I have dozens of pictures on my desktop of dishes I that have created and never gotten around to posting. I had wanted to make meatloaf for dinner, but we were in a heat wave. The idea a running a hot oven to add to the heat just did not seem like a good idea. I wondered if I could barbecue a meat loaf on the grill outside. It actually worked fairly well.
This recipe is fairly close to my weekday meatloaf—I really can’t make the same dish the same way twice. In cooking the meatloaf on the grill, I had several issues to contend with. If I grill/baked the meat in a shallow pan the meat would sit in a pool of its own grease and juices. Also, one of the things that gives barbecued meats its distinctive flavor are these same liquids falling into the flames and smoking the meat with their savory goodness. What to do?
Daughter Miriam and son-in-law Chris bought me a vegetable grilling pan for Christmas last year. The holes in the bottom of this pan solved both of my problems. It’s length however created a new one. The pan was too long to place crossways on my grill to keep it out of the flames, during what I expected to be a long cooking time. I was concerned that the bottom of my loaf would burn if I placed it directly over the heat. My solution was to have a tri-level fire—with the outer two burners on high, but the middle two burners turned off. While the ends of the pan were over the flames the loaf itself was safely in the middle.
Karl’s Weekday Barbecued Meatloaf
¼ cup bread crumbs
⅓ cup milk
1 large egg
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. chervil
¼ tsp. black pepper, cracked
2 Tbs. butter
¾ cup onion, finely diced
¾ cup celery, finely diced
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ cup leek, white part only, halved and finely sliced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. chervil
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked
¼ cup dry sherry
¾ lb. ground beef (15%)
1. Put the bread crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the milk.
2. Add the egg, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings and whisk them together well.
3. Set the bowl aside for 10 minutes, so that the crumbs can completely soak up the milk.
Tip: The milk and egg should turn the mixture into a soft paste.
Note: You want to break the egg up fairly finely, so mix the ingredients together well.
4. Melt the butter in a medium pan, over medium high heat, and sauté the onions and celery with the salt until they are just starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
Note: My mother just threw the raw vegetables into the meat and trusted the baking to cook them through. By sautéing the vegetables first you both drive off some of the excess liquid in the vegetables and also add some of the good flavors of the Maillard reaction to your meat loaf.
5. Add the leeks and red pepper to the pan.
6. Continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft, another 4-5 minutes.
7. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center for one minute, until fragrant.
8. Add the tomato paste to the garlic and continue cooking and scrapping until the tomato paste has started to darkened, about three minutes.
9. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs, pepper, and sherry.
Tip: the sherry does three things, it add its own flavor, it rehydrates the dried herbs, and finally it helps cool the mixture, so that it does not cook the egg when you add it to the meat.
10. Put the beef in a large bowl and break it apart with a knife.
Tip: Meat is mostly protein and if you mix it too much the strands of protein will link together to make a tough, dense meatloaf. By breaking apart the beef you are letting the other ingredients in between the pieces of meat without working the strands together.
11. Scatter the panade and vegetable mixture over the meat.
12. Mix the ingredients together well.
Note: You are doing a balancing act when you mix your meat and vegetables. While the starches and vegetables keep the meat proteins from linking up they are also making bonds of their own. You want to mix enough to have enough bonds to hold your loaf together without compacting it into a solid sausage.
13. Pam the vegetable grill pan and a large bread loaf pan well.
Tip: My mother always baked her meatloaves directly in the bread pan. As a result only the top of the mat was exposed to the dry oven heat to brown. My family prefers that I turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet, so that five of the six sides get brown and crusty. (See Maillard reaction)
14. Pack the meat mixture into the loaf pan.
Tip: If you are not in a hurry, cover the meat with a sheet of plastic wrap and set the loaf in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes to marinate.
Note: If you are letting your meat loaf rest, this is a good time to preheat your grill. Turn on all of the burners for 5-10 minutes. If you are using coals start half an hour early and—when ready—push your hot coals to both sides of the grill.
15. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the meatloaf out onto the grill pan.
16. Turn off the middle burner(s) and place the meatloaf and grill pan in the middle of the grill.
17. Insert a constant read thermometer —set to 160º F—and close the grill.
18. Barbecue the meatloaf for 40-65 minutes, until it reaches the desired temperature.
Tip: If you are using coals, you may need to replenish them after 30 minutes to maintain your heat.
Note: How long you need to cook the meatloaf depends on its thickness and the exact heat of your grill.
19. Remove the loaf from the grill and cover it with aluminum foil to rest.
20. Slice the meatloaf into ¾ inch slices and serve with barbecue roasted potatoes.