Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Maple Plank Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

[FTC Standard Disclosure] Chris and I traded copies of our books, so while I didn't pay for this book, I exchanged something of equal value, so I would not consider this a sponsored post. I do get a small percentage from sales of any Amazon Affiliate links. I received the set of Tabasco bbq sauces for free.

We recently made the plank smoked Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf recipe from The Four Fundamentals of Smoking by Chris Sussman. We made crispy tallow fried potatoes and skillet green beans and had a wonderful meal. The meatloaf was smoky, sweet, spicy, well seasoned, and delicious.

Bacon wrapped meatloaf on the Big Green Egg

You might have noticed that my meatloaves and breakfast fatties (smoked stuffed breakfast sausage) are usually naked. Alexis even asked why I don't often do bacon-wrapping or the infamous bacon-weave. Am I anti-bacon? Heck no! 

It is simply a matter of preference. Like anything, bacon-wraps have their benefits and drawbacks, so it comes down to your personal inclinations. 

Pros of the Bacon-Wrap

  • Appearance - Bacon-wrapped food looks delicious. At first glance, it gets the mouth watering.
  • Flavor booster - A bacon wrap turns the flavor up to 11. 
  • Juiciness - Wrapping food in bacon, especially ground meats, minimizes moisture loss.
  • Self-basting - As the bacon fat renders, it bastes the food. 

Cons of the Bacon-Wrap

  • Smoke Penetration - A bacon-wrap is a barrier between the smoke and the food inside of the wrap. 
  • Crust bust - The bacon-wrap keeps the meat's exterior from forming a crust that it would otherwise. This means no Maillard reaction, a key flavor. Granted, the bacon gets it instead, but the interior meat will not.
  • Food costs - With the cost of groceries shooting up and a pound of bacon getting in the $10 range, a bacon-wrap will bump up your food budget.
For everything, there is a season, right? A time to wrap and a time to go naked. So let's get back to this cook.

The Prep

Alexis asked, "Does it take a lot of ingredients?"

I replied like Jake from Allstate, "Well, it's a meatloaf, so....yeah."

That said, the prep was simple, just mixing up a lot of stuff with ground meat. The trickiest part would be wrapping the meatloaf. I find it easiest to drape the bacon over the loaf and then use a long-bladed spatula to tuck the ends under the loaf.

I picked up a new "mess in place" (mise en place) tray at Home Goods last week. If you grill a lot, you need at least one of these for carrying stuff in and out to your grill. 

How to bacon wrap meatloaf
To tuck the edges, I slightly rolled the loaf to the left and used the spatula to tuck all of the edges underneath in one swoop.

Bacon wrapped meatloaf on the Big Green Egg
Eeeek! It's a bacon-mummy! 
I guess if mummies WERE made from bacon, Brendan Fraser would have been chasing them instead of the other way around. And instead of guns, he'd just have a pair of tongs and a skillet.

Then to move the whole thing and keep the bacon-wrapped, I used an oversized spatula to move it to the pre-soaked plank. I thought oversized spatulas were a gimmick until I got one, and now I use it all the time for moving spatchcocked chickens, pork butts, and briskets. This particular one is the Blacksmith Hawg Lifter [Amazon Affiliate link] from Oklahoma Joe's. I've had it for about 3 years, and if it broke tomorrow, I'd buy a new one. 

The Grill Set-Up

I used one of our large Big Green Egg's for this cook. I used a raised-direct set-up where the grate was about 3-4 inches above the fire ring. Even though I soaked the maple plank, the extra distance helps ensure the board will heat and smolder rather than burst into flames. 

The kick ash basket makes it easy to set my grill up every time
Starting with a clean grill gives you the best chance for success. So I used my Kick Ash Basket to "shake that ash". I transferred the used coal to a steam pan, added new lump charcoal, and put the used charcoal back on top. I like to start with the used coal on top because it lights easier with no popping.

To achieve the "raised direct" position, I used this Adjustable Rig with the grate set at the middle of the 5 possible positions.  You could use a simple homemade raised grate, a Kamado Joe Divide and Conquer, the BGE Eggspander, or most any multiple-tiered grate system to do this. 

Adjustable rig set in place. There is no heat diffuser below it.

The Cook

I got the Egg settled in at 350°f, put the planked meatloaf into the grill, and the cook went uneventfully. When cooking on a plank like this, it will heat up and start to smolder, but it should never catch fire. The efficient, limited airflow of a kamado grill or a drum smoker helps keep that from happening. 

Bacon wrapped meatloaf on the Big Green Egg
Let's get this party started.

A remote probe thermometer like the Thermoworks ChefAlarm guarantees a perfectly done meatloaf
I used my durable and simple-to-use Thermoworks Chef Alarm (affiliate link) to monitor the internal temperature and cooking time. The whole thing took right at 90 minutes.

The Sauce

I normally don't care for mass-produced bbq sauces and typically don't accept offers of free samples. But when the Tabasco® Brand offered me samples of their new line of BBQ sauces, my culinary curiosity got the best of me. I mean, it is Tabasco®, after all.  

Note, they just gave me free samples, this isn't a paid gig, and I can say anything I want. I even warned the PR person that I probably wouldn't like it. It was a pretty funny email exchange. I half-suspected they wouldn't send the product after I told them how I felt. 😆 

Tabasco's exciting new BBQ sauce line is spicy, sweet, and delicious.
Original BBQ Sauce (0/5 flames on the heat scale)
Jalapeno Mesquite BBQ Sauce (1/5 flames)
Habenero Jerk BBQ Sauce (3/5 flames)
Honey BBQ Sauce (1/5 flames)

Tabasco Honey BBQ sauce makes a great BBQ meatloaf
We used the Honey BBQ Sauce to glaze the meatloaf. Turns out, it was quite good!

Soooo....about that. We actually liked the Honey BBQ Sauce a good bit. It first hits you with a sweet (sugar, honey, pineapple juice concentrate), tangy (tamarind, vinegar), and smoky (chipotle, natural smoke) combo. It finishes off with a surprising bit of heat for the 1/5 heat level. 

I look forward to trying the others.

The Sides

Man shall not live by meatloaf alone, right? I made two quick sides. 
  • Tallow fried potatoes - Honey gold potatoes sauteed in beef tallow with onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Seasoned it with salt and pepper. When almost done, I tossed in a dollop of roasted garlic mayo and flipped that a bit. Nice flavor boost.
  • Skillet green beans - blanched green beans sauteed in butter with water chestnuts, yellow bell pepper, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper.

The Big Green Egg modular nest is durable and gives plenty of room
I still love my BGE Modular Nest from Mannix Pools and Grills in Winter Haven, FL. It lets me spread out. 

The potatoes are in a Lodge Pro-Logic skillet, and the beans in an 80-year-old #5 Griswold skillet.

The Results

It should come as no surprise; it was a fabulous meal. Everything about it was fantastic.

The bacon held tightly and even stayed on when the loaf was sliced. 

Bacon wrapped meatloaf on the Big Green Egg
I glazed the slices with just a bit more of the Tabasco® Honey BBQ Sauce to give it that zip. This was a perfect plate.

Leftovers? If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely made a meatloaf sandwich. Sourdough, Smokehouse cheddar, fried onions, roasted garlic sauce, and more of the Honey BBQ Sauce.