Learn how to make smoked mac and cheese on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill! This creamy, cheesy side dish goes great with any meat, and can even be cooked at the same time and temperature. The crispy breadcrumb topping takes it over the top.
We take you step-by-step through the ingredients and cookware you'll need, preparation, setting up your Pit Boss pellet grill, and smoking the macaroni and cheese to perfection!
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese is a beloved side dish by many in the BBQ world, and believe it or not, is pretty easy to make, especially on a Pit Boss pellet grill.
Don't worry, even if you've only ever made mac and cheese from a little blue box, we've got you covered with step by step instructions and a list of what you'll need to impress even the most discerning mac and cheese fans.
- Equipment Needed
- Preheat the Pit Boss
- Light a Smoker Box or Pellet Tube
- Our Favorite Wood and Pellets
- Prepare the Ingredients
- Cook the Macaroni
- Make the Cheese Sauce
- Combine the Macaroni and Sauce
- Smoke the Mac and Cheese
- Prepare the Topping
- Most Important Tips
- Best Ways to Serve
- 📖 Recipe
- 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Large Stockpot
- Cheese Grater
In order to make really great smoked mac and cheese on your Pit Boss pellet grill, you will preferably need a 12 inch cast iron skillet to smoke it in.
When it comes to using cast iron, like we do for our smoked cornbread, smoked peach cobbler, and smoked pot roast, we like anything from Lodge, such as this Lodge 12 inch skillet for smoked mac and cheese.
It's already pre-seasoned and has the nice high sides to keep all that bubbly smoked mac and cheese contained.
The best part is you can bring it right from the Pit Boss to the table and serve directly from the cast iron skillet.
You will also need a standard large pasta pot to pre-boil the macaroni "al dente" in water before you add it to the cheese mixture in the cast iron pan and put it on the Pit Boss.
Our #1 tip for making smoked mac and cheese on your Pit Boss would be to grate your own blocks of cheese rather than buying "pre-shredded" cheese.
Pre-shredded cheese, while convenient, is coated with anti-caking agents to keep it from clumping up in the package.
Unfortunately, this also keeps the cheese from melting as easily and from absorbing moisture and smoky flavor in the Pit Boss.
This is exactly the opposite of what we want to happen, so make sure to grate your own cheese. If you need a good cheese grater we are fans of this rotary style one from Zulay.
Its makes quick and easy work of grating large amounts of cheese, and you don't risk scrapping for finger tips off!
Rather WATCH than read? Check out our video to show you exactly how to make Pit Boss Smoked Mac and Cheese!
Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Elbow Macaroni Noodle
- Salted Butter
- All Purpose Flour
- Mustard Powder, salt, pepper
- Whole Milk
- Gruyere Cheese
- Cheddar Cheese
You don't need the fanciest cheese on the shelf by any means but don't buy the cheapest stuff either or it may not melt as easily.
Again, make sure to buy whole blocks you can shred yourself. And don't skip the mustard powder, it really does make a difference!
If you are in the camp that likes breadcrumbs on your smoked mac and cheese, we use a simple mix of Panko breadcrumbs and butter but also like to mix in a little bit of our favorite BBQ rub, Three Little Pigs to give it some extra BBQ flavor.
Preheat the Pit Boss
We have previously covered how to season a Pit Boss, how to start a Pit Boss, as well as how to troubleshoot the smoke level of your pellet grill.
If you need a more in-depth review on how to use your Pit Boss for the first time, check those articles out first! If you're completely new to using a pellet grill, check out our Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works.
First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper. Then turn on your Pit Boss and let it run through the start up cycle. Once it's finished, you can set the cooking temperature.
We prefer to smoke our mac and cheese at 270°F.
We chose this temperature because it is a pretty common temperature for a lot of "low and slow" BBQ such as pork, brisket, and ribs, which means you can throw the mac and cheese on the Pit Boss for the portion of your cook and not have to adjust temperature.
You can cook it at any temperature from 220-325°F depending on what else you are cooking at the same time.
The smoked mac and cheese will take about an hour at 270°F, so plan accordingly to time it to finish at the same time your meat is finished resting.
Adjust the cooking time up or down if you choose a lower or higher temperature, respectively.
Thankfully, in the cast iron pan the smoked mac and cheese will stay nice and hot for a while even once you've taken it off the Pit Boss, so you don't have to be perfect!
Light a Smoker Box or Pellet Tube
We like to use a pellet smoker box to infuse more smoke flavor into food that cooks for a shorter amount of time, such as this mac and cheese.
Also consider reading about Smoker Tubes vs. Smoker Boxes for more information.
Our Favorite Wood and Pellets
Smoked Mac and Cheese, being a relatively wet side dish like a chili or soup, will absorb a lot of smoke very quickly.
So make sure to choose a either a mild fruitwood wood pellet like apple, cherry, and peach, or another milder smoking wood like pecan, oak or alder.
Stay away from mesquite or hickory for this recipe.
Hopefully if you are already using a milder wood for your main protein you can just continue using the same pellets for your smoked mac and cheese.
For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the Pit Boss hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
For the smoker box, we like using apple wood chunks for the mac and cheese.
Prepare the Ingredients
Take the time first to measure out and shred all your cheese now and measure out your other ingredients.
Once you start making the cheese sauce you won't have time to stop and shred each kind of cheese.
We are using gruyere and sharp cheddar in cheese sauce, plus a little extra cheddar to be sprinkled on with the breadcrumb topping.
Cook the Macaroni
You'll need to bring your large pot of water to a boil and cook your elbow macaroni "al dente", meaning still somewhat firm.
In fact, we like to cook it about 1 minute under al dente! About 5 minutes cooking in boiling salted water should be enough.
Then drain the water very well and remove the macaroni from any heat.
Drizzle it with some olive oil and mix thoroughly to coat to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
Don't be alarmed if the macaroni is still firm; it will finish cooking in the cheese sauce in the smoker.
If you cook the pasta initially to the perfect doneness, it will become mushy by the end.
Set aside the pot to make the cheese sauce.
Make the Cheese Sauce
The cheese sauce is built through a series of 3 steps:
- Bechamel sauce
- Mornay sauce
Heat your cast iron skillet over medium heat to melt the butter.
Then you will whisk in the flour until smooth (about 3-4 minutes) to make a roux.
A roux, which is also used as the base for gravies, is a mixture of butter and flour and will be what helps thicken the sauce.
Once the flour mixture has cooked to remove the raw flour taste and taken on slight color, you can whisk in the salt, pepper and mustard powder.
Next, we are going to turn this roux into a bechamel sauce by adding whole milk.
You do not want to rush this process!
Slowly add a small amount of milk and whisk constantly to incorporate it.
Then add a little more.
Keep adding the milk in small increments to ensure a very smooth white sauce.
Once all of the milk has been added, continue whisking and bring the sauce to a simmer, then turn the heat down and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Finally, we are going to transform the bechamel sauce into a variation of a Mornay sauce by adding the cheese.
A Mornay is traditionally made with gruyere. Our sauce will have both gruyere and sharp cheddar.
Remove the pan from heat and start adding your shredded cheese.
It is important to do this a little at a time.
Add a small handful, whisk until it is melted, then repeat until all of the cheese has been added and you have a smooth cheese sauce.
Combine the Macaroni and Sauce
Once your cheese sauce is smooth and creamy, pour it over the drained pasta and mix well to coat.
Then transfer the coated pasta back to the cast iron skillet.
We find this is the easiest way to fully mix the pasta and sauce because of how full the cast iron will be once they are combined.
You will want to smooth the surface of the mac and cheese.
Smoke the Mac and Cheese
Now it's time to smoke your mac and cheese in the Pit Boss!
Carefully place the cast iron skillet on the Pit Boss grates in the smoker uncovered.
If you are using a pellet tube or smoker box to infuse additional smoke flavor, place that toward the back of the smoker.
Allow it to cook and absorb smoke flavor for 15 minutes, then stir it and cook/smoke for another 15 minutes. This will ensure more smoky flavor reaches all of the pasta.
Prepare the Topping
In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the Panko breadcrumbs. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a small silicone spatula, to toast the Panko.
Once the breadcrumbs are nice and brown, remove the pan from heat and stir in the BBQ rub.
After the mac and cheese has smoked for 30 minutes, evenly spread the additional shredded cheese and toasted breadcrumbs over the surface.
Cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the internal temperature of the macaroni has reached 170-180°F.
You can use any pasta shape of your choice, just make sure to follow the package instructions for al dente boiling (and maybe knock off a minute from the al dente time).
We keep our mac and cheese simply seasoned with salt, pepper and mustard powder.
You can customize the seasonings to your preference: garlic, smoked paprika, BBQ rub, Worcestershire. The possibilities are endless.
We like using whole milk for this recipe, but you can do a combination of milk and half and half.
While we use gruyere and sharp cheddar, you can use any type of cheese you like.
We do recommend sticking to a firmer texture cheese so it will not affect the moisture content in the recipe.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and should last several days since there is no meat in this dish.
Ideally, the mac and cheese would be reheated in the oven.
While we argue leftover mac and cheese is never quite as good as freshly prepared, it's still quite tasty!
Most Important Tips
The two most important tips for this recipe are
- do NOT overcook the macaroni when boiling
- do NOT rush the cheese sauce
Fully cooking your pasta during the boiling step will ensure it is soggy and mushy by the end of the recipe.
Rushing the roux, bechamel, or Mornay steps of the cheese sauce can result in a sauce with a grainy texture or one in which the cheese has separated. This will result in an unappetizing greasy texture to your mac and cheese.
Best Ways to Serve
The best part about smoking your mac and cheese in a cast iron pan is that you can bring the pan right to the table to serve out of when its finished!
If you want even more great side dishes, make sure to also check out our smoked broccoli, asparagus, and cauliflower if you are eating healthy, or you can indulge in our famous sweet and smoky sweet potatoes or smoked cornbread to accompany your meal as well!
Pit Boss Smoked Mac and Cheese
- Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Wood Pellets preferably a fruitwood like apple or cherry
- Large Pot with Pasta Strainer
- 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
- Cheese Grater
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 lb Elbow Macaroni Noodles
- Olive Oil
- ½ cup Salted Butter 1 stick
- ⅓ cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt or ½ tablespoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper or more to taste
- ½ tablespoon Mustard Powder
- 4 cups Whole Milk
- 2 Cups Gruyere Cheese 8 ounces, shredded
- 4 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese 16 ounces, shredded
- ½ cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese 2 ounces, shredded
- 2 tablespoon Salted Butter
- ½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship BBQ Rub or your favorite BBQ rub
Start the Pit Boss and Set the Temperature
- Add your pellets to the hopper, start the Pit Boss pellet grill and let it run through the start up cycle.
- Set the temperature to preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 270°F.
- If you are using a smoker box or smoker tube to add extra smoke, assemble and light it. Place it on the grates toward the back of the grill.
Cook the Macaroni
- Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and pour in the macaroni. Boil the pasta until it is “al dente”, meaning still somewhat firm, about 5 minutes.1 tablespoon Kosher Salt, 1 lb Elbow Macaroni Noodles
- Drain the pasta in a colander and return it to the stockpot off the heat. Drizzle it with olive oil and stir to evenly coat the macaroni. Set the pot aside.Olive Oil
Make the Cheese Sauce
- While the water is coming up to a boil or macaroni is cooking, you can start to heat your cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt the butter.½ cup Salted Butter
- Whisk in the flour until smooth (about 3-4 minutes) to make a roux.⅓ cup All Purpose Flour
- When the flour mixture has cooked a bit and taken on slight color, whisk in the salt, pepper and mustard powder.1 tablespoon Kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper, ½ tablespoon Mustard Powder
- Very slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Just add small amounts of milk at a time and add more once the previous amount is completely incorporated. Make sure to whisk the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent the sauce from sticking.4 cups Whole Milk
- Bring this white sauce, known as a bechamel, to a simmer, then reduce the heat and continue to whisk until it has thickened, about 8-10 minutes total.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, then add the shredded cheese, a little at time in small handfuls, whisking until smooth. Continue whisking until all of the cheese has been incorporated and you have a smooth cheese sauce (this is a variation of a Mornay sauce).4 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 2 Cups Gruyere Cheese
Combine the Macaroni and the Cheese Sauce
- Once your cheese sauce is smooth and creamy, pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni still in the stock pot. Stir well to evenly coat the pasta, then pour it into the cast iron skillet and smooth it down on top.
Smoke on the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Place the cast iron skillet on the Pit Boss grates, uncovered, and cook it for 15 minutes. Then stir the macaroni and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the topping.
Make the Topping
- Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the Panko breadcrumbs and stir constantly with a small silicone spatula. Continue to cook until the breadcrumbs are brown and toasted. Remove skillet from heat. Mix together your melted butter, panko breadcrumbs and BBQ rub in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese if you wish.½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoon Salted Butter
- Stir the BBQ rub into the toasted breadcrumbs and set aside until it's time to add the topping.1 tablespoon Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship BBQ Rub
Add the Topping and Finish Cooking
- After the mac and cheese has smoked for 30 minutes, sprinkle the remaining shredded cheddar cheese evenly on top, then sprinkle the toasted Panko mixture evenly on top of the cheese.½ cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Continue to cook until the cheese topping is melted and the mac and cheese reaches an internal temperature of around 170°F, about 30 more minutes.
- When finished you can serve to guests directly out of the cast iron pan!