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Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe: Ultimate Comfort Food with a Twist

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Smoked Mac and Cheese Recipe

If you’re looking for a way to elevate your traditional mac and cheese, you’re in for a treat. This smoked mac and cheese recipe is your ticket to a rich, creamy, and smoky dish that your family will love.

Picture this: perfectly cooked pasta mingling with a creamy cheese sauce, all enhanced by a subtle smoke flavor. Topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs, it’s a side dish that might just steal the spotlight. Grab your cast iron skillet and let’s get smoking!

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

Here’s what you’ll need to make smoked mac and cheese. If you don’t have some of these items, substitutes work just fine.

Main Ingredients:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni: Any small pasta shape will work.
  • ½ cup butter: You can use margarine as a substitute.
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour: Cornstarch works if you need a gluten-free option.
  • 3 cups milk: Half-and-half or evaporated milk can be used for a richer taste.
  • 8 oz cream cheese: Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can replace this.
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese: Try mozzarella or a blend of your favorite cheeses.

Seasonings and Extras:

  • 1 tsp mustard powder: Dijon mustard or yellow mustard can be used.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste: Adjust according to your preference.
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs: Crushed crackers or regular bread crumbs will also work.
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (for the topping): Olive oil can be used if you prefer.

Mix these ingredients to create a robust, cheesy dish. If you’re missing any items, the substitutes will ensure you still have a delicious smoked mac and cheese.

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Macaroni:

    • Cook 2 cups of elbow macaroni according to package directions.
    • Drain and set aside.
  2. Make the Cheese Sauce:

    • In a large pot, melt ½ cup of butter over medium heat.
    • Whisk in ¼ cup of flour until it forms a paste.
    • Stir in 1 tablespoon of mustard powder.
    • Gradually pour in 2 cups of half and half, whisking constantly until smooth.
    • Cook the mixture until it starts to boil and then reduce the heat.
    • Add 8 oz of cream cheese and stir until melted.
  3. Combine Ingredients:

    • Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce.
    • Mix well to ensure all noodles are coated.
  4. Add Topping:

    • In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of panko bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and your favorite BBQ rub.
    • Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the mac and cheese.
  5. Smoke:

    • Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
    • Place the mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet or baking dish.
    • Put it in the smoker and close the lid.
    • Smoke for 1 hour, until bubbly and golden brown.
  6. Serve:

    • Remove from the smoker.
    • Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Use Quality Cheese: Choose a mix of cheddar, gouda, and mozzarella for a creamy texture and rich flavor. Always grate your own cheese for the best melting results.

Smoking Process: For a smokier taste, use a wood like hickory or apple. Monitor the temperature closely; aim for around 225°F (107°C).

Cheese Sauce: Whisk constantly to avoid lumps. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of milk to reach your desired consistency.

Crumb Topping: Apply a generous layer of panko bread crumbs mixed with melted butter and seasoning for a crunchy texture.

Storage: Place leftovers in an airtight container. Refrigerate and consume within 3-4 days.

Reheating: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C), cover the mac and cheese with foil, and heat for 20-30 minutes. Add a bit of milk to keep it moist.

Freezing: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat as mentioned above.

Extra Tip: Add cooked bacon bits or jalapeños for extra flavor.

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

There are many ways to customize smoked mac and cheese to fit your taste.

Cheese Choices:

  • Use a mix of cheddar and gouda for a creamy blend.
  • Add some pepper jack for a spicy kick.
  • Experiment with smoked mozzarella for extra smoky flavor.

Mix-Ins:

  • Bacon pieces for a savory twist.
  • Jalapeños for those who like it hot.
  • Broccoli for a healthier touch.

Toppings:

  • Panko breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter for a crunchy top.
  • Crushed potato chips or Ritz crackers for more crunch.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve alongside grilled meats for a barbecue feast.
  • Pair with a fresh salad to balance the richness.
  • Try it with a cold beer or a glass of iced tea.

Feel free to make it your own by playing around with these variations!

Benjamin Happy Muncher

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.