Do you love smoked mac and cheese? If so, this is the blog post for you! In today’s post, we are going to teach you how to make the best smoked mac and cheese recipe that you have ever tasted.
This side dish is made with smoked gouda and sharp cheddar cheese, these cheeses have strong and unique flavors and when smoked can be delicious.
In this post, we will cover how to smoke your own mac and cheese at home, and some tips to get that extra smoky flavor.
Let’s get started!
How to make smoked mac and cheese
This yummy smoked mac and cheese recipe will give you a great dish that you can serve at your next BBQ! The key to a great mac and cheese recipe is a nice creamy sauce so that pasta doesn’t dry out while cooking. So follow the below steps and you’ll be serving up some smoked mac and cheese at your next event!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Dry elbow macaroni noodles
- All-purpose flour
- Mustard powder
- Whole milk
- Half & half
- Cream cheese
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Gouda cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
Mixing and Prep
Step one cook the pasta. Ideally, you want to cook the pasta al dente since you will be finishing the cooking process in either the smoker or the oven. If you cook your pasta all the way through the first time, once you go to eat the finished product your mac and cheese will be overcooked and mushy.
Make the cheese sauce: I recommend starting your cheese sauce in a large cast-iron skillet, especially if you are planning to finish your mac and cheese dish on the smoker. First, melt the butter (1 stick) and whisk in the flour (1 cup) until it’s creamy. Next, add some mustard powder for a little kick. Next, you’ll want to whisk in the milk and half & half, about half a cup each then bring it to a boil. Then you’ll want to take the skillet off the heat and mix in some room temperature cream cheese half a brick.
Now to the best part, the cheese!
This is where you can get creative and can add in any different type of cheese you want. I recommend using shredded cheese, specifically cheddar and gouda but I’ve seen all sorts of recipes that call for all types of cheese. Monterey jack, smoked gouda cheese, etc. When your cheese is shredded compared to a block of cheese it is much easier to mix in. I like sharp cheddar and gouda and always a smidge of parmesan.
I usually start with 2 cups of cheddar and 1 cup of gouda and then add more based on the consistency of my sauce. There have been times when I’ve added close to six cups of shredded cheese, it really depends on how you like your mac and cheese. If you like it more on the thick side add more cheese and less milk, if you like it more creamy more milk butter, and cheese!
Mix everything together.
Now that you have your al dente pasta and cheese sauce, you’re going to want to mix them together in the cast iron skillet. Mix the sauce and pasta together until all the pasta is coated with cheese.
Add a topping. This is your chance to get creative, you can add some panko bread crumbs on top of your mac and cheese. Panko bread crumbs are a great way to give your mac a nice crunch or you can add some shredded parmesan cheese. Get creative it will all taste good!
Cooking your Smoked Mac and Cheese
Now comes the fun part, actually cooking your mac and cheese!
When making this smoked mac and cheese recipe you generally have two options on how to cook your mac and cheese. Option one is just to bake the mac in the oven at medium heat. The other and more preferred option is to put your mac and cheese on the smoker or grill.
Baking your smoked mac and cheese
If you don’t have access to a smoker or a grill the best option is to bake your mac and cheese in the oven.
You’ll want to bake your mac and cheese at 350 degrees f for about 30 minutes. One of the main drawbacks of this method is there will be no smoky flavor in your mac and cheese.
Not to worry they are even ways around this issue! Nowadays you can substitute that smoky flavor without the actual smoke from a smoker or BBQ grill.
With a product called liquid smoke flavor. Liquid smoke is a great alternative if you do not have access to a smoker or grill but still want your mac and cheese to have that nice smoky flavor.
Just add the liquid smoke while you’re making your cheese sauce and viola!
Cooking your smoked mac and cheese on the Smoker
The best way to make smoked mac and cheese is obviously with a smoker!
Here are the instructions for making this recipe on a smoker grill.
Soak your wood chips
Before smoking anything you always want to soak your wood chips. I recommend soaking them for at least an hour before you throw them on the BBQ. For Smoked mac and cheese I would recommend using a lighter wood chip such as apple, peach, or cherry.
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees
Once your wood chips have soaked a while, go ahead and bring your smoker up to heat with the chips in them. Smoked mac n cheese should be cooked at 225 f for about 20-30 minutes.
Put your mac n cheese skillet on the smoker
One of the key reasons to use a cast iron skillet is that you can make your mac and cheese sauce directly in it and then go ahead and throw the skillet directly on the smoker.
Cooking smoked mac and cheese on a gas grill
People that don’t own a smoker often ask me how to make smoked mac and cheese on a gas grill. The answer is simple, just add some wood chips to your gas grill. The best way to do this is with a smoker box for your gill.
The only difference between a smoker box and a traditional smoker is that the smoker box may take longer to heat up and release the smoke compared to a smoker depending on your grill configuration. So if your only option is a gas grill don’t worry you can still make delicious smoked mac and cheese with the help of a smoker box.
Can smoked mac and cheese be made ahead of time?
Yes! If you’re having a big cookout but can’t dedicate the time to making a full macaroni dish with shredded cheese, you can always make the smoked macaroni and cheese ahead of time.
Make the entire dish, cover, and then refrigerate, once you are ready to start cooking gently reheat it in the oven or smoker at 300F or 225 F for 30 minutes or until it’s hot and bubbling.
Pro tip: Let the macaroni come to room temperature first, it will reheat more evenly and also much faster.
Can Smoked mac and cheese be frozen?
Sometimes making smoked macaroni and cheese seems like a big effort and sometimes it is.
I would estimate prep time for making smoked macaroni and cheese to 30 minutes, not including smoker or grill time. If you are running tight on time or don’t feel like doing all the work they’re other options.
Such as frozen smoked mac and cheese, my personal favorite is the world’s best frozen macaroni and cheese.
Smoked mac and cheese recipe tips
Now that we’ve covered the best ways to make smoked mac and cheese here are some common tips that will take your mac to the next level!
Use a cast iron skillet:
A Cast iron skillet can be a very coinvent way to cook. With a cast-iron skillet, you can transfer your dish from stovetop to oven to smoker with no need to change the dish.
Make sure your smoker is at the right temperature:
Your BBQ smoker or gas grill should be heated to a temperature under 225 degrees f. This temperature allows the pasta to cook without burning the cheese sauce.
Use lighter flavored wood chips cheery, maple:
When making smoked mac and cheese on the smoker wood chip flavor is important. Certain wood flavors mesh well with the different types of cheeses. Gouda cheese has a very unique flavor and is something you really don’t want to cover up with a strong wood chip. So choose wisely!
Now that we’ve covered how to make smoked mac including everything from cooking the macaroni noodles to how to make the cheese sauce, you should be an absolute pro at your next BBQ.