Macaroni and cheese, or as it is more affectionately known, mac and cheese, has a rich history. Its roots trace back to the 14th century in Italy, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that it became a staple in American cuisine, thanks to Thomas Jefferson. Today, we’re taking this classic dish to new heights by adding a smoky twist.

The Taste of Smoked Mac and Cheese

Smoked mac and cheese is a flavor explosion in your mouth. The creamy, cheesy pasta is infused with a deep, smoky flavor that adds complexity and depth. The top layer forms a slightly crispy crust, providing a delightful textural contrast to the soft, gooey macaroni underneath.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups Gruyère cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Wood chips for smoking

Alternative Ingredients

If you want to mix things up, here are some alternative ingredients you can use:

  • Cheese: Feel free to experiment with different types of cheese. Monterey Jack, Colby, and Fontina are all excellent choices.
  • Pasta: While elbow macaroni is traditional, other types of pasta like shells or cavatappi work well too.
  • Add-ins: Consider adding cooked bacon, sautéed onions, jalapenos, or even lobster for a luxurious twist.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prep the Smoker: Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Add your preferred wood chips. Apple or cherry wood chips work well for this recipe.
  2. Cook the Pasta: Cook the elbow macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Make the Cheese Sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a roux. Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses, paprika, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  4. Combine: Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce, stirring until the pasta is well coated.
  5. Smoke: Transfer the mac and cheese to a disposable aluminum pan. Sprinkle the top with Panko breadcrumbs. Place the pan in the smoker and smoke for 2 hours.
  6. Serve: Remove the smoked mac and cheese from the smoker. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

The History of Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese has a long and storied history. It’s believed to have originated in Italy in the 14th century, and was brought to America by Thomas Jefferson in the 19th century. Since then, it has become a staple of American cuisine, beloved for its simplicity and comforting qualities.

The Science of Smoking

Smoking is a cooking technique that uses the smoke from burning wood to flavor food. The type of wood used can greatly affect the flavor of the food. For example, apple wood gives a sweet, fruity flavor, while hickory gives a strong, smoky flavor. When smoking mac and cheese, the smoke infuses the pasta and cheese with a deep, complex flavor that can’t be achieved through other cooking methods.

Pairing Suggestions

Smoked mac and cheese pairs well with a variety of dishes. It’s a great side dish for barbecued meats like ribs or brisket. It also goes well with grilled vegetables or a fresh salad. For drinks, try pairing it with a full-bodied red wine or a craft beer.


Smoked mac and cheese is a delicious twist on a classic comfort food. It’s creamy, cheesy, and packed with a smoky flavor that takes it to the next level. Whether you’re a barbecue enthusiast or just a fan of mac and cheese, this recipe is a must-try.

I hope you enjoy making and eating this delicious dish as much as I enjoyed writing about it. Happy cooking!


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