BBQ (SMOKED) MEAT LOAF
The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook
by Ardie A. Davis, PhB; Chef Paul Kirk, PhB; Carolyn Wells, PhB
Dr. Howard L. Taylor
Howard told us that he has enjoyed meat loaf, especially in sandwiches, since the first several decades of his life. One thing about traditional meat loaf bothered him, however, and that was "the loss of meat flavor from milk, bread, and eggs." Those three fillers and binders were disturbing, "especially when considering meat loaf to be smoked or barbequed." Howard had a meat loaf epiphany of sorts when he spent ten years in the Middle East. There he discovered Greek ground lamb and beef dishes using wine and other Middle Eastern ingredients, with, he told us, "much higher spice levels, and broth instead of milk, and rice instead of bread."
When he returned to the United States, Howard found several meat loaf recipes calling for consomme, or beef broth and gelatin. This, at last, was meat loaf worthy of barbeque. Howard recommends smoking meat loaf on a flat piece of aluminum foil or in a pan with holes in it so the liquids can drain out and the smoke can get in. For a spicier (piquant) flavor, Howard says, "use more hot sauce and chili powder." This meat loaf is great served with barbeque sauce or mushroom gravy or topped with cheddar or pepper Jack cheese. The leftover meat loaf can also be refrigerated and used a day or two later for a main dish or in sandwiches.
Serves 8 to 10
• 2 to 3 tablespoons hickory-smoked bacon drippings
• 1 cup diced red onion
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked
• 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and chopped, sauce reserved
• 3/4 cup beef broth
• 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground, or ground cumin
• 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder or hot sauce (optional)
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or ground coriander (optional)
• 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste (optional)
• 2 pounds 80 to 85% lean ground chuck
• 1 cup cracker crumbs, preferably whole wheat Ritz, or as needed
• 1 cup barbeque sauce, smoky or regular, for serving (optional)
Heat the bacon drippings in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the garlic, paprika, and chipotle chiles and saute for 1 more minute. Add 1/4 cup of the beef broth and stir to deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat, sprinkle in the gelatin, and stir. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to cool.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, remaining 1/2- cup of beef broth, vinegar, and Worcestershire. Add hot sauce to taste. Stir. Add the salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and thyme and stir. Add the cilantro leaves, brown sugar, and onion mixture to the bowl. Mix well. Add the ground beef and mix well with a stiff spoon or by hand. Mix in enough cracker crumbs to make the mixture slightly stiff. Form the meat into one large loaf or 6 to 8 small loaves, kabobs (logs), or patties.
A water smoker is recommended but not essential. Wrap the smoker grills (racks) in aluminum foil. Punch many 2- or 3-inch-diameter holes in the foil. For a larger, more square loaf, punch holes in the bottom and sides of an aluminum foil loaf pan and put the loaf in it. Place racks or pans over a water pan or drip pan in the smoker. Leave some clearance. Preheat the smoker to 215° to 250°F. Place the meat loaves on the foil.
Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°F in the center. Depending on the loaf size and smoker temperature, this could take 45 minutes to 4 hours. As an option, the meat loaf can be basted with a glaze of your choice and cooked for 5 to 10 minutes more.
Remove the loaves and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Slice and serve with warm barbeque sauce on the side.