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Sara Hansen

13 Tips For Grilling Meatloaf Like A Champ

Grilling meatloaf!? Yes, you read that right! If done properly, this staple comfort food gets kicked up to a whole new level of deliciousness when cooked on a hot grill. There’s nothing quite like the flavor of the exterior crust that you get with BBQ cooking, But, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure you end up with a perfectly seared and smoky meatloaf that doesn’t fall apart.

So, if you want the inside scoop on how to cook meatloaf on the grill, we’ve got you covered. Here are X tips for grilling meatloaf that is sure to make everyone happily full:


Set Your Grill Up Properly

The first crucial step in grilling meatloaf is making sure your grill is set up properly. You want to do a two-zone cooking setup where you have one side open for indirect cooking and the other side is direct cooking over high heat.

Then, make sure you have a foil drip pan underneath your indirect heat side. This is the side you will mainly be cooking your meatloaf on.

Before your loaf goes on the grill you want to let the grill preheat properly. You’re aiming for a medium-high internal grill temperature of about 325 degrees Fahrenheit.


Use Wood to Add Another Element to the Flavor

Using a little bit of cooking wood will help add another dimension to the flavor of your grilled meatloaf. You can throw some wood chips or chunks onto your charcoal to generate a nice smoke. For example, hickory wood pairs well with beef and will give it that delicious smoky flavor synonymous with BBQ.


hickory wood chunks | grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill


Make Sure Your Sauteed Onions Are Cool

Sauteed onions are one of the necessities when it comes to grilled meatloaf ingredients. They add a nice flavor with a little sweetness. Saute them with garlic for perfect seasoning to add to the loaf.

But, it’s very important to make sure you let your onions cool before you mix them in with the ground meat and other ingredients. 


Avoid Crunchy Vegetables (Unless Cooking Ahead of Time)

Unless you are going to saute them a little ahead of time, skip crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery if you are going to be grilling meatloaf. These types of vegetables take longer to cook to a proper softness than it will take to grill the loaf. So, unless you want extra crunchy veggies in your meatloaf, save these for your baked version.


Consider Your Meat Selection

One of the great things about meatloaf is you could choose from a variety of different ground meat, including beef, pork, veal, turkey, venison, etc. Beef is usually the most popular choice. Though this is sometimes combined with other types of meat as well.

If you are going with beef, ground sirloin or ground chuck are going to give you the best flavor and texture. Avoid using ground round since it will be more grisly and less flavorful. 

Whichever type of meat you choose, keep in mind that the higher the quality/grade, the better the flavor. 


ground beef | grilling meatloaf | how to grill meatloaf


Don’t Skip Seasonings, But Be Mindful

Properly seasoning the meatloaf is another key. You don’t want to skip the seasonings but you also want to stick with more “traditional” things that go well with the meat. And don’t over-season it with a ton of different things. 

Some great options include:

  • SPG (combination of salt, pepper, garlic)
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Basil 
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • Hot sauce (for those who like a kick)


Do Not Over-Mix Your Ingredients

The last thing you want is a finished meatloaf that is tough. An important thing to do to ensure this doesn’t happen is to not over-mix your ingredients. Doing so breaks down the meat’s fibers too much and they’ll quickly dry out.

Put all of your dry ingredients/seasonings in a bowl and mix them by hand or with a spoon. Then add your egg, onions/garlic, ground meat, and other wet ingredients. Use your clean hands to mix everything together just long enough until everything is evenly combined.


Make Sure Your Loaf is Not Too Thick

The thicker, dome-shaped meatloaf that you’d probably use if cooking it in the oven will not work as well on the grill. If the loaf is too thick, the ends will end up charred and overcooked before the center is cooked to temperature. (Make sure to have a good meat thermometer on hand.)

So, form your loaf mixture into a uniform rectangle that is not too thick. Usually about 9” long by 5” wide works well. If needed, you can split your ingredients mixture up until multiple loaves.


grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill | how to grill meatloaf
Source: Sugar Dish Me


Avoid Cooking It In a Pan 

Don’t set your meatloaf in a metal loaf pan to grill it. Instead, you want to freeform grill it. Freeform grilling meatloaf directly on the grates is going to give you those nice, seared grill marks and allow the smoke to flavor the meat. 

But, more importantly, it will prevent fat from pooling at the base of it (like what would happen cooking in a pan) and creating an overly greasy loaf. Alternatively, the fat will drain and drip below it into the drip pan you’ve set up.


Sear the Exterior First

When you first put your loaf (or loaves) on the grill, you want to put them on the direct heat side first for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. You’re going to sear both sides of the exterior first. This will seal in all the juices from the meat and form the exterior bark. Not only is the bark delicious but it will make it much easier to flip the loaf when needed.

Then, you’ll move the meatloaf over to the indirect heat side to cook for the remainder of the time on that side.


Don’t Glaze It Too Early

It’s important that you wait to glaze the meatloaf until you have a nice exterior crust on it. This is especially true if your glaze is sugar-based because, if put on too early, the sugar will quickly burn and can char the outside of your loaf.


grilled meatloaf | grilling meatloaf | how to cook meatloaf on the grill

Source: Grillseeker


Cook by Temperature, Not by Time

As with many other outdoor cooking situations, you want to cook it until it’s reached the proper internal temperature versus just watching a timer. This will ensure you don’t over or undercook the meatloaf. 

So, get your meat thermometer out. Your meatloaf is ready to come off the grill when it has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the deepest part of the center. This is the minimum internal temperature for safe consumption of ground meat.


Don’t Slice It Immediately

Yes, it will look and smell amazing but don’t start slicing your grilled meatloaf immediately. Like with many other grilled meat items, you want to let it rest for a little bit before cutting into it. Letting it sit for about 5 minutes should be enough time to let the juices settle and the collagen in the meat thicken again.

To even throw another twist on there, you can slice the loaf into 1-inch slices and then throw the slices back on the grill just long enough to crisp the cut sides.


Try Your Own Grilled BBQ Meatloaf Today!

Now, by following the tips above, if someone asks you “can you cook meatloaf on the grill?”, you can confidently answer “yes, yes you can!” Grilling meatloaf puts a whole new spin on this classic meal.

As you can see, preparation is a crucial element to ensuring you cook a delicious BBQ meatloaf that doesn’t totally crumble apart or end up too soggy. This includes proper preparation of your ingredients, your grill, and the loaf itself. Gather up everything you’ll need and try your hand at grilling meatloaf on your cooker today!

Have you tried grilling meatloaf? Know of any other tips when it comes to how to grill meatloaf? Let us know below in the comments. We want to hear from you!


Want a great step-by-step video recipe for grilling meatloaf like a pro? Check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Bacon Wrapped Glazed Meatloaf!

If you want to dive into even more smoking and grilling techniques, insider secrets, and more, join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters for first-of-its-kind online BBQ cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master cooking all kinds of meats on your grill or in your smoker today.

Make sure to also subscribe to our YouTube channel to get access to all of the latest insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros!

*Feature image sourced from Weber Grills

Sara Hansen

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