BBQ Meatloaf, no grilling required.

BBQ sauce Meatloaf 

There are probably as many recipes for meatloaf as there are for mac & cheese or chili, and everyone thinks theirs is the essential one. Guess what? ME TOO. To be fair, part of what makes these recipes so abundant is just their utter ubiquity. If you grew up in America, you likely ate all of these things, whether homemade; or from a box or a can; or your mom was a terrible or great cook. And while familiarity often breeds contempt in life, in food it usually means you're deeply programmed to equate that dish with love and comfort. Likewise, none of these dishes are hard to make delicious - they are all comprised of nearly fail safe formulas. In the case of meatloaf: ground meat + saucy goodness + some footnote to make it stick together (eggs/breadcrumbs) + extra points for onions or whatever = YUM. I mean when you think about it, meatloaf is pretty much hamburger in sliced rectangle loaf form, minus the buns. Which is probably also why a meatloaf sandwich is so damn good. Anyway, like everyone else, I think mine is THE BEST. Why? you ask - because barbecue sauce, that's why.

There is a lot to love about this brainless, no fail, totally delicious recipe. It has a meaty, beefy texture, it's not dry at all, and it's best when it's a little loose and rare on the inside. The main thing to know about this recipe is that the barbecue sauce you choose will in many ways define the final flavor, so pick one you like. I think it's best with a smoky, classic dark brown molasses-ey type of sauce. Growing up, Mom used a Lea & Perrins sauce that they have since discontinued to the ire of some well organized people, but now she uses KC Masterpiece, I think. Feel free to use what you like, and don't feel weird if you choose some corn starch and msg laden insanity. You could make your own, but that seems to defeat the point of a super easy meal that can last a week if you're feeding one or two people.

As a side note, if your thinking, wow these photos look AMAZING! Well, you'd be right - many thanks to Gabrielle Geiselman Milone for the beautiful photos, which she took for the Cherry Bombe article in which this recipe was first published. I do my best with my handy-dandy iPhone, but nothing beats working with a seasoned professional who can shoot your hands doing all the things and has a flawless home in which to make your food look really incredible. I'm super glad that she is A) letting me use the photos, and B) now you get to see a bunch of the images that the magazine never used. But enough about that - let's make meatloaf!



  • 1 pound 20% fat 80% lean ground beef (leaner is fine, don’t go fattier)
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded carrot (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Sauté the onions. Don't brown; set aside.
  2. Combine. In this order place in a big bowl: ground beef, breadcrumbs, cooled cooked onions, carrot (if using), and egg. Then pour on the barbecue sauce.
  3. Mix it up good. Thoroughly mix ingredients by squeezing them together repeatedly with your fingers/hands until well incorporated. Get in there and go for it.
  4. Put it in the pan. Place mixture in an ungreased 9” loaf pan.
  5. Bake it. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the fat runs clear, and the top is browned.

BBQ Meatloaf


  1. Really get in there with the ingredients and push/pull/squeeze the mixture together. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, just get it all incorporated and wash your hands afterwards. This is not a time to be precious.
  2. If you use a little more than a pound of beef, whatever. Just don’t get too crazy, or it won’t stick together unless you start adjusting the other ingredient quantities too.
  3. Which barbecue sauce you use is totally your choice. I’ve used a lot of different ones over the years. As I mentioned above, for this to taste like my mom’s, a classic dark brown molasses-y sweet tangy sauce is best. You seriously can’t go wrong here, but the more flavor in the sauce, the more flavor in the final product.
  4. The meatloaf may seem a little low in the loaf or casserole pan. That means your doing it right. If it’s too high the fat will overflow.
  5. Speaking of fat, there will be a lot. You’re going to want to pour it off after the pan is no longer crazy hot. Don’t get a grease burn. Really, don’t.
  6. The meatloaf will shrink inside the pan. That’s okay. You’re doing it right.
  7. Freezes great. Makes amazing sandwiches too.

It might fall apart when you slice it. Don’t worry about getting the onions teeny, or the carrots (if using) thin as a hair. Just get it mixed up and bake it. It’s delicious, it will make people happy, and it’s amazing as a sandwich or just reheated again later. Will easily last a week in your fridge, if you don't share the wealth with very many people.

See how there's 2 colors of meatloaf down there? I used two sauces. The lighter one is the one pictured earlier in the post. The darker one was yummier, IMHO. 

BBQ Meatloaf