Sunday, April 03, 2011
I decided to get creative this weekend. I had some deer meat that my student Angela (a home fish blogger) gave me (THANKS!). Her father had added fat (since deer is not marbled like beef), so this deer meat was like cooking with ground beef. You can make these meatloafs using any type of ground meat you like including turkey.
If you're wondering why I was working with deer meat, that's because Allegro (a marinade and barbecue sauce company) had sent me some samples, and they have a wild meat marinade - Game Tame Marinade. I mentioned that on Facebook, and that's how I happened to get some deer meat. Facebook really does amaze me at times.
First I soaked the deer meat in marinade for around 20 minutes. I'd tried it overnight on burgers and felt that was too long. I don't like a marinade to overpower, so my normal times on that would be 20 minutes to an hour. That's where you'll see some variation in the color of the meat. It's darker in some places where it has more marinade.
I tamped the meat into the throw away muffin pan (but not too tight). I really need to look for a pan at Good Will. Putting them on the grill will black the pans, so I don't want to use my good pans. But, it would make sense to get a dedicated muffin tin for the grill. Real metal holds heat better for faster grilling. It's also greener - obviously.
Once I had the meat in the pan with just a little head space, I added some barbecue sauce. I went again with Allegro - the regular barbecue sauce which is a nice smooth sauce but not overpowering. You could also use ketchup or tomoato paste like you might with meatloaf in the home oven. I liked the barbecue sauce better with the smoke taste using Baxter's wood (my favorite). Just make a little tin foil cup and put wood chips over to the side to get that smoke flavor on a gas grill.
As I was about to put my mini meatloafs on the grill, my son came in. His older brother was in for his birthday. Younger brother says, "Are you making meat cupcakes for Caleb?" Guys crack me up. And, I guess these will always be known at my house at meat cupcakes. Happy Birthday Caleb!
I stuck the muffin pan on the Char Broil Urban which has turned out to be a grill I really love (and I have 20 plus). It's a good size grill for a family or three or four, easy to use, and the food comes out nice and moist with the infrared.
In this case, I went convection (or lid down) at lower temperatures. You really are baking meatloaf outdoors. It could also be smoked in a smoker. But, if you throw thicker meat like these on an open top grill, I'm thinking you are going to have a mess with the middle not cooked which you especially do not want with deer meat.
My heat was fairly steady at 350 degrees which is low on an infrared - had to open the lid to drop it down a couple of times. More often I'd do these lower temp foods on a smoker, but I was also doing a beef stir fry so wanted cranked up heat after I finished up the meatloafs. Not a problem. Just had to pay attention.
The grease does pool up around the meat. This will vary on how lean you go with the ground or minced meat. I don't know the ratio here, since it was home prepared deer, and I did not prepare it. The last time I tried that, I almost passed out, so I am the designated packer/wrapper of the meat, because I am good at that and write neatly. Life works out.
To get the meatloafs out, I used a slotted spoon. It was metal - Paul Revere Oneida which I picked out in my 20s and which was a great choice. I would not suggest plastic for, I hope, obvious reasons. Grilled food is hot. You would not want melted plastic in there.
Though you could see grease when I was cooking, the meatloafs really were not greasy at all. You can see them right off the grill, and I don't Photoshop. What you see is what you get - unless you burn or otherwise abuse your meat (-:
The main tips I would give here for grilling mini meatloafs would be:
1. Use some seasonings. I used the Allegro marinade for flavor and to tenderize, since I was grilling deer.
2. If you don't have any great seasonings, let me know. I can turn you on to a bunch of great barbecue and seasoning flavors. But, you can also use your favorite basic home meatloaf recipe.
3. The barbecue sauce on top really did add a lot. The grilled mini meatloafs would have been fine plain, but that sauce on top took them up a couple of notches.
4. If you use the throw away pans, they are flimsy. If you need or want to move one, get a cookie sheet pan. Use tongs to slide the muffin pan onto the cookie sheet.
5. Play with your food on the grill. You never know until you give it a try. No. I'd never made mini meatloafs and had not grilled much with venison. The idea hit me as I was falling asleep the night before, and I thought: "Why not?" Sure. I do have some wacky ideas that do not work out, but this one did as do a lot of things I decide to try on the grill.