Smoked Mac & Cheese
Are you looking for a “Go-With” side dish that is extremely simple yet crazy delicious? I have the recipe for you! One of my family’s favorites that I have worked on for a number of years though I don’t think I have ever made the same version more than twice! Read on for the Simple Smoked Mac & Cheese that will soon become your family’s favorite version of this most traditional of all side-dishes.
The pictures below will not do this dish justice, I will update this post periodically when I change the recipe around by adding various toppings and ingredients. Smoked Mac and Cheese in our family is like having pizza, you love it plain, but add a little of this and a little of that and WOW, a great tasting dish just got kicked up a few notches. This recipe below is what I like to call the “Naked Mac and Cheese”. It has just the basics, 7 ingredients that never change. Later I will discuss some of the other ingredients and toppings that we have used.
½ Stick of Butter
2 Cups Elbow Macaroni
1 Cup Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Cup Cubed or Shredded Colby Cheese
1.5 Cups Shredded or cubed Monterey Jack Cheese (1 Cup is fine, I just like a tad more Monterey Jack)
3 Cups Milk
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
Seasonings to Taste – Salt, pepper and of course Weekend Dry Rub – also see below for optional “add-ins”
In a microwave-safe plate, melt down one half stick of sweetened butter and set aside. Another cool aspect of this recipe is the lack of dirty dishes when you are done. Now typically I don’t mind dirty dishes as the wife does those, but I do hear from others that this is an added plus. Between making everything in the same TIN pan, and not pre-cooking the noodles, this is a winner with the wives out there.
Place your favorite brand of dry UNCOOKED elbow macaroni in an aluminum foil table pan. I use the 1/2 tray size that you can pick up at your local Sam’s Club. It measures around 10″ by 12″ and is 3+ inches deep.
Sprinkle on the shredded sharp cheddar cheese, the shredded (or cubed if shredded is not available by you – really does not make a difference) of Colby cheese and the same goes for the Monterey Jack cheese.
Next, add in your wet ingredients. Cover the macaroni and cheese with the melted butter, milk and heavy whipping cream.
Seasonings are next, for my “Naked Mac” I just use some Sea Salt and Ground Pepper, along with a little of my own Weekend Rub. This is purely a personal choice, but with many seasonings and large families, not everyone will want the same thing, so let the folks that like it hot add their own spice and those that don’t can just leave it alone. Yep, that’s it! Mix it up good and it will look like this:
Time to Smoke!
Place the tray in your smoker (or grill in-direct) at a temperature of 260° for 2 hours. I will stir it about every 15 minutes for the first hour and a half, but then I leave it alone so that the top get’s a little darker. Even after 2 hours it won’t get too dark, so you may opt to put it under a broiler in your oven for 5 or 10 minutes to finish it off, again, personal choice. Don’t leave it on the smoker till it gets to your desired darkness as it may dry out by the time that happens, be safe, no more than 2 hours then finish under the broiler if you would like it a little darker. Keep an eye on it when it’s under the broiler, maybe one or two minutes only.
As you can clearly see in the picture below, it looks pretty darn good just being “Naked” with no broiler-time at all. Then again anything would look good next to my ribs – but that is a post for another day.
There are three ways to make your Smoked Mac & Cheese as unique as you are. Seasonings, additional ingredients and toppings. As mentioned earlier you can go nuts with seasonings, I never use the same combination of spices. It all depends on what this side dish is going along with and who the crowd is. Ingredients can add a huge variation to this recipe, try onions, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, mushrooms, peas, ham, pulled pork (one of my favorites), chorizo, bacon, hot dogs, breakfast links, artificial seafood pieces….. I think you get my point. Treat it like a pizza, make it your own! And, if you are careful while stirring, you can do half with and half without anchovies!
Mix it up and make it your own!
My brother makes an awesome version using taco seasoning. One of my daughters adds chunks of hot dogs and uses 1/2 regular shaped pasta and the other half is kid-loving shaped pasta. Another version is a pizza theme (pepperoni, onion, mushroom, green pepper and Italian sausage). The possibilities are endless! Having burgers? Add some mac-n-cheese to the top instead of just a boring slice of American cheese! Need inspiration? Just think of all the variations of Hamburger Helper there are – see what I mean?
Some toppings that I have used before include Parmesan cheese, bacon crumbles, Panko breadcrumbs, crushed-up Ritz crackers, French’s Fried Onions. Sprinkle the toppings you want to put on after you are completely done stirring of course – so about the last 15 minutes.
Looking to kick it up a notch? Try adding meat to your Mac-N-Cheese! I love the products from Omaha Steaks! I always add meat to my Mac – leftover steak, breakfast sausage, kielbasa, you name it. Feed the family love, use meat!
Email me for the full recipe of my Smoked Mac and Cheese at mark at weekendgrilling.com