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Real Foodists: Chef Tyler’s Deer-ly Beloved Smoked Meatloaf Sandwich

by Tyler Viars

Tyler Viars is best known as the only MasterChef contestant in history to cook exclusively in camo.
This MasterChef Season 5 contestant is an avid hunter, gatherer and of course: cook. Since MasterChef, Chef Tyler's recipes have been featured in a variety of outdoor publications and sites, sporting his moniker 'Cookin' in Camo.' Catch his recipes on OutdoorHub, in Outdoor News, Salt Magazine and more!

Three things I love: whitetail deer, smoking barbecue, and meatloaf.

Combine them together in the form of a sandwich and this cook is happier than Winnie the Pooh inside the honey jar. While on MasterChef we, in fact, had a meatloaf challenge and I plated a dish eerily similar. Although they loved the flavor, the judges classified it more like a burger and less like a “loaf." In my opinion, they can kiss it!! (I mean that in the nicest, most peaceful way. LOL ;).

Meatloaf versus burger aside, I crave this sandwich. Living below the Mason-Dixon Line for a number of years, this was a staple on many beloved barbecue restaurant menus. The chips, smoky chipotles, and earthy poblano combined with the oak cooked venison bring a surprising new flavor to the boring, common meatloaf. Toast some sourdough bread, add a slather of aioli, some bread and butter pickles, crispy onion straws, and finish it with gooey melted cheddar cheese and it is guaranteed to send anyone’s taste buds into orbit!

Now that I am foaming at the mouth, it is time bust out the Weston Grinder, turn on the music, and pour your favorite libation. Let’s get cookin’ in camo!

Serves: 6-8

- Ingredients -

Meatloaf Blend
1 lb venison shoulder roast, cubed
2 oz pork fat, cubed
1 lb pork shoulder, cubed
3 large eggs
6 oz ruffled kettle-style barbecue potato chips (Nacho cheese chips are awesome as well. AKA Doritos)
3 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot, cut quartered
1 poblano, seeded
1 medium sweet onion, quartered
1 tablespoon duck fat or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze
2/3 cup ketchup
¼ cup tomato paste
2 oz chipotle peppers in adobo, sauce included
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (it may seem odd but it adds great depth)

For Serving
12-16 slices of quality cheddar cheese slices
12-16 pieces of fresh sourdough bread
Butter for toasting bread
Bread and butter pickles for serving
Onion straws

Zesty Aioli
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

- Tools -
Weston Meat Grinder & lug
Weston Smoker
Oak chips or other hardwood of choice


Venison cubed and ready for the grinder

An hour prior to beginning, place the metal Weston meat grinder components in the freezer. Using the large die, grind the pork, pork fat, and venison into a Weston meat lug.

Chef uses his Weston Pro #12 Meat Grinder for a fresh grind

Next, switch to the smaller die and repeat. Set grinder aside and allow to come to room temperature.


Preheat your smoker or oven to 250 degrees and add the hardwood.

Combine the ketchup, tomato paste, chipotle peppers and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Remove approximately 1/3 of the mixture into a separate bowl. Using a food processor, pulse the potato chips until they are the consistency of bread crumbs. Add the potato chips to the 2/3 ketchup mixture. Now add the onion, carrot, garlic, and poblano to the food processor and finely chop.

With the duck fat, heat a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture to the skillet with the sage and kosher salt. Cook the vegetables for approximately 3-5 minutes or until they soften and begin to brown.

Add the vegetables to the ketchup and potato chips and stir to thoroughly combine. Let the mixture cool for roughly ten minutes.

Using the best kitchen utensil, your hands, add the ground mixture to the ketchup and potato chips and thoroughly combine. Shape the combination into a compact, rough 10 inch long –by 2 inch high-by 4 inch high loaf. Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let set for 45 minutes minimum.

Meanwhile, combine the aioli ingredients and let refrigerate for the flavors to meld.

Coat the meat with the reserved glaze. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil and smoke for approximately 40 minutes. After the time has allotted, remove the foil and smoke for another 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees and remove. Do not fret about “undercooked” pork!! The carryover cooking will take the meatloaf to 140 degrees. Tent the loaf with aluminum foil and let it rest for twenty minutes.

The last 10 minutes of rest, butter and toast the sourdough bread slices and preheat the broiler. Slice the meatloaf into ½ inch slices and place on one slice of sourdough.


Top it with a slice of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is COMPLETELY melted. Add the aioli, pickles, onion straws, and other slice of bread to complete the sandwich.


If you have not already, DEVOUR. If you have restraint (I never do), I would prefer to pair it with some homemade barbecue potato chips and a big icy mug of Great Lakes Oktoberfest! Remember to always cook, share, and enjoy!

Chef Tyler slices up potatoes for homemade potato chips with his Weston Mandoline Slicer




For more from Chef Tyler, follow him on Twitter: @CookinInCamo

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