There are so many recipes out there for various types of mac-and-cheese that it can become overwhelming to try to pick the best mac-and-cheese recipe for your needs. We have identified three recipes that are each at the top of their class!
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There are a variety of styles when it comes to mac-and-cheese. The primary cooking methods are Stove Top, Baking, or BBQ Grilling.
Stove Top mac-and-cheese is the classic creamy concoction without a browned or crunchy crust. You may want to lean this direction if you have a number of children in attendance as this is a very familiar presentation for small humans.
Baked mac-and-cheese is well received and typically has a somewhat browned topping consisting of cheese and breadcrumbs. This is a less creamy preparation but it is definitely delicious!
Recipes intended for the grill or the smoker often have some extra components such as bacon, hot chilies, etc. This is a delicious option if you have the equipment available and want to keep some of the cooking outside. These preparations pair excellently with things like brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Who doesn’t love bacon? Feel free to use a standard oven. You might lose the smoked flavor but these recipes are still stellar!
The Best Stove-Top Mac-and-Cheese
Alton Brown has his mac-and-cheese game wired and his Stove Top recipe is no exception. This is likely the best recipe out there for classic creamy mac and cheese that all ages will enjoy! It comes together quickly so it is great as a last minute addition.
- 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 eggs
- 6 ounces evaporated milk
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- fresh black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.
The Best Baked Mac-and-Cheese
Again we are going to give this one to Alton Brown as he really has this recipe nailed. This is a deliciously baked mac-and-cheese with a crunchy breadcrumb crust and is easily the best iteration out there in our opinion!
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground (powdered) mustard*
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika**
- 1/2 cup onion, diced small
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 9 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place dry pasta in a 4-quart pot and barely cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then test for doneness. You’re looking for al dente, that is the noodles should put up some resistance to the tooth but not so much that it gums up in your back teeth. Drain pasta in a colander but do not rinse.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 3-quart saucier or saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is pale blond, stirring occasionally about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, paprika, and onion and cook another minute. Whisk in the milk and cook over medium-high heat, whisking often for 7 to 8 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl then drizzle in about half a cup of the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Then, whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture. (This common maneuver called “tempering” prevents curdling of the egg by slowly increasing their temperature. Skip this and you’ll be making scrambled eggs.) Stir in the cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Fold in the macaroni then move to a 4-quart casserole or soufflé dish.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, then toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and distribute evenly over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, cool for 5 minutes, then serve to a grateful world.
- *I like Coleman’s which is made from a mixture of yellow and brown mustard seeds.
- **Smoked Paprika is a subjective taste. Feel free to use regular paprika.
- ***As an alternate topping: 2 oz. of old hard cheese (parm, manchego) processed with 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle on top and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
The Best BBQ Grilled / Smoked Mac-and-Cheese
Malcolm Reed knows BBQ. He also knows a bomber Smoked Mac-and-Cheese recipe that is considered a favorite in BBQ Forums and Social Media groups. This is undoubtedly one of the best smoked mac-and-cheese recipes out there! Don’t be afraid to make this in the oven. You won’t get the smoke flavor but you will still turn out an excellent side dish!
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 2 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1LB. Extra Sharp Cheddar (shredded)
- 1/2LB. Monterey Jack (shredded)
- 1-2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce
- 2 teaspoons All Purpose Seasoning
- 1 Cup Mayo
- 1 Cup Sour Cream
- 12oz Elbow Macaroni Noodles
- 1/2 Cup Panko
- 12oz Thin Sliced Bacon
- Get your smoker up to 350 degrees and allow to stabilize for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Prepare pasta (al dente) according to package directions and set aside. Grate both kinds of cheese and set aside.
- Cook bacon until crispy (we suggest placing bacon on a baking sheet and placing in a 400-degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes. You want the bacon to be crispy and not limp). Immediately remove bacon from baking sheet and allow to drain on a paper towel. Finely chop bacon with a food processor and set aside.
- In saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour over medium heat. Cook until the roux starts smelling a little nutty. At that point, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream and stir until sauce thickens. Add an additional 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir for 1-2 minutes and then add final 1 cup of heavy cream and stir until sauce is smooth and thick.
- Add grated cheese to sauce slowly stirring until the cheese is blended and sauce is smooth and creamy. Add 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce (depending on the heat level you desire).
- Mix together pasta, sauce, mayo and sour cream and pour into a smoker-safe dish. If possible, use a 13-inch cast iron skillet – and make sure it has been oil, seasoned or sprayed with a good non-stick spray. Be sure not to over-fill.
- Mix ½ cup of panko with chopped bacon. Top mac & cheese with panko/bacon mixture
- To smoke the mac & cheese, place the skillet in your 350-degree smoker for 1 hour (or until mac & cheese becomes hot and bubbly). Make sure to check halfway through the cooking time because smokers and grills will vary. If mac & cheese is getting too dark, you can always cover with foil and continue cooking.
- If a darker crust is desired for mac & cheese, place skillet in the oven, under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.
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