A Guided Intro: Smoked Meatloaf on a Pellet Grill

September 8, 2022
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Although I have had the benefit of using pellet grills for years, I know that they can be a bit tricky to get used to. This is why I decided to show you step-by-step instructions on how to make smoked meatloaf on a pellet grill.

Follow this guide to smoky, delicious goodness!

Smoked Meatloaf on a Pellet Grill

Smoking Meatloaf on a Pellet Grill

If you are like most people then you are probably used to preparing your meatloaf recipe and then popping it into the oven. As you can imagine, there are some differences to making smoked meatloaf using a pellet grill.

To begin with, there is the timing. When you bake your meatloaf, it should typically take about an hour. With a pellet grill ground beef mix can take a lot longer to cook – often up to three hours or more. Thus, you will need to prepare accordingly.

The other difference, of course, is the taste! The smoked meatloaf recipe is imbued with a gorgeous smoky flavor. On top of this, the addition of the barbecue sauce also helps to give it a more BBQ meatloaf feel to it.

Now, some people imagine that smoking meatloaf can cause the dish to dry out as it is smoked for a longer period of time. However, there is just as much chance of this happening in the oven! What’s more, I will be offering you plenty of tips and tricks to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your dish.

What Pellets Should You Use?

As you are using a pellet grill, it is only natural to wonder which wood pellets you should be using for your smoked meatloaf.

Well, this all depend on your preferences – I know that some people have favorites that they like to add to every BBQ recipe. However, I am a fan of matching the wood chips to the meat that you are using.

For instance, I find that hickory is a good match for ground beef. Make sure to use this sparingly, though, and to add plenty of oak to the hopper to ensure that your smoked meatloaf doesn’t come out tasting bitter.

On the other hand, if ground pork is your main ingredient, opt for something on the sweet side like apple or cherry – most fruit woods would do the trick here.

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Smoked Meatloaf Recipe


  • 2lbs of ground beef or ground pork
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup of Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup of BBQ sauce, divided
Ribs fresh out of the Z Grills pellet grill

Dry Rub

  • 2 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. of paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. of salt
  • 3/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. of onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp. of chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. of cayenne powder


Step 1

Preheat the pellet smoker to 275°F.

Step 2

Combine the ground meat, seasonings, bread crumbs, and half the BBQ sauce in a bowl. Mix well. Shape into a loaf shape and place in a pan.

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients of the BBQ rub together.

Sprinkle the rub over the meatloaf, gently pressing into the surface.

Step 3

Place the meatloaf on the grill and smoke meatloaf for two hours.

Take the meatloaf out of the smoker and coat the top and sides of it with the rest of the BBQ sauce.

Place back in the smoker and smoke meatloaf until the internal temperature reaches 165 F.

Rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Meat for Your Smoked Meatloaf – What Should You Use?

I know that beef and pork are par for the course here but there is no harm in switching things up. A lot of people like to use a mixture of meats. As such, you can combine a pound of pork and a pound of beef. Or, if you want to give it a kick, throw in some spicy Italian sausage into the mix.

Just remember that whatever ground meat that you use requires some fat in it. Look for about 15 percent of fat – this is what gives you a nice and tender meatloaf. If there isn’t enough fat, then your smoked meatloaf is at risk of drying out.

It is for this reason that I don’t like using ground turkey for this recipe. Now, some people do like to add oil or some other kind of fat to make up for the overall content but I don’t really find that it helps.

A Man Holding a Roasted Meat

What Kind of Bread Crumbs are Best?

In this smoked meatloaf recipe, I have used Panko bread crumbs as one of the binding agents. The reason that I did this is because I have found them to be a bit crunchier, adding to the overall texture of the meatloaf. I also like using the seasoned version for additional flavor.

Of course, regular bread crumbs work just as well. There are also some who use garlic croutons, crushed Ritz crackers, crushed tortilla chips, and similar items. I can’t vouch for these as I haven’t tried them out myself but you can certainly gives a shot.

Now, if you don’t have this ingredient or are gluten free, there are some other options available to you. Of these, I have found oats to be the best choice.

Make sure to leave them whole, however, as if you grind them it will become too fine and won’t work as well at holding the smoked meatloaf together. You should also note that while oats bind the meatloaf ingredients together well, they don’t really create the same crispy texture as the crumbs.

Should You Add Milk to Your Smoked Meatloaf?

I have seen a lot of recipes that use milk as both a binding agent and to help add moisture to the dish. Personally, though, I don’t think it is a great addition.

For one thing, it can be tricky to maintain the proper structure of the meatloaf if you add too much liquid. Remember, unlike when baking this dish, you can’t keep it in a loaf pan while it smokes.

I also want to keep the focus on the meat and the seasonings and don’t want the milk interrupting in any way. Not to mention, with the eggs and the crumbs, you have all the binding agents that you need.

Choosing the Right BBQ Sauce

As this is a BBQ meatloaf, I like using a sauce that it is quite sweet. I find that this compliments the smoked meat best of all. Thus, always look for a sauce with a high sugar content. In case you are making your own, I would go easy on the acid and increase ingredients such as brown sugar and maple syrup.

Some people do like making up their sauce with liquid smoke. Now, with any other recipe, I would encourage you to do this. In the case of smoked meatloaf, though, you are already getting a natural smoke flavor and you don’t want anything interfering or clashing with it.

Do You Need a Rub and Sauce?

Yes, you do! This is because they perform two different functions. The rub helps to form a crusty and flavorful exterior. The sauce acts as a glaze. When combined, these create a mouthwatering result.

While you can absolutely follow the recipe here, feel free to use your own favorite BBQ rub if you like.

Person using kitchen tong to flip meat from the grill

How to Store Smoked Meatloaf?

I wouldn’t suggest freezing meatloaf as I don’t think the structure would hold up too well. However, you can refrigerate it. Simply place in an airtight container and use within three days.

In case you are wondering what you can do with the leftovers, the options are endless. Did you know that this dish makes for a great meatloaf sandwich? Plus, meatloaf sandwiches are really easy to make. Simply reheat, and place in between two slices of bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.

Your other option could be to use it instead of ground chuck in your meatballs, chili, etc. This will add a lovely smoky flavor to any dish, improving its complexity.

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, making meatloaf in a pellet grill doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking process! Now that you know the recipe and the proper instructions, it will be a breeze. Go ahead and try it – you are sure to want to make it over and over again!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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