Smoked Macaroni and Cheese

published Nov 24, 2021
Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe

For the best-ever mac and cheese, finish off the cooking process in a smoker.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

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Smoked mac and cheese
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

The perfect brisket or a fall-off-the-bone rack of ribs are often what come to mind when you think of meals you can prepare in a smoker. Who would have thought that a smoker can also be a new and delicious way to make mac and cheese?

Here, I took my favorite go-to version for mac and cheese and tweaked it to be finished off in a smoker. Start by cooking your pasta to al dente (the sauce will continue to soften the noodles as they cook in the smoker). As for the cheese, I like to use a high-quality, sharp cheddar cheese that I buy in a block and shred myself. Pre-shredded cheeses use anti-caking agents that make it more difficult to combine into the sauce.

Finally, it’s time to think about preparing your smoker. Use wood chips with a milder flavor for this recipe, such as applewood, cherry, or pecan. You also might want to use a different baking pan when cooking mac and cheese in the smoker to avoid discoloring your favorite cookware. A large cast iron pan works well and can hold up to the heat inside the smoker. Disposable aluminum pans are also a great choice.

What’s the Best Cheese for Smoked Mac and Cheese?

I recommend a sharp cheddar for smoked mac and cheese. You want a cheese with a bolder flavor to hold up to the strong aroma that comes from the smoked infusion.

Can I Make This Ahead of Time?

Portions of this recipe can be made in advance and then finished in the smoker when you are ready to eat. Simply prepare the mac and cheese as described and transfer to the baking dish you have prepared for smoking. If making this smoked mac and cheese ahead of time, you might want to cook the pasta for one to two minutes less than the package directions, as it will be sitting in the cheese sauce for a longer period of time. Cover the dish and refrigerate up to 24 hours before you plan to use the smoker.

Do I Need Any Special Equipment to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese?

Smoked mac and cheese can be made using an outdoor smoker, a grill that has been prepared for a smoking technique, or in an indoor smoker.

Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe

For the best-ever mac and cheese, finish off the cooking process in a smoker.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 quart

    wood smoking chips

  • Cooking spray

  • 8 ounces

    dried elbow macaroni

  • 12 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. Place 1 quart wood chips in a large bowl and add enough water to cover. Place a small plate over the chips to weigh them down. Soak for at least an hour or up to overnight.

  2. Drain the wood chips. Tear off a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil that's about 11x17 inches. Make a foil boat by rolling the edges up to be roughly the size an 8x8-inch pan (or make it smaller to accommodate the size of your grill). Place 1 cup of the soaked wood chips in the boat.

Option 1: Smoker

  1. Heat a smoker to 200ºF.

Option 2: Grill smoking

  1. For a gas grill: Remove the grill grates. If there are two burners, place the foil boat on one of the burners. If there are three or more, place the packet on the middle burner. Replace the grill grates. Light the burner under the foil boat and keep the other burners off. Cover and heat for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a grill temperature between 250ºF and 350°F, usually medium-low heat.

  2. For a charcoal grill: Remove the grill grates. Light a full chimney of charcoal and arrange the coals on one side of the grill. Place the foil boat directly on the coals. Replace the grill grates. Cover and let the chips get smoky, about 15 minutes.

  1. Lightly coat 1 (3-quart) disposable aluminum pan, 2 (8-inch) round aluminum pans, or 1 (10- to 12-inch) cast iron skillet with cooking spray.

  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 8 ounces dried elbow macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, grate 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 3 cups).

  3. When the macaroni is ready, drain. Return the saucepan to the stovetop, add 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, and melt over medium heat. While whisking constantly, slowly add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until just golden in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. While whisking constantly, gradually add 3 cups milk to the butter mixture about 1/2 cup at a time. Add 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and stir to combine. Do not let the sauce boil — the sauce will bubble and thicken on the smoker.

  5. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Remove the pan from the heat, add the macaroni, and stir to combine. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

  6. Place in the smoker over indirect heat if using a grill. Cover and smoke until the mac and cheese is melty, creamy, and bubbling around the edges, 25 minutes to 1 hour depending on your equipment and desired level of smoky flavor (replenish the smoker with more of the soaked wood chips as needed).

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.