoked Meatloaf Recipe (Juicy Lucy Style)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours

Imagine the savory goodness of a traditional meatloaf combined with the irresistible charm of a Juicy Lucy burger. Our smoked meatloaf recipe takes this beloved dish to the next level by infusing it with a smoky flavor and stuffing it with gooey, melted cheese.

Ingredients

  • 2.25 lbs. Ground Sirloin (36oz. package)
  • 3/4 cup white onion, grated (about 1/2 an onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 8 oz. package of cheese (colby, cheddar, pepper jack, etc.)
  • You will also need a disposable aluminum pan and a wire rack

PANADA INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

SEASONINGS

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley

MEATLOAF GLAZE

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

Clean your barbecue smoker or pellet grill and prepare it according to your usual ritual. Preheat the smoker to 225°. You will need enough pellets or wood chips for approximately 4 hours. 

Meatloaf Preparation 

In a large bowl, combine the panada ingredients and seasonings, mixing well to evenly distribute the seasonings throughout the mixture and creating a breadcrumb paste used to bind the ground meat. 

Next, add in the grated white onion and minced garlic cloves, mixing well to distribute throughout the breadcrumb mixture. 

Finally, add the ground sirloin folding it into the panada until it is evenly distributed and looks like meatloaf mixture.

In the aluminum pan, place a layer of meat mixture down,  which will be the footprint of the size of your meatloaf. (See photo)

You want this first layer to be about an inch thick. On a cutting board, trim the 8 ounce block of cheese to about 6 ounces. Save the 2 ounce block of cheese for another recipe and place the 6 ounce block in the center of the meatloaf.

Using the rest of the meat mixture, mound the ground meat on top of the cheese, covering it fully on all sides, and creating a loaf shape so that it looks like a traditional meatloaf. Make sure the cheese is firmly covered in meat on all sides to prevent leakage.

Spray the cooling rack with a nonstick spray and gently pick up the meatloaf and place it on top of the cooling rack using both hands. Take a moment to fix any holes. Take the cooling rack holding the meatloaf and place it above the aluminum baking pan as a drip pan.

Season the top of the meatloaf with any seasoning salt that you like (or just use additional salt and pepper) and place it in the barbecue smoker.

It is best to not insert a thermometer probe into the meatloaf, as the probe can cause the cheese to leak. We recommend using a Thermopro instant-read thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the meatloaf during the last hour of cooking. It's best to avoid puncturing the meatloaf with a temperature probe for the first 2-3 hours while the meat sets up and creates a strong chamber to contain the melted cheese. 

To Make The Meatloaf Glaze:

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisking well. Reserve for the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Smoking Instructions:

Smoke the meatloaf for three hours at which point the meatloaf should be about 140° internal temp. You may increase your smoker temperature to 325° if you want to speed up cooking. 

You will cook the meatloaf to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Glaze the outside of the meatloaf with the glaze mixture throughout the last 45 minutes of cooking. We glazed twice, using half of the mixture each time to create a thick, sticky layer of richly flavored glaze. 

We glazed once at the 3-hour mark and the remainder about 40 minutes later, when we were approaching the pull temperature of 160°.

Smoking times vary with your personal setup. Just ensure you cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and glaze the meatloaf during the last 30 minutes of smoking so the glaze can set. 

Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before serving. Cut slices revealing the cheese filling and serve immediately. 

Notes

We used 90/10 meat (ground sirloin) for best results in this recipe. 

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 731Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 283mgSodium: 1581mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 2gSugar: 15gProtein: 64g

This nutritional information is provided as a courtesy as an estimate only. Consult with a dietician for precise estimates. This website makes no claims that the nutritional values listed are accurate.

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