I walked outside to see what I already knew to be true. Mother Nature, in her normal, yearly ways, rendered our backyard a cold, barren shell of itself. Every breath was now visible, like a small materializing ghost flurrying in front of my face. The greenery was all but gone, and any vegetative growth had long decided to call it quits for the year. There, standing alone, was the trusty old Weber, just a cold, motionless, steel sculpture. I nearly shed a tear on its behalf, but held back as it likely would’ve immediately frozen, crashing to the ground into a thousand shards. Trusty old Weber can always be ready at a moments notice to roll the wisps of wood smoke into the grey skies of winter when needed. And brother, let me tell you, today it was needed. With a handful of crumbled newspaper and the spark of a flame, the coals were lit, and this desolate backyard landscape immediately started looking a little more cheery. When the weather chills down, the craving for hearty, comfort-type food goes up, and so, with the help of my hungry, wood eating grill, we’re doing a little cold weather grillin’ to make Hickory Smoked Meatloaf with Baked Sweet Potatoes for dinner.
When a trip to the grocery store isn’t necessarily on the list of things to do, meatloaf is a great choice, seeing how you can use almost any ingredients you have on hand, and as long as you like it, it’s right. Right? A freezer raid in the dark of night produced two packages of meat, one ground beef and one ground veal. These worthy participants were nominated for this grilling episode, and left to thaw. Once they attained the proper “schmooshy” consistency, the scavenger hunt began for the rest of the ingredients. Opening and closing cabinets like I was being timed on a game show, I came up with a few favorites, gathering fresh onion and garlic, a Worcestershire based steak sauce, a good, coarse black pepper mix, one egg, and about 3/4 cup of crushed pretzels. The pretzels are a worthy substitute for bread crumbs, and bring just enough salt into the mixture.
Then it was time to get crazy and start mixing and molding, using my best Play-Doh skills. A giant meatball, a flattened out triangle, and a very rustic version of a Mickey Mouse type head were just a few of my creations before I settled on the more traditional rectangle loaf of meat.
I angrily stabbed the sweet potatoes, repeatedly and with purpose until I snapped out of the daze I had fallen into, came to my senses and realized what I was doing, hehe. Almost apologetically, I then gave them a generous massage and rubdown with butter. Not margarine or some butter substitute. Real butter. Wrapping them tightly in foil finished their prep for the grill.
Once the grill was ready for indirect cooking, heated up to near 400 degrees and enhanced with chunks of hickory, the meatloaf was put on a sheet of aluminum foil and slid over a water pan on the indirect side of the grill. Standing guard on either end of the meatloaf were the sweet potatoes.
After about 40 – 45 minutes, the meatloaf will be around the 80 – 90 degree mark when checked with an instant read thermometer. Time for the first basting or glazing, if that’s what you want to do, and I wanted to, so I did, using a thinned out barbecue sauce. But while the lid was open, using a large oversize spatula, I rotated the meat as well as the potatoes, just making sure to get an even cook. It’s science!
Everything was looking pretty good, good enough that I didn’t mind being out in the cold, tending to this grill. But then, I never do mind, haha. I’m looking for an inner temperature of 160 degrees for this mound o’ meat, and in this case, that meant only about another 20 – 25 minutes.
Once that mark was hit, it’s time for the meatloaf to be pulled off, covered, and left to rest for a bit, maybe another 10 minutes. That’s long enough for the sweet potatoes, which were left on the grill, to finish roasting. Feeling soft to the touch, you can pull them off the grill, do the two-hand squish to open them up and top with a pat of butter. Add in your choice of greens to complete the plating. That smokey, saucey, sticky glaze fills every crack and crevice in the meatloaf surface, providing a crisp and sticky bite. The creamy, silky, butter-soaked sweet potato is the perfect partner for this upgrade to your boring old oven baked meatloaf topped with that bright red tomato sauce.
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired