Eric Akis: Winter fare can be summer treat

You don’t need cold weather to be your excuse for making meatloaf, try cooking one on the barbecue instead

Eric Akis

I love a good meatloaf. It’s a comfort-food dish I usually make in autumn or winter, when the weather’s cool, skies are grey and the rain won’t stop.

But the other day, I developed an immense craving for one and would not be denied, despite the warm summer weather. To make my ground-beef-based meatloaf feel more like a summer dish, though, I cooked it on the barbecue.

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The process starts just like it would when cooking the meatloaf inside. You mix the meat with the binders and flavourings, which included bits of bacon and fried onions, set the mixture on a shallow baking pan and form it into a loaf. I prefer to make meatloaf in this free-form way because it exposes more of its exterior directly to the heat, creating a nicer crust.

When mixing the meatloaf, I thoroughly combined all the ingredients first, except the beef. I find that doing that helps them to be more evenly distributed in the meat when it gets mixed in. When mixing in the meat, I do so fairly gently. If I vigorously mix in the meat, it will overly compact and can cause the meatloaf to be unappealingly tough in texture when cooked.

I cooked the meatloaf on the barbecue using the indirect heating method, which involves setting the meatloaf on one side of the barbecue. You then turn the flame off on that side of barbecue, and leave the other side turned on.

When the lid is closed, the barbecue begins to act more like a convection oven. The heat rises on one side of it, hits the lid, rolls around to the other side and cooks the meatloaf, without any flames directly touching the pan and scorching it on the bottom.

When judging if the meatloaf is cooked, always used an instant-read meat thermometer. When done, the very centre should be 160 F (71 C) or above.

To create a summer meal, serve the meatloaf with creamy potato salad, corn on the cob, pickles — homemade if you have them — and dinner rolls. The next day or two, any leftover meatloaf can be used in sandwiches.

BBQ Meatloaf with Bacon, Onions and Sauce

Moist, tender, irresistible meatloaf flavoured with bits of bacon and sautéed onions. It is served with a sauce that is easy to make by simmering together beef stock, beer and barbecue sauce.

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: About 65 minutes

Makes: Four to six servings

For the meatloaf

3 strips bacon, diced (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)

1 cup diced white or yellow onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 large eggs

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup milk

1 to 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

2 lbs. lean ground beef

• vegetable oil spray or vegetable oil

1/3 cup barbecue sauce (see Note)

For the sauce

3/4 cup beef stock or broth

3/4 cup beer

2/3 cup barbecue sauce

2 tsp cornstarch

Place bacon in a skillet, set over medium to medium-high heat and cook until almost crispy. Drain all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat from the pan. Add onion and garlic, and cook until tender, about five minutes. Remove skillet from the heat, spoon onion mixture into a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.

When onion mixture has cooled, preheat your barbecue to medium-high, about 425 F to 450 F in the chamber. Line a barbecue-safe, shallow-sided baking pan with aluminum foil. Lightly spray or brush the foil with oil.

Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, rosemary, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces to the onion mixture, and mix well to combine. Now, gently mix in the beef.

Transfer meat mixture to the baking pan, then form into a loaf that’s about 10 inches long and five inches wide.

Place the pan on one side of the barbecue; turn the heat off underneath it. Leave the other side of the barbecue turned on. Close the lid and cook meatloaf, undisturbed, 40 minutes. (During cooking, check the temperature and adjust the flame as needed to maintain that 425 F to 450 F in the chamber.)

While the meatloaf cooks, make the sauce by placing the stock (or broth), beer, 2/3 cup barbecue sauce and cornstarch in a small to medium pot. Whisk well to combine, set pot over medium, medium-high heat and bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer sauce five minutes, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside until needed.

When meatloaf has cooked 40 minutes, brush the top and sides of it with the 1/3 cup barbecue sauce. Close the lid and cook the meatloaf another 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through and the centre of it reaches 160 F (71C) or above on an instant-read meat thermometer. (During this last stage of cooking, again check the temperature and adjust the flame as needed to maintain that 425 F to 450 F temperature in the chamber.)

When cooked, tent meatloaf with foil and rest five minutes. While it rests, set the sauce back over medium to medium-high and bring to a simmer again.

Once meatloaf has rested, slice and serve with the sauce.

Note: In my recipe testing, I used Newman’s Own Original Barbecue Sauce and it worked very well with the other ingredients in the meatloaf.

Eric’s options: When making the sauce, if you can’t have beer, or don’t wish to use it, simply replace it with 3/4 cup more of the beef stock (or broth).

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday.

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