SMOKIN’ HOT — The Gochiso Gourmet smokes his meatloaf at 225 to 250 degrees. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALUnrelenting heat, kids runnin’ around at all hours of the day and baseball in full swing can only mean one thing: Summer is here.

And with summer comes the smell of weekend grillin’ and smokin’! Though like I’ve mentioned before, here in the 50th, we just seem to have two seasons, a really hot summer and a hot non-summer, so our grills and smokers are used year round. But for those of you residing in the CONUS (contiguous United States), this is a time when those grills and smokers emerge from winter’s hibernation — to grill New York strips and Delmonicos and to smoke brisket and pork shoulder,  right? Nope. What if I told you one of the best cooking applications for the thick steak didn’t involve charcoal or a grill, but an oven? Isn’t  an oven  just to bake meatloaf? Then, what if I told you one of the best smokin’ applications is to smoke your meatloaf? Trading cooking places!

BAKED — The Gochiso Gourmet bakes his steak at 275 degrees. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto
BAKED — The Gochiso Gourmet bakes his steak
at 275 degrees. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Baked Steak
I first saw this on the Internet, probably on Facebook, and I gave in and clicked the link. I rarely do so on Facebook, as you don’t know where you’ll be taken or what potentially malicious code will be uploaded to your computer. But that picture of that perfectly cooked steak drew me in, especially after I found my favorite cut of steak, the chef’s cut of ribeye sold at my local Foodland Super Market. Basically, it’s a thickly cut ribeye that’s been butchered to remove that one-half to three-fourths of an inch strip of fat that runs about one inch into the steak. It’s then reassembled with butcher’s twine to create a round steak with perfect marbling. And because it was cut to about one and a half inch thickness, it was perfect for the baked application.

For starters, a baked steak isn’t for everyone. It’s the perfect cooking application for those who love their boeuf rare or medium rare, though it’ll also work with medium. But if you enjoy your steak medium well to well done, look no further than your grill or stove top cast iron pan. But if you savor the flavor that only comes with pink to red beef where bovine DNA is still retrievable, read on.

The one word of caution is that the baked application does take more time than the usual six to 10 minutes of grilling. It takes anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes of baking, then 15 minutes of rest, followed by two minutes of searing. But the payoff is a steak rare, medium rare or medium, virtually the whole thickness of the meat. With the high heat of a grill, what you invariably get is a steak that’s crusted, then well done for a millimeter or two then medium well done for another millimeter or two then medium for another millimeter or two finally medium rare just in the internal four or five millimeters. With a low and slow, baked steak you get a nice crusted exterior with a medium rare consistency almost the entire thickness of the steak.

So you’ve decided that you’re on the baked steak bandwagon, how do you proceed? For starters, get a steak that’s one and a half to two inches thick.

Then set your oven to 275 degrees. You can place the steak simply on your oven grates, but I like to foil line a cake sheet and place a cooking rack over the cake sheet to support my steak. You then generously salt and pepper both sides of your steak, then place it on the grate and insert a digital thermometer probe sideways into the middle of the steak and set it for 115 for rare, 125 for medium rare and 135 for medium. Once the internal temperature hits the desired doneness setting, remove the steak from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, brush a little oil on both surfaces of the steak and sear in a hot pan (cast iron is preferable) for one minute. Turn over and sear the side for another minute. You should now have the perfect rare, medium rare or medium steak.

SMOKIN’ HOT — The Gochiso Gourmet  smokes his meatloaf at 225 to 250 degrees.    photo by Ryan Tatsumoto
SMOKIN’ HOT — The Gochiso Gourmet smokes his meatloaf at 225 to 250 degrees.
photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Smoked Meatloaf
I first saw this cooking application on one of the cable food networks. But now that I’ve sampled smoked meatloaf, I beat myself over the head wondering why I never thought of this cooking application on my own. I mean, I do my fair share of smoking various proteins — from fish to pork to beef to lamb — as well as various veggies, but I never once considered using ground meats. It’s probably since the cooking grates in my smokers are spaced about an inch apart. Ground meat will fall right through the grates. It never occurred to me to use an aluminum pan or tray as the containment vessel. And nowadays, you can find smoking specific pans with mini perforations that let smoke penetrate the bottom but don’t allow “seepage” of your meat.

All you need is your favorite meatloaf recipe, then either place it freeform on the cooking tray or pan of your choice and smoke it at 225 to 250 degrees for two to three hours. You just want to make sure that your loaf is freeform; if you place it in a regular 4 by 9 inch pan only the top of the loaf will be flavored with that smoky goodness, and you want maximum smoke exposure for your loaf. If you want precise cooking, just use a corded thermometer with the probe in the thickest section of your loaf and smoke it until it registers 155 to 160 degrees.

Since smoking does take a little extra time, I also add other vittles to my smoker while smoking the meatloaf, like thick cut onion rings and halved tomatoes for my smoked tomato mayonnaise. You can also smoke other veggies to create smoky side dishes for your meatloaf. If you’ve smoked your loaf properly, you should create that nice smoke ring you find in properly smoked beef, pork or lamb but since the ground meat is a little more porous, the smoke ring should extend about one-half to three-fourths of an inch  from the surface. If you don’t already have a favorite meatloaf recipe, you can sample my version:

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Smoked Meatloaf
4 lb ground beef (80/20)
2 pkg Lipton onion soup mix
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
4 eggs
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Mix Lipton onion soup mix with milk. Add to ground beef then add the rest of the ingredients and thoroughly mix. Place on an aluminum roasting pan or smoking tray and shape like a traditional meatloaf. Place in the smoker with the temperature around 225 degrees and smoke for two to three hours or when the internal temperature registers 155 to 160 degrees.

You can still fire up the grill
Because grilled veggies as a side dish or grilled fruit for a side compote or dessert enhances any barbecue meal. Just remember that you don’t have to always grill your steaks or bake your meatloaf. Use your grill for your side players like a grilled or smoked potato salad or a grilled veggie panzanella … but that’s another column.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at

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