Smoked Whiskey-Barbecue Meatloaf

Cheese-stuffed slices of meatloaf on a blue plate.

Smoked Whiskey-Barbecue Meatloaf is a ground meat recipe that you’ll want to make all the time. Once you’ve had smoked meatloaf you’ll see how it adds a fantastic flavor profile that you can’t get from traditional cooking in the oven. This meatloaf is easy, moist, and tender, not to mention stuffed with cheese!

Smoked Whiskey-Barbecue Meatloaf Recipe 

A glazed meatloaf resting on a white serving platter.

Howdy! Chef Alli Here. Let’s Get You Cookin’…. Shall We?? 🙂

Sometimes meatloaf gets a bad rap.  I think we’ve all experienced a dry, lifeless, tasteless meat loaf at some point, am I right?

Enter smoker meatloaf! This meatloaf is loaded with flavor and the pan that it’s smoked in keeps all the juices/fats contained so you get a moist, tender, and flavorful meatloaf.  Plus, the smoke adds such a great flavor layer to the meatloaf and sauce.

What to love about this easy meatloaf recipe

  1. The smoke adds BIG flavor profile to the beef.
  2. Leftovers reheat like a charm.
  3. Grilled meatloaf sandwiches later…or make sliders by crumbling the cooked meatloaf over the buns; top with barbecue sauce and cheese, then bake. YUM.

Ingredients you need to make this recipe 

Meatloaf 

  • Ground beef (may substitute half ground pork, if preferred)
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Milk
  • Granulated onion (or onion powder)
  • Garlic or granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • Eggs
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Whiskey
  • Steak seasoning
  • Cheddar cheese

Whiskey-Barbecue Sauce

  • Ketchup
  • Brown sugar
  • Whiskey
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Steak seasoning
  • Red pepper flakes, optional

How to make smoked meatloaf 

**Print the full recipe from the RECIPE CARD at the bottom of this post

Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees F.

Combine the panko bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl; let rest for at least 10 minutes to soften the bread crumbs.

A simmering pan of homemade barbecue sauce.

While the bread crumbs are soaking, make the sauce. Place all of the sauce ingredients into a skillet over medium heat, whisking to combine; simmer until the sauce is nicely thickened.

To make the meatloaf mixture, gently combine all the meatloaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl,  taking care not to overmix.

Spread the prepared meatloaf mixture out over a large sheet of foil or parchment paper, shaping it into a rectangle that’s about 1-inch thick.

Meatloaf mixture patted out with sliced cheese on top for stuffing.

Place the cheese slices in a single layer, right next to each other, over the center of the meatloaf rectangle.

Meatloaf mixture formed into a loaf, ready for the pan and the smoker.

Now, use the foil to lift the sides of the meatloaf mixture up and over the cheese in the center, including the ends so that everything is sealed around the cheese.

Place the meatloaf mixture into a loaf pan, gently pressing it down into all areas of the pan.

Meatloaf in the pan drizzled with barbecue sauce, ready to for the smoker.

Drizzle about one-third of the prepared barbecue sauce over the top of the meatloaf, using a silicone basting brush to spread it out over the loaf.

Place the pan of meatloaf, uncovered, onto the preheated smoker rack.

Smoke the meatloaf for about 2 hours, basting it intermittently with more barbecue sauce.

At about the 1 1/2 hour mark, test the internal temperature of the meatloaf. Smoke the meatloaf until it reaches 155 degrees F. at the center when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.

A pan of meatloaf on the smoker with the meat thermometer inserted at the center.

Remove the meatloaf from the smoker and cover with foil so the internal temperature can rise to 165 degrees F. as a finished temperature.

Once the covered meatloaf has rested for 10 minutes or so, remove the foil and tip the pan to the corner to pour off any meat fats that may have accumulated in the pan as the meatloaf cooks.

Slice the meatloaf and serve at once, with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

Answers to Common Questions Asked About This Recipe

Which tools are helpful for making this recipe?

Deep mixing bowls – I prefer mixing bowls that have a silicone handle grip and also a silicone bottom. The silicone makes it easier to hold onto the bowl and also keeps it in place better on the counter as you’re working. I also like how this set nests together for storage.

Silicone Spatula Spoons – Of all the tools in my kitchen, silicone spatula spoons are what I use the most. They make stirring and sautéing a breeze and I love all the pretty silicone colors available. Silicone spatula spoons are completely heat-proof so they won’t melt, even when used over high temperatures. I like to have different sizes on hand for different kitchen tasks – soooo handy!

Large loaf pan – For this meatloaf, you’ll want to use a loaf pan that’s at least ? in size.

Meat thermometer – I prefer an instant-read probe, but a traditional meat thermometer works fine, as well. It’s also handy to use a digital thermometer that has dual probes that can notify you when the meat raises to the temperature you’ve programmed for.

Silicone basting brush – For basting sauces onto meats or even butter onto pastry, I love silicone basting brushes for the task.  They wash up well and don’t hold flavors or scents.

How do I make sure my meatloaf is moist and tender? I hate dry and overcooked meatloaf. 

There’s two things: First, make sure to let the panko bread crumbs soak for at least 10 minutes so they can absorb moisture from the milk – very important.

Secondly, don’t over smoke (cook) the meatloaf. Be sure it’s cooked just to a finished internal temperature of 160-165 degrees F.

How do I tell what the internal temperature of the meatloaf is? 

Many smokers come with a meat probe for testing the internal temperature of the meat which is very handy.  Insert the probe into the very center of the meat to gauge the what the internal temperature.  This will only take a few seconds and when the digits stop rising after a few seconds this is the final internal temperature.

What kind of ground beef should I use to make meatloaf? 

We like good ole traditional 80/20 ground beef for meatloaf when putting the meatloaf into a pan to smoke.  If we place the meatloaf directly onto the rack where the juices/fats can drip away as the meatloaf cooks/smokes, we usually use a blend of 2-parts ground beef and 1-part ground pork.

You could also use ground vension or ground bison for mixing with the ground beef, but keep in mind that both of these ground meats are very lean so your meatloaf texture will be more dense and could even be tougher in texture and more on the dry side.

Should the meatloaf be covered when it’s smoking? 

We don’t cover ours since we want it to gather all the smoke that it can when cooking.

If I want to cook the meatloaf right on the smoker rack instead of in a pan, can I do so? 

Yup, and sometimes we definitely do this, too.  It makes a wider and flatter meatloaf (not like traditional meatloaf made in a loaf pan) and does take on more smoke flavor, always a plus.

Smoking meatloaf in a pan helps it retain more juices and fats since they are contained in the pan.  We usually drain these off from the fully cooked meatloaf, before slicing it.

If I don’t have a smoker, can I bake this meatloaf in the oven? 

Yep. Cook the meatloaf, uncovered, on the center oven rack, basted with barbecue sauce in a preheated 350 degree oven for approx. 50-55 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 155 degrees.

Remove the meatloaf from the oven and cover with foil to allow the residual heat from the meatloaf to continue to cook the meatloaf until it raises 10 more degrees to a final temperature of 165 degrees F.

Does it matter which type of smoker I have when making this meatloaf recipe? 

Nope.  We happen to have a Traeger smoker, but any kind/type will work just fine! Just keep the temperature low and slow.

Sliced smoked whiskey-barbecue meatloaf on a blue platter.

More favorite meat recipes to enjoy –

Printable Smoked Whiskey-Barbecue Meatloaf Recipe

Cheese-stuffed slices of meatloaf on a blue plate.

Smoked Whiskey-Barbecue Meatloaf

Smoked BBQ Meatloaf is one that you'll want to make all the time and once you've had smoked meatloaf you'll see how it adds a fantastic flavor profile that you can't get from traditional cooking in the oven. It's easy delicious, easy, moist, and tender, not to mention stuffed with cheese!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

Meatloaf Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs. good ole traditional ground beef (80-20 blend or 85-15 blend)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. granulated onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbs. whiskey, we prefer Weller's
  • 1 Tbs. your favorite steak seasoning
  • 6 oz. cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese, cut into strips about 2-inches long and 1/2-inch thick, I always use Alma Creamery Cheese

Whiskey Barbecue Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup whiskey or bourbon, we like Wellers whiskey
  • 2 tsp. your favorite steak seasoning
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like it

Instructions

Make the Whiskey-Barbecue Sauce

  • Place all ingredients into a large skillet over medium heat, whisking until well combined; simmer until nicely thickened, then remove from the heat.

Make the Meatloaf

  • Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs with the milk; let rest for no less than 10 minutes so the bread crumbs can absorb moisture from the milk - this helps the meatloaf to be tender and moist in texture.
  • Meanwhile, In a large mixing bowl gently combine the ground beef with the ground pork; add the panko/milk mixture, granulated onion, garlic, eggs, Worcestershire, whiskey, steak seasoning, and milk: combine all ingredients just until evenly mixed...don't overwork.
  • Lay out a large sheet of foil or parchment paper onto work surface; press the prepared meatloaf mixture out over waxed paper to create a large rectangle, approx. 3/4" thickness.
    Place cheese strips onto center of meat rectangle, then use waxed paper to gently fold meat over the cheese, creating a large meat roll; seal and fold in the ends to create a meatloaf.
  • Lift the meatloaf into a 5" x 9" loaf pan, gently pressing it down into all areas of the pan.
    Drizzle about one-third of the prepared barbecue sauce over the top of the meatloaf, using a silicone basting brush to spread it out over the loaf.
  • Place the meatloaf, uncovered, onto the preheated smoker rack, closing the smoker.
    Smoke the meatloaf at 250 degrees F. for about 2 hours, basting it intermittently with more barbecue sauce.
  • At the 1 1/2 hour mark, test the internal temperature of the meatloaf. Smoke the meatloaf until it reaches 155 degrees F. at the center when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.
  • Remove the meatloaf from the smoker and cover with foil so the internal temperature can rise to 165 degrees F. as a finished temperature. 
    Once the covered meatloaf has rested for about 10 minutes, remove the foil and tip the pan to the corner to pour off any fats that have accumulated in the pan as the meatloaf cooks.
  • Slice the meatloaf and serve at once with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

Notes

**Be sure to check the blog post for tips and tricks, specific instructions, recommended tools, and FAQ’s for making this recipe.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: bacon meatloaf, how to make meatloaf on the smoker, smoked meatloaf, stuffed meatloaf

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Let’s Get You Cookin’,
Chef Alli

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Chef Alli

Chef Alli is a home-grown Kansas girl on a mission to strengthen families through enabling kitchen confidence, educating the family cook, and encouraging better food relationships. She believes with her whole heart that time spent with our loved ones and our overall quality of life is greatly enhanced by nutritious food made at home with simple, wholesome ingredients. She loves being able to connect and share this passion with others through her website, her social media presence, and her coveted speaking engagements.

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