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Smoked Mac & Cheese is the grown up version of everyones favorite side dish. A kiss of smoke give this Mac the extra kick to take it over the top.
There are a few simple things that you can do to make sure you have perfectly cooked elbow macaroni every time. The first step is making sure that the water is salted. Salting the water infuses an extra layer of flavor to your pasta making sure that every component of the Smoked Mac & Cheese is seasoned. The water should taste like the ocean. I normally go with a tablespoon of salt per quart.
Once the salted water has reached a rolling boil add your macaroni and stir immediately for about 30 seconds. As the pasta cooks you should give it a stir every two minutes or so until it’s ready. This will prevent the macaroni from sticking to the bottom of the pot as well as help the pasta cook evenly.
Finally we want to be sure to slightly undercook the pasta because it will be cooked in the cheese sauce a second time. After about 8-10 minutes test the macaroni. It should be chewy but just slightly undercooked. Then immediately drain the pasta into a colander and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cooled to room temperature. This will make sure that the macaroni has perfect texture when added to the cheese sauce.
Making the perfect Mac & Cheese isn’t hard but there are a few tips to keep in mind. We could use all sorts of fancy cheeses to make this Mac but at the end of the day Velveeta has the texture I want in my Mac & Cheese. Cubing the Velveeta into one inch cubes ensures even melting. Make sure to simmer on low, heating the sauce over high heat will cause the cheese to burn on the bottom of the pot. Slowly whisking the Velveeta in the milk will give you the smooth and creamy texture you seek. Once the Velveeta is completely melted you can stir in the macaroni, seasoning and cheddar cheese then transfer to the cast iron skillet. Never let a cheese sauce come to a boil. This will cause the sauce to break and become greasy as well as giving the sauce a grainy mouthfeel.
Even though I love making this recipe in my smoker you can make this recipe in the oven following the same instructions. Just be sure that once you see the sauce beginning to bubble up on the sides it’s time to remove from the oven. Let the Mac & Cheese sit for 5-10 minutes so the cheese can cool down a little. This will let the sauce thicken slightly as well as prevent you burning your tongue on the first bite and ruining dinner.