Image Courtesy: Jules
Honestly, I can’t remember the first time I tasted mac and cheese. I think I must have been born eating macaroni!
At a tender age, I ate mac and cheese every day without ever feeling tired or even needing to change my diet. When I grew up, I developed an interest in preparing the best mac and cheese. Of course, my mother’s recipe still stands among my preparation methods. However, I find smoked mac and cheese more delicious than any other option.
When it comes to preparing mac and cheese, you have to find the right toppings. Through my years of perfecting the art, I have tried several toppings, including cheese, cream, milk, etc. It is important to find the topping that gives you your ideal flavor. This is especially critical for those who wish to prepare smoked mac and cheese.
The upside of the smoked mac and cheese is the extra smoothness and the smoky flavor. With that said, the smoke should not overwhelm the cheese and pasta underneath. If you are interested in getting the tricks behind preparing the real mouthwatering mac and cheese, here are some exciting tips.
Key points to consider
Choose the best wood chips: Most people will go for the strongest wood available when planning to smoke. With mac and cheese, you don’t need anything strong.
You should, therefore, avoid woods such as oak and hickory. You may use cherry, maple or pecan wood.
Regularly monitor your smoking temperature: Another trick in the box for those smoking mac and cheese for the first time is temperature control. Mac and cheese are not similar to beef and pork – you have to keep the temperatures significantly low. Any temperatures above 225 degrees F will lead to overcooking the noodles, and as a result, you may have to serve your mac and cheese dry.
Choose the best cookware: With a cast iron, you will be able to carry out multiple tasks and reduce the number of dishes used. Further, the skillet gives you enough surface area to smoke your mac and cheese.
Think outside the box: The only way to make your mac and cheese great is by being innovative. You know your taste and your favorite flavors better than anyone else. Do not limit yourself to my flavor guides. You may try to pull other flavors such as green chilies, lobster, bacon, and pulled pork or any other.
Smoke like a pro: If you’re serious about cooking, then you’ll need to get the right pellet smoker for the task. Also, take note that porous, soft, and wet items absorb smoke pretty easily. This is an important factor to consider, especially if you plan to serve your mac and cheese as a side dish for another smoked dish.
Most people would prefer serving smoked mac and cheese as a side dish to smoked brisket or pork shoulder. Once you have smoked your big cuts of meat, remove them, (to allow cooling for about sixty minutes) and almost immediately, put your macaroni and cheese into the smoker. This is crucial, as it will help avoid the process of preheating the grill.
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr. 20 mins
NB: This recipe is enriched with crispy panko bread crumbs topping.
- 1 pound of elbow macaroni – cook according to packaging instructions
- 1/2 a cup of butter
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 1 tablespoon of mustard powder
- 2 cups of half and half
- 5 oz cream cheese
- 3 cups of cheddar
- 1.5 cups of Gouda
Bread Crumb Topping
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 2 tablespoons BBQ sweet rub
Step 1: Prepare the Macaroni Noodles
In a cooking pot, boil salted water and cook the macaroni noodles until they are well done. They should neither be too soft nor too hard. The aim is to ensure they are soft and chewable.
Step 2: Prepare the smoker and the cheese
Preheat the smoker to about 225 degrees F. Use mild wood as stated above, preferably cherry or apple.
In the meantime, heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and melt the 1/2 cup of butter. Whisk in the flour and mix until it attains a fine smooth texture. Once you observe a thin paste forming, whisk in the mustard powder.
Pour the half and half into the smooth paste and whisk while you bring the mixture to boil. Once boiling point is attained, reduce the heat and whisk in the cream cheese until they are all smooth.
Thereafter, mix in the cheddar and gouda cheese and stir until they are fully melted.
Step 3: Mix the macaroni and cheese sauce
Once the mixture of cheese (above) is fully melted, turn off the stove heat and pour it into the cooked macaroni noodles.
Stir the mixture gently, not to break the noodles. The aim is to ensure that the noodles are covered with the cheese sauce.
Step 4: Prepare and add the topping
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, melted butter, and sweet rub and sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese prepared.
Step 5: Smoke the mac and cheese
Place your skillet over the smoker and close the lid. Smoke your mac and cheese for about 1 hour to the lower end and 2 hours to the upper end, depending on your preferences. The longer the smoking time, the stronger the smoke flavor.
After sixty minutes, remove the skillet from the smoker and let your mac and cheese rest for about 10 minutes before serving. However, you must ensure that the mac and cheese are served while warm. To add more of a cheesy flavor, you can use a cheese grater to sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.
With that, you have your yummy mac and cheese ready to serve. This recipe can serve up to 6 people. You may choose to serve it as a side dish alongside other smoked delicacies such as beef cuts and pork, and it would be a recommended recipe if you’re looking for super bowl grilling ideas.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and prepare your smoked mac and cheese now!