smoky barbecue meatloaf

On my first day of culinary school, we were issued a standard tool kit. In it were all sorts of delightful goodies including knives, various spatulas, a peeler, zester and the ever necessary instant-read thermometer. As a culinary student, I learned to keep that thermometer always at the ready right in my starched white chef’s coat pocket.

I no longer wear my school-issued whites, but I do always have my instant-read on hand when I am cooking. This is a tool every kitchen should have.  If you do not have one, go and get one.  Right now. Go.  [Okay, well maybe finish reading this post first.] They are inexpensive and will help you figure out when something is done. They are three bucks. By the way, there are nicer, more expensive, digital models. They are even better/more reliable.


smoky barbecue meatloaf

This meatloaf is further proof of why you need one.  That’s because, I know for a fact that it is much yummier when it isn’t over-cooked.  That’s because I have tested it a few times and I (kinda, sorta) cooked it to death the first time.  I wasn’t paying attention, what can I say?  So I’m telling you to learn from my mistakes. When you think it is about done, after say, 30 or 35 minutes, get out your instant-read thermometer and insert it into the center of the meatloaf.  It may need a few more minutes, but you’ll know where you stand.  You’re aiming to pull it out of the oven at 160 degrees F, and let it rest at least 5 minutes; the temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees.  That gives you a perfect juicy 165 degree meatloaf.  So make like a good culinary student and keep that thermometer close to your heart. Your meatloaf will thank you.

Before we get to the recipe, I do have a few notes about how this recipe is more healthy than traditional meatloaf.  Even though I used lean ground beef, it really is moist.  That’s becasue the finely chopped mushrooms give it extra moisture. Don’t worry, because they’re finely chopped, they aren’t detectable otherwise if your family isn’t into them.

finely chopped mushrooms help keep this meatloaf moist

I used grass-fed beef here, which I’ve discussed before. So you know why it is a healthier choice than corn-fed beef. If you missed it, you can read that post and get another comfort-food recipe here. The smoked paprika and barbecue sauce do a stellar job of balancing any strong meaty flavors. One final make-over note, the breadcrumbs are whole wheat so they add a bonus bit of fiber too. I really like the ones by Jaclyn’s.  They’re in yet another comfort food make-over, macaroni and cheese with broccoli.

smoky barbecue meatloaf
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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 5 1/2 ounces

Calories per serving: 220

Fat per serving: 11 g

Saturated fat per serving: 3 g

Carbs per serving: 11 g

Protein per serving: 19 g

Fiber per serving: 1 g

Sugar per serving: 4 g

Sodium per serving: 539 mg


  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
4 tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided

  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped white or crimini mushrooms

  • ¾ cups dry plain bread crumbs, preferably whole-wheat, such as Jaclyn’s

  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Coat lightly with cooking spray.
Chop garlic and sprinkle salt over it. Smash with the side of a chef’s knife to form a paste. Place garlic paste in a large bowl. Add egg, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, thyme and pepper and whisk until smooth. Stir in mushroom and breadcrumbs. Gently knead beef into the breadcrumb mixture with clean hands until thoroughly combined. Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape on the parchment, about 4 inches wide by 9 inches long. Spread the remaining barbecue sauce over the top of the meatloaf.
Bake until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.i


1 g Added Sugar, 92 mg Cholesterol



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