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4 Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipes That Redefine Comfort Food

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When I think of American cuisine, there are only a few items that come to mind. Aside from grilled steak and burgers, mac and cheese is pretty high up there.

In fact, in 2011, baked mac and cheese was ranked as the number one comfort food in America by Alton Brown, who is a famous TV personality, food scientist, and food show presenter. 

However, I imagine he wasn’t just talking about any regular boxed mac and cheese. Instead, I believe that he was referring to a specific homemade variation of this dish.

And while Alton may have his own recipe that he credits to be the best comfort food at the time, there have been numerous iterations of this iconic dish since then.

One of which is what we call smoked mac and cheese. And I’ll share with you some incredible recipes that incorporate a little smoky flavor and aroma to this hearty meal — just in time for the grilling season!

1. Smoked Crunchy Top Mac and Cheese

We’re starting this list with a smoked crunchy top mac and cheese recipe, which is inspired by Alton Brown’s famous baked macaroni and cheese. 

To begin, grab half a pound of elbow macaroni, three tablespoons of butter, three tablespoons of flour, a tablespoon of powdered mustard, three cups of milk, and half a cup of diced yellow onion.

Not only that. You’ll also need one bay leaf, half a teaspoon of paprika, one large egg, 12 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and fresh black pepper. 

To make the crispy, crunchy topping, you’ll need an additional three tablespoons of butter and one cup of panko bread crumbs.

With your ingredients all set, preheat your oven to 350°F. While that’s heating up, grab a large pot, fill it with water, and let it boil. 

Cook your pasta according to package instructions and wait until it becomes al dente before draining the pot and setting your noodles aside. 

Then, in a separate pot, melt your butter, and whisk in your flour and mustard. Keep stirring for about five minutes to remove any lumps. 

Once you achieve a nice and smooth consistency, add your milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Let this mixture simmer for 10 minutes before removing the bay leaf. 

Now, grab your egg and temper it in the same pot before stirring in three-fourths of your cheese. Season everything with salt and pepper before folding in your cooked macaroni. 

When everything is well combined, transfer the entire mixture to a cast iron grill pan and top it off with the leftover cheese. 

You’re almost ready to bake your mac and cheese, but for now, just set it aside. In the meantime, make your crunchy topping. 

For this, you’ll need to grab a sauté pan, melt your remaining butter, and toss in your bread crumbs until they become nice and crispy.

Add your buttered bread crumbs on top of your dish before putting it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. 

After taking your dish out of the oven, move it to your smoker and leave it there for another two hours. 

I usually like to use pecan or apple wood to smoke this specific mac and cheese dish. To me, these types of wood add a hint of fruity, nutty, and sweet, smoky flavor that really complements this cheesy comfort food.

2. Smoked Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese

I know — it’s pretty outrageous to add a healthy ingredient to this indulgent treat, but an opportunity presented itself, and I took it. 

I’m always up for incorporating vegetables into dishes in any way I can, and since I consider mac and cheese a blank canvas for experimentation, I figured… why not?

So, here we are — adding spinach and artichoke to one of America’s most beloved comfort foods. Some of you may be hesitant at first but don’t knock it til you try it.

To get started, grab two tablespoons of butter, two cloves of minced garlic, 5 oz. of spinach, one cup of drained artichoke heart, three cups of milk, and two teaspoons of kosher salt. 

You’ll also need two teaspoons of black pepper, two cups of elbow macaroni, three-fourths cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and three cups of shredded mozzarella. 

Once your ingredients are ready, melt your butter in a large grill pan. Then, add your garlic and spinach. When your spinach has wilted, add your artichoke hearts. 

Next, gradually add your milk, salt, and pepper. You’ll want to stir this mixture until you bring your milk to a boil.

When that happens, drop your elbow macaroni inside, cooking until the noodles become soft. 

After this, add your cheese and stir until it becomes gooey. At this point, if you want to make your dish extra cheesy, feel free to sprinkle more mozzarella on top.

Now, put your pan inside your smoker and smoke for another two to three hours or until the cheese on top becomes bubbly and golden brown.

If you don’t have a smoker at home, don’t worry. You can just use your grill to achieve the same results.

3. Smoked Miso Mac and Cheese

Although the classic mac and cheese recipe is already good, I find that it lacks the element of umami. 

Umami comes from the Japanese word “umai,” which translates to “pleasant savory taste” or “delicious.” It’s also one of the five basic tastes, right next to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. 

Yes, I know that the classic recipe is already delicious. It may also be creamy and salty, but it’s not as savory as I want it to be. That’s why I decided to give this smoked miso mac and cheese recipe a shot. 

And let me tell you, it was definitely umami!

To make this recipe, you’ll need five ounces of shiitake mushrooms (cut into strips), three tablespoons of olive oil, and a pound of small shell pasta (this will help catch all the savory flavors).

On top of this, you’ll also need six ounces of aged Parmesan cheese (blended or processed), a stick of unsalted butter, a quarter cup of white miso paste, a tablespoon of light brown sugar, and a cup of whole milk.

Don’t forget your salt and pepper, along with your finely chopped fresh chives for your garnish. 

To start this recipe, coat your mushrooms in olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Then, lay them flat on a sheet pan and bake them for 10 to 15 minutes. 

After the timer’s up, flip your mushrooms around and bake the other side for another 10 minutes until they become crispy and brown. 

Take them out of the oven and set them aside to cool off. 

Now, grab a large pot and fill it with salted water. Bring your water to a boil and cook your shell pasta according to the package directions. 

While your pasta is cooking, get a large saucepan and melt half of your butter. Then, mix in your miso and sugar until it becomes a cohesive saucy paste. 

Next, grab your milk and gradually pour it into the sauce, whisking constantly to emulsify the entire mixture. 

At this point, you can add your leftover butter to the sauce one small piece at a time until everything is well combined. 

By now, your noodles should be cooked to perfection, so drain the pot and reserve one cup of pasta water for later. 

Add your cooked noodles to your miso sauce and add a dash of water to dilute it. Pour your Parmesan cheese and stir it until it melts. 

If it becomes hard to blend, just add more pasta water to the mixture to make this step easier. Then, continue stirring until your mac and cheese achieves a thick consistency.

Before putting your finishing touches (aka, your chive garnish and mushroom topping), place your mac and cheese in the smoker or grill for another two hours. 

Since miso already has a strong flavor profile, I recommend using hickory or oak wood during the smoking process.

I find that these wood options are just versatile enough to balance out the richness of your miso mac and cheese.

4. Smoked BBQ Chicken Mac and Cheese

BBQ chicken is a pretty well-known and well-loved dish in the world of grilling. So, it would be a big mistake if we skipped out on a chance to infuse mac and cheese with this superstar ingredient.

If you’ve been grilling for a long time, you probably have your own BBQ chicken recipe. And that’s exactly what you need to make this dish. 

Besides your BBQ chicken, you need five more ingredients. These are 8 oz. of pasta shells, one cup of pasta water, one cup of milk, 10 oz. of shredded cheese blend, and seasoning (salt and pepper).

If you’re wondering what a cheese blend is, it’s a combination of any of the cheese products you have at home. 

It could be anywhere from cheddar, American, and mozzarella to Parmesan, pepper jack, and pimiento. It really is up to you what type of cheese you want to use. 

Once you have your ingredients all laid out, the first thing you need to do is cook your pasta noodles according to the package instructions.

When your noodles are ready, drain the pot, but reserve one cup of pasta water for later. 

Grab a grill pan and carefully dump your noodles inside. Add your cup of pasta water and milk, before giving it a good stir.

After about three to five minutes, toss in your cheese blend 1 oz. at a time until you’re left with a smooth sauce. 

Now, give your dish a quick taste. If you need to adjust the flavor, you can sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper or add more cheese to the mix.

When you’re happy with the taste, add your BBQ chicken on top before placing it in the smoker to smoke for another two to three hours. 

Since BBQ chicken typically has notes of sweetness, I like to pair it with a cherry, maple, or a combination of the two.

These types of wood usually don’t overpower the flavors of the dish. Instead, they add just the right amount of smoky aroma to compliment this mac and cheese recipe. 

Elevate Any Mac and Cheese Dish With a Smoker

I’ve tried a wide variety of cheesy recipes before, but none of them holds a candle to smoked mac and cheese. 

The creaminess from the dairy plus the smokiness from the wood adds layers to the dish’s flavor profile. For this reason, I’m pretty sure I’ll only serve mac and cheese this way from now on.

If you’ve never given a smoked mac and cheese recipe a shot, you’re in luck. 

This list has four of my top picks, and I guarantee you that trying at least one of these recipes will change your mac and cheese game!

Sofia Exconde Avatar

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