Pretty much anything good is even better smoked, and meatloaf is no exception.
Smoking is just the latest twist on our meatloaf recipe that has evolved over the years. An important breakthrough was watching Alton Brown's meatloaf episode on Good Eats. Instead of cooking the meatloaf in a loaf pan (which was the way we always did it when I was a kid), he molds it in a pan and then turns it out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. This results in a more nicely browned surface area and is much easier to clean up.
Rather than use a loaf pan for molding, we do a more free-form version (kind of like making a giant hamburger):
For the smoking, we used hickory and apple wood and smoked at around 280°F for an hour and 45 minutes, followed by another 15 minutes near 300°F to reach an internal temperature of 155°F.
I am a ketchup fiend, and used to love it slathered all over my meatloaf. I have come to believe, however, that a nicely seasoned meatloaf stands on its own - especially when smoked.
Here is the recipe for our standard, oven-cooked meatloaf. The smoked version only varies in the cooking technique.
14 ounces ground beef
4 ounces ground pork
3/4 cup fresh coarse bread crumbs, made from day-old rustic Italian bread
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons dried sage, divided
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
sprinkle of paprika or cayenne (optional)
Put the beef, pork, bread and onion in a large bowl. Mix together the egg and milk, pour over the bread and meats. Sprinkle about 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the sage, the black pepper and parsley over the mixture. Using your hands with open fingers, gently combine the ingredients.
Transfer the meat mixture to a sheet pan and shape the meatloaf into a round disk about 2-inches high. Evenly sprinkle the top of the disk with the extra 1/4 teaspoons of salt and sage, plus the thyme, mustard powder and optional pinches of paprika or cayenne.
Bake for 5 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40-45 minutes or until the meatloaf has a nice crust and is not squishy when pressed lightly on top. Allow to rest at room temperature about 10 minutes before slicing into wedges for serving.