BBQ Meatloaf: Thinking Outside of the Oven385
with Ashlee Redger
Test Kitchen Chef
Meatloaf hasn’t changed much from the meat-bread crumbs-eggs formula of its origins. At its core, it’s a dish that is so deeply rooted in American tradition- it’s difficult to imagine messing with the classic baked loaf that’s been featured on family dinner tables and diners’ specials menus for decades. A few weeks ago, I was tasked with thinking outside of the oven with our Seven Onion BBQ Meatloaf Spice ‘n Easy The results were so worth it.
Baking in the oven is the classic, easy cooking method for meatloaf, but I wanted to investigate how to make it even more user-friendly for busy people who just want a comforting dinner to put on the table. What’s easier than using a slow cooker?
I stirred up the mix (the recipe conveniently comes with the packet of perfectly measured spices), gently formed the loaf-y shape in the greased dish of the slow cooker, then slathered it with the included sweet and tangy Midwestern Sweet Barbecue Sauce. I set the knob to “high” and bang! It was done in the blink of an eye. A 3 to 4 hour-long blink of an eye, but still. If you’re looking to have dinner ready by the time you get home, start it on low in the morning and cook it for 8 hours. It doesn’t get quite as glazey and browned as the original oven recipe, but for a hands-off cooking experience, it’s totally worth it.
Going one step further, I decided to try the ultimate party food (besides dip, of course): meatballs. I made mine fairly large at 3 Tbsp. for each ball—definitely two-biter’s—which yielded 20 meatballs. For smaller ones, use 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the meat mixture for each meatball. I, again, cranked the slow cooker up to high and cooked them for 3 hours. They were amazingly juicy and even got some caramelization on the tops and sides. I’ve been dreaming about meatball subs ever since!
BBQ’s and A’s
First of all, we’re huge barbecue and grilling fans at Savory, so to have a “BBQ meatloaf” and not try to cook it over actual coals just felt wrong. I followed the Seven Onion BBQ Meatloaf package instructions again but this time, I loosely packed it in a loaf pan lined with parchment to form the shape. My newly formed meatloaf pal and I headed to the charcoal grill. It was already hot ‘n ready, with plenty of glowing ashy coals banked all to one side. I inverted the loaf pan onto aluminum foil laid across the coal-less side of the grill and peeled off the parchment paper that allowed the loaf to dislodge from the pan.
I put the lid on and let it cook there, over the indirect heat. When the internal temperature of the loaf reached 145 degrees, I glazed it with the barbecue sauce and let it continue cooking until it reached 160 degrees. All in all, it took about an hour. Using the biggest spatula we have in the Test Kitchen, I maneuvered the foil-and-meatloaf combo onto a sheet pan and let it rest for 15 min. before slicing.
Oh. My. Goodness. This grilled version of the meatloaf was incredible with the hint of smokiness from the grill and the burnished, browned edges from the intense heat of the coals. My tasters and I couldn’t get enough.
Okay, okay. Since I know babysitting a meatloaf on the grill for about an hour isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, I also formed the meat into little patties to make 6 meatloaf sliders. They were grilled just like hamburgers and flipped every 3 to 4 minutes. I glazed them and let it cook for 2 more min., then served them up on mini buns with fresh burger fixin’s like lettuce, tomato, and onion. Fast? Check. Easy? Check. Delicious? Double check!
I was supposed to stay away from the oven, I know, but I had to include this one. If you want little individual servings of meatloaf that cooks up in a flash, you can press the meat mixture into each space of a standard muffin tin (there should be just enough mixture to fill each cup). Bake it at 350 degrees for 30 min., top each with barbecue sauce, and bake for another 10 min. or so, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. To make the cute little meatloaf “cupcakes” that have been circulating the internet for the past decade, pipe on some smooth mashed potato “frosting” and top with cheddar cheese, parsley, or some reserved barbecue sauce. Adorable.
How do you make your meatloaf unique? Reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and let us know what we need to try next!