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The Best Smoked Mac and Cheese

By Chef Devan


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Mac and cheese is an uber-comforting classic, but smoked mac and cheese is a game-changer in comfort food.

You can’t just make a normal mac and cheese, throw it under some smoke and hope for the best. No, no, no. You’ll end up with stodgy, overcooked mac and cheese that’s pretty average.

After many mac and cheese trials later, I have the answers for you…


Why it’s The King of Smoked Mac and Cheese

Some recipes I tried were smoky but dry and over-cooked and others were saucy but without that necessary golden crust. This recipe is somewhere in between the Goldielocks of smoked mac and cheese.

I love that sharp cheddar and rich bechamel sauce that’s finished off with a smoky panko BBQ crust. It’s creamy, saucy and smokey with a gorgeous golden-brown-crispy-crunchy top that’s probably what’s served in heaven.

Next up, I’ll explain my tips and why they make this mac so much better.

Undercook The Pasta

To get a good smokey flavour with a crispy, golden-brown crust, you’ll need to let this sit in the smoker for a good 45 minutes. This means undercooking the pasta is crucial to ensuring a perfectly cooked pasta after smoking. 

My macaroni had a recommended cooking time of 8-9 minutes so I cooked mine for 5 minutes and that seemed to be perfect. If you’re using bigger macaroni, try cutting the cooking time in half.

smoked mac and cheese on a fork

Rinse the Pasta

My Italian chef instructor would cringe to hear me say the phrase “rinse the pasta” but we’re not making pasta Alla Genovese here, we’re making mac and cheese

When you continue cooking the pasta in the smoker, the sauce will become quite thick from the excess starch. That’s why it’s a good idea to rinse the macaroni after blanching it to prevent it from thickening too much.

Use a Roux and Add 35% Cream

Using a roux and 35% cream will both prevent the cheese sauce from splitting. If you’ve ever made a macaroni cheese sauce that splits, it’s probably because you didn’t use one of these two ingredients.

Not sure what a roux is? Check out this in-depth guide on how to thicken sauces.

Don’t Use Pre-Grated Cheese

Pre-grated cheese can sometimes split your sauce because of additives used to prevent the cheese from clumping together. Grate the cheese yourself for the best sauce.

smoked mac and cheese with a fork

Use a Cast-Iron Pan

Cast-iron pans are great on the BBQ because they can withstand hot temperatures and prevent uneven cooking. Uneven cooking means you will get burnt spots on the bottom of your mac and cheese and you won’t get this with a cast iron pan.

Use the Right Cheese

Gruyere, Emmental and sharp cheddar are my weapons of choice because I think this is the perfect balance for a smooth but cheesy sauce.

Although, some people like to add mozzarella for a stretchy cheese sauce. You could also try adding cream cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano.

Undercook, Smoke and then Broil

I tried smoking this mac and cheese at a much higher heat but this either overcooked the pasta, split the sauce or didn’t give it enough smokey flavour.

I found the best method for this recipe was to undercook the macaroni quite a bit and then finish the cooking in the smoker so that the pasta didn’t overcook. I then finished it in the broiler to get that extra golden brown crust without splitting the cheese sauce.

But it was still pretty tasty even without the final broiling so it’s an optional step.

Can I Make this Lactose Free?

If you’re lactose intolerant like me, then this recipe is so good it’s worth bringing out the lactase supplements.

You can use lactose-free milk which will help a lot. Although, finding lactose-free cheese is a challenge. The good news is that butter and cheddar are pretty low in lactose. I used lactose-free milk, with normal butter and cheese and I’m still alive. But everyone’s different.

Try it out in a small amount and see what works for you.

Get Wild with Some Smoked Mac and Cheese Additions

Here are a few flavour ideas to max out the mac:

  • Add some extra BBQ into the pasta for extra BBQ flavour
  • Stir in a batch of caramelized onions before smoking
  • Chop some fresh thyme and add that instead of the BBQ spice
  • Add an extra layer of cheese in the middle of the mac and cheese
  • Mix in some crumbled bacon
  • Throw in some blanched broccoli for a vegetarian option
  • Serve it with ketchup on the side

Get the Right Smoking Tools

If you’re going the Weber route as I did, these tools are going to make it a lot easier, and a lot more fun.

Digital Thermometer

You won’t need to temp the mac and cheese, but you will need to know the temperature of your smoker. A good thermometer will help you and is a lot more accurate than the one that came with your Weber.

I recently just picked up the Inkbird Bluetooth thermometer and just love it. It’s got two probes, one for measuring internal temperatures and one for the BBQ’s temperature.

The best part is, that it hooks up to my iPhone via Bluetooth which means I get alerts when the BBQ is at the perfect temp. Too easy!

They’re relatively inexpensive and you can check the price here.

A word of caution, the Inkbird can only handle temperatures up to 482℉/250℃ for continuous monitoring, meaning it’s not suitable for high heat BBQ grilling.

If you’re looking for something a little more serious I’d recommend this one.

Charcoal Baskets

These help to keep the charcoal to one side and provide perfect indirect heating. You can get these here.

Weber Hinged Grill

You don’t need this but it makes it a lot easier to add the smoking chips and/or more charcoal. If you plan to do some real smoking this year then I think it’s worth the investment. 

You can find this on Amazon here. Just double-check that it’s the right size for your grill as they make different-sized BBQs.

Is it time for new knives? Then definitely check out my ultimate guide on the Best High End Knife Sets and Why I’ll Never Buy a Cutco Knife Set.

The side lifting grill makes it a lot easier to add more charcoal to the grill.

Wood Chunks or Chips?

I don’t obsess too much over the type of wood but everyone has their own preference. I do like using wood chunks over wood chips because they tend to burn slower than wood chips and that means I don’t have to open the BBQ as much.

Wood chunks can be harder to find but are usually better for longer periods of smoking, like in this recipe. As a whiskey lover myself, I couldn’t resist buying these whiskey barrel wood chunks.

How to Nail this Recipe

  • Undercook the macaroni
  • Use a roux to prevent a split sauce
  • Use a thermometer to accurately measure the BBQ temperature
  • Use a cast-iron skillet pan to prevent uneven cooking
  • Add some BBQ spices to the panko seasoning

How to Store and Reheat

This smoked mac and cheese makes the best leftovers.

It will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge in a sealed container. Reheat by adding 1-2 tbsp of water to the mac and cheese in a cast iron pan. Cover with tin foil and bake in an oven for 20 minutes at 350°F/176°C or until the center is hot.

Try My Other Pasta Recipes

More Smoker + BBQ Recipes

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5 from 13 votes

The Best Smoked Mac and Cheese

After many tweaks and trials, I have found the best smoked mac and cheese recipe. Throw this on the smoker while you wait for your smoked meats to rest.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4 people
Cost $15/ 12€


For the Cheese Sauce

  • 4 oz gruyere cheese (2 cups/ 118g)
  • 2 oz cheddar, sharp (1 cup/ 70g)
  • 2 oz emmenthal (1 cup/ 70g)
  • 2 tbsp butter (35g) plus extra for garnish
  • 3+½ tbsp flour (35g)
  • 1 litre 2% milk
  • 250 ml cream 35% (1 cup)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 10 drops worchestershire sauce
  • 10 drops tabasco
  • 2 tsp salt (you may add more or less)

Everything Else

  • 9 oz macaroni (2 cups/ 313g)
  • ½ tsp BBQ spice blend (see below)
  • ½ bunch fresh chives
  • 40 g panko
  • Maldon salt for garnish

BBQ Spice Mix

  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp paprika you don't need smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  • For a Weber:
    If using a weber like I did, fill a charcoal chimney about halfway with the coals and light it.
    Once the charcoal is white hot, pour to one side of the smoker for indirect heating. Set up your temperature probe in the middle of the BBQ.
    Leave the vents open until it reaches 350°F/180°C, then turn the air vents down to about a quarter to maintain a temperature of 300°F/150°C.
    Electric Smoker: Set the smoker to 300°F/150°C.
  • Before you begin, weigh out all of the ingredients in separate bowls like in the picture.
    Bring a large pot of salted water (as salty as the sea) to a boil.
  • Begin by melting the butter in pan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and whisk thoroughly. Cook the roux for 1-2 minutes to remove the floury taste without browning (blonde roux).
  • Slowly pour in the cold milk, the cream and whisk vigorously until a smooth sauce is formed.
    Once a smooth sauce is formed use a spatula to prevent the bottom from scorching.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cheese. (Save some cheese for garnishing later!)
    Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water for half of the recommended time. I used smaller macaroni and cooked mine for 5 minutes.
  • Once cooked, rinse the macaroni in cold water to remove the excesss starch.
  • Check that the smoker is at 300°F/150°C. Add 2-3 wood chunks to the hot coals and let smoke for 5-10 minutes. You want to have the smoker ready to go before you add the macaroni to the sauce.
    Adding the wood chips to the charcoal.
  • Add the macaroni and sauce together in a big pot and mix well. If you did it right it will look quite soupy but don't worry it will continue to cook and thicken in the smoker.
  • Pour the mac and cheese into a cast iron pan. Top with a thin layer of panko, BBQ spice, a little extra cheese and some flakes of butter.
    mac and cheese in a pan with panko, bbq spice and butter on top.
  • Place the mac and cheese close to the coals but not directly underneath. Smoke for 45 minutes.
    Optional: After smoking, broil in the oven on high heat for 2-5 minutes to get some extra crispy, golden brown edges.
    Garnish with lots of Maldon salt and the fresh cut chives.
    Serve and enjoy right away!
    smoked mac and cheese with a fork in it


*I used a 10″ (25cm) cast iron pan which was just a little bit too small for the amount in this recipe. A 12″ cast iron should fit this recipe perfectly. 
*Add the cheese at the end and off the heat to avoid a split sauce.
*If the sauce splits, add a splash of cream and try blending it with a hand blender.
*Some cheddars may be the culprit to a grainy sauce. White cheddar seems to work better than regular cheddar but you may need to experiment with different cheddars.
*The mac and cheese will split if it gets too hot. Keep it close to the coals but not directly overtop to avoid overheating.
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What to Serve with Smoked Mac and Cheese

This is perfect BBQ food and ideal for vegetarians who still want to enjoy smoked foods.

Here are some dishes that go with smoked mac and cheese:

This BBQ Bloody Mary

An Easy BBQ Bloody Mary Cocktail
When you want a bloody mary, nothing else will do. This BBQ bloody mary is flavoured with some simple spices and gets a little extra sweetness from the bbq sauce.
Check out this recipe
A bbq bloody mary cocktail with lime, celery and green tabasco.

These Fall-off-the-Bone Ribs

Fall off the Bone Ribs
My ultimate recipe for actual fall off the bone ribs that will beat smoked ribs any day of the week. Brined, braised and finished over charcoal. Try these and you may never go back to smoked ribs!
Check out this recipe
Fall off the bone ribs on a plate with a brush and some bbq sauce.

These Smoked Chicken Thighs

Legendary Smoked Chicken Thighs
Ultra tasty bite-through smoked chicken thighs made entirely on a weber grill with a delicious smoky aroma you won't find with regular grilled chicken.
Check out this recipe
5 smoked chicken thighs on a board with extra bbq sauce on the side.

The BEST Bitterballen Recipe (Dutch Deep-Fried Meatballs)

Bitterballen – Dutch Secrets Exposed
An extremely addictive Dutch snack consisting of slowly braised beef that's thickened with a roux and deep fried into little crispy balls.
Check out this recipe
Bitterballen on a board with mustard, a Dutch flag and a cold beer.
About Chef Devan

With exceptional talent and passion for gastronomy, Chef Devan has over 15 years of experience across the culinary world, bringing a wealth of experience to the table, even from Michelin-starred restaurants. He's here to help you captivate the senses and delight everyone with easy recipes you could cook at home. Learn more about Braised and Deglazed's Editorial Process.

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