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"Forever In My Life" Smoked Mac and Cheese

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Smoked Mac and cheese should be a thing!  Change-up your Sunday dinner and/or Thanksgiving side dish offerings with this.

mac and cheese in cast iron skillet

It’s got that classic creamy cheesiness and signature crunchy topping but with added next level flavor from the slow smoking on the grill.

FOR THE MOOD

WHAT YOU NEED TO SMOKE MAC AND CHEESE:

  • Pasta shells
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Gruyere Cheese - I like a creamier cheese to pair with sharp cheddar
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk - for both the milk and cream I prefer full flavor so I skip the low-fat options.
  • Heavy Cream
  • Jerk Seasoning - use your preferred seasoning. Typically I use mustard powder, paprika, salt, and pepper but changed things up to give a Jamaica jerk flavor. I’ve used a cajun/creole mix before as well.
  • Bay Leaf
  • Panko Bread Crumbs

SMOKED MAC AND CHEESE COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare the pasta

In a large pot of boiling, salted water (the saltier the better) cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and put back into pot cooked in. Add butter to make it easy for the cheese sauce to stick

pasta shells in a pot

Make the roux

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in the cast-iron skillet, whisk in flour and stir constantly to a smooth consistency and it begins to brown. 

butter in skillet with spices

Make the cheese sauce 

To the roux, add milk, cream, bay leaf, and ½ the seasoning stirring constantly until it begins to thicken. Once pretty thick remove from heat. Remove the bay leaf. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Fold the macaroni into the mix. Top with remaining cheese.

Make the crust

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss with the bread crumbs, remaining seasoning and reserved cheese to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs mixture.

cheese and bread crumbs in skillet

Smoke the Mac and Cheese

Pre-heat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Add the Mac and cheese, close the lid, and smoke for 60-90 minutes.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE BEST SMOKED MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

In my humble opinion, the best macaroni and cheese recipes are generally kept pretty simple. Keep the ingredients simple. Focus on a few, high-quality ones.

Two is my max number of cheeses. The first choice is a good American sharp cheddar cheese. You can’t beat the melt and the flavor, both of which are essential to good mac and cheese. The second one is one of the creamier type cheeses. I’m partial to pecorino, but parmesan or gruyere are great choices as well.

Choose the right macaroni pasta. You can never go wrong with elbow, but more importantly, choose a pasta that has different nooks and crannies for the cheese to find its way into. They’re good at holding the melted cheese so you get the goods with every bite.

pasta shells

Packaged shredded cheese works fine for convenience, but for that robust cheesy flavor grate your own fresh cheese.

Heavily salt the water before boiling the water and cooking the pasta.

Don’t cook beyond al dente (pasta should be cooked but chewy) because the pasta will continue to cook in the smoker

Don’t skip the roux, as it’s what gives Mac and cheese texture. Flavor your roux with pepper, bay leaves, and spices like mustard powder and paprika

Toss the cooked pasta in butter before adding your cheese sauce. This will help the cheese stick to the pasta better

I typically make this dish with Southern meatloaf or smoked brisket. During the period when the brisket is resting I will use the time to smoke the mac and cheese which is a more efficient use of the smoker.

Use a cast-iron skillet for this dish. It’s built to go from different cooking temperatures which this recipe requires. Plus you don’t have to worry about any discoloration from the smoke.

Keep the smoking temps low to avoid overcooking and drying out the mac and cheese.

I keep my cook time at about an hour and definitely no more than 90 minutes. The ingredients absorb smoke rather easily/quickly so anything longer and this dish becomes more smokey than cheesy. Likewise choose a milder wood smoke like oak, apple, or pecan. Woods like mesquite or even hickory can overpower things.

MORE RECIPES

Southern Collard Greens

Smoked Butternut Squash

Smoked Whole Cauliflower

Pinto Beans with Smoked Brisket

Southern Candid Yams

Baked Mac and Cheese

Smoked and Fried Green Tomatoes 

Smothered Green Beans and Potatoes

Grilled Butternut Salad

MAKE THIS RECIPE

If you make this Smoked Mac and Cheese recipe or any other from the site, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.

You can also keep up with my food exploits as well as original recipes! You can find me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. If you like any of the music you find on the site, visit me at Spotify to find curated monthly playlists.

mac and cheese in cast iron skillet

Smoked Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese prepared traditional Southern style and then slow-smoked on the grill to a super creamy consistency and crunchy crust.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: BBQ, southern
Servings: 8
Calories: 426kcal
Author: Marwin Brown

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients

For the mac and cheese

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni or shells
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar shredded
  • ½ cup gruyere cheese grated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

For the Crust:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup sharp cheddar

Instructions

Prepare the pasta

  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees F.
  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water (the saltier the better) cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and put back into pot cooked in. Add butter to make it easy for the cheese sauce to stick

Make the roux

  • While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a sauce pan, add flour and stir constantly to a smooth consistency and it begins to brown. Add milk, bay leaf, ½ the spice mix, and cream stirring constantly until it begins to thicken. Remove the bay leaf. Add ¾ of the cheese and mix thoroughly.
  • Fold the macaroni into the mix. Top with remaining cheese.

Make the crust

  • Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss with the bread crumbs and reserved cheese to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs mixture.

Smoke the Mac and cheese

  • Smoke for 60-90 minutes. Remove from smoker and rest for five minutes before serving.

Notes

Packaged shredded cheese works fine for convenience, but for that robust cheesy flavor grate your own fresh cheese.
Heavily salt the water before boiling the water and cooking the pasta.
Don’t cook beyond al dente (pasta should be cooked but chewy) because the pasta will continue to cook in the smoker
Don’t skip the roux, as it’s what gives Mac and cheese texture. Flavor your roux with pepper, bay leaves, and spices like mustard powder and paprika
Toss the cooked pasta in butter before adding your cheese sauce. This will help the cheese stick to the pasta better
I typically make this dish with smoked brisket. During the period when the brisket is resting I will use the time to smoke the mac and cheese which is a more efficient use of the smoker.
Use a cast-iron skillet for this dish. It’s built to go from different cooking temperatures which this recipe requires. Plus you don’t have to worry about any discoloration from the smoke.
Keep the smoking temps low to avoid overcooking and drying out the mac and cheese.
I keep my cook time at about an hour and definitely no more than 90 minutes. The ingredients absorb smoke rather easily/quickly so anything longer and this dish becomes more smokey than cheesy. Likewise choose a milder wood smoke like oak, apple, or pecan. Woods like mesquite or even hickory can overpower things.

Nutrition

Calories: 426kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 1196mg | Potassium: 230mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1156IU | Calcium: 332mg | Iron: 1mg
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