Easy Smoked Meatloaf

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Meatloaf is a classic, hearty dish and adding smoke and BBQ flavors brings a whole new dimension of flavor.

smoked meatloaf on a white plate with one slice sliced
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Table of contents

two slices of smoked meatloaf on a white plate with basil garnish

Smoked Dr Pepper Meatloaf

Meatloaf and barbeque are loved American foods. This recipe combines the hearty ease of meatloaf with the smoke and BBQ sauce flavors to create a delicious and satisfying dinner. 

My family loves this easy smoked meatloaf, even my father – not a easy person to please at the dinner table – love this recipe. The Dr. Pepper glaze adds a sweet and tangy flavor to the smokey and rich meat. It’s a wonderful, sticky sweet bbq sauce that you’ll want to use on other dishes like chicken or roast pork.

Getting the ingredients together and the meatloaf mixed takes hardly any time, and can be made a day or two ahead of cooking to speed up the process of putting dinner on the table.

up close of the outside of smoked meatloaf

How to make Easy Smoked Meatloaf

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Ground Beef – I always use 80/20 grind ground beef. That’s 80% beef and 20% fat. Fat is flavor, as they say, so I generally use 80/20 ground beef. 
  • Onion – Onion, when minced raw, provides both flavor and moisture to a meatloaf. As the onion cooks in the meat, it puts off a liquid that both flavors the meat and keeps it juicy. 
  • Eggs – The eggs are a key ingredient as they bind the whole mixture together. They also provide proteins that help keep it juicy. 
  • Garlic – Garlic, the tangy and pungent cousin of the onion, provides great umami flavor and richness to the meatloaf. 
  • Ketchup – The tomato, and sugar in ketchup bring richness and a certain sweetness to the meatloaf that compliments the strong onion and garlic presence and provides some moisture and binding qualities. 
  • Parsley – Fresh parsley brings brightness to the meatloaf.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs – Panko are Japanese-style bread crumbs, which are made from bread that has been cooked with electric currents. It renders a crunchy, light breadcrumb. When added to the meatloaf it lightens the texture and helps absorb the cooking liquids, sealing in the flavor and juice of the meatloaf.
  • Milk – Milk brings richness, flavor, and fat to your meatloaf. Use whole milk to make sure you get the most flavor out of the milk.
  • Salt and pepper – Salt enhances the flavor of the beef and the other spices, while the pepper brings a mild heat that pairs well with the earthy and acid flavors of the other spices. 
  • Italian Seasoning – This blend of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram is a staple of Italian cooking and flavors that complement the beef and ketchup in the meatloaf.
  • Paprika – It is a mild chili powder that comes predominantly from Hungary, and is sometimes labeled “sweet paprika”. It has a mild, sweet flavor that is enhanced by heating in oil. Smoked varieties come from Spain, are slightly spicier, and are dried using oak fires which brings the smoking flavor. 
  • White Vinegar – White vinegar brings acid and tangy to the meatloaf glaze.
  • Dr. Pepper – The cherry sweetness of Dr. Pepper brings a sweet almost BBQ flavor to the meatloaf glaze. It’s a fun addition to the sauce.
  • Brown Sugar – Brown sugar get’s its name and color from the amount of molasses remaining in the sugar after processing. The sugar in the glaze balances out the acid tang of the vinegar.
  • Garlic Powder – Garlic powder incorporates well into the glaze, and brings that deep umami garlic flavor to the sauce. 
  • Onion Powder – Onion powder brings the sweet earthiness of onion flavor to the glaze and incorporates well into the mixture. 
loaf of smoked meatloaf on a white plate

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following method: 

  • Prepare the glaze. In a heavy bottom pan, combine Dr. Pepper, ketchup, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, white vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and salt and pepper. Whisk together thoroughly, cook on low to reduce until the sauce is thick and will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • Mix the meat. Prepare all your ingredients, finely mincing the onions, garlic and parsley. In a large bowl combine the beef and the remaining meatloaf ingredients. Be sure to mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Shape your meat mixture into a loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.
  • Smoke. Place the meat loaf in your smoker, with the temperature set to 275-300oF. I smoked my meatloaf with oak for a mild, pleasant wood-smoke flavor. 
  • Glaze. After 45 minutes, brush your meatloaf with the Dr. Pepper and ketchup glaze. Then continue cooking, adding glaze every 10-12 minutes, until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Enjoy! When the meatloaf has reached an internal temperature of 165oF, remove from the smoker and tent lightly with foil. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting. Cut into slices, and serve warm.
slice of smoked meatloaf up close

Tips and Tricks:

Check out these tips on how to make your smoked meatloaf even better!

Thorough mixing is key. Thoroughly mixing the meat mixture is key. Hands are the best tool for this. I recommend using food-safe gloves to keep your hands clean and prevent cross-contamination. I like these gloves

Use parchment paper in your pan. Using parchment paper on the sheet tray guarantees your meatloaf will not stick to the baking sheet. I like to use these parchment paper sheets

Use a water pan in your smoker to keep your meat moist. When I smoke anything, but particularly something like ground meat, I always keep a water pan in my smoker. This can be as simple as putting a disposable aluminum foil train with several inches of water in it in the bottom of the smoker near the fire. This will create a bit a steam, along with the smoke, to keep the meatloaf moist. 
Add extra flavor to the smoke with fruit wood. The great thing about smoking meat, is the wide variety of flavors your wood can bring. Fruit and nut woods can bring a sweet, fruity flavor to your meat. Cherry wood might nicely compliment the cherry notes from the Dr. Pepper glaze. Pecan wood has a mild, nutty flavor that goes well with many kinds of meat. If you desire stronger flavored smoke, look to hickory or mesquite for deep, occasionally acrid smoke flavor.


How do I know the meatloaf is fully cooked?

When the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 165? your meatloaf is fully cooked. Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature accurately and quickly.

How long can I keep the meatloaf?

When stored in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, you can keep meatloaf in your refrigerator for 3-4 days.

meatloaf on a white plate with one slice out of it

What can I serve with Smoked Meatloaf?

Smoked Meatloaf can go with a wide range of side dishes. I like to serve this with traditional BBQ sides like macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and pickled onions.

For a more traditional meatloaf dinner, pair the easy smoked meatloaf with Irish colcannon potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetables like green beans, and even macaroni and cheese for a decadent dinner.

Easy Smoked Meatloaf

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smoked meatloaf on a plate with chopped chives

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smoked meatloaf on a plate

Easy Smoked Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a classic, hearty dish and adding smoke and BBQ flavors brings a whole new dimension of flavor.
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American
Keyword best meatloaf, delicious meatloaf, easy meatloaf, easy smoker recipes, meatloaf, smoked meatloaf, smoker
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 450kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell


  • Meatloaf Sauce Ingredients
  • 1 12 oz can of Dr. Pepper
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp white vinegar
  • 2 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt

Meatloaf Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
  • ¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground paprika


  • Bring your clean smoker to temperature, targeting 275-300?.  Prepare a water pan and the smoking wood of your choice. 
  • In a medium, heavy bottom saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Whisk together thoroughly and cook on low to reduce.  The sauce is done when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatloaf. Mix well to combine evenly.
  • Shape your meat mixture into a loaf shape on a parchment covered baking sheet.
  • Place the baking sheet and meatloaf in your smoker and cook for 45 minutes, minding the temperature and the smoke. 
  • After 45 minutes, glaze your meatloaf with the Dr. Pepper sauce, every 10-15 minutes until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165?.  Depending on your smoker, the outside temperature, and other factors that could take between 15-30 minutes.
  • When your meatloaf has reached 165? internal temperature, remove it from your smoker and loosely tent with foil.
  • Let your tented meat rest for 10-20 minutes before slicing. 
  • Slice in 1” to 1.5” slices and serve warm. Drizzle additional Dr. Pepper glaze over meatloaf to taste.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 1022mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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