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A wooden spoon scooping out some smoked mac and cheese from the dish with cheese strings on the bottom of the spoon.

The Ultimate Smoked Mac and Cheese

Upgrade your comfort food game with the ultimate smoked mac and cheese! Made with cheddar, Gouda and Gruyère and topped with crispy panko crumbs, this cheesy pasta is the perfect side dish for your summer barbecues and holiday celebrations alike. Everyone will happily come back for seconds when this mac and cheese is on the dinner table.
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 1056kcal


  • Smoker any type
  • Wood pellets or chunks preferably hickory
  • 12-inch cast-iron skillet or 9-inch-by-13-inch disposable aluminum pan


  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon salted butter divided
  • ½ cup panko crumbs
  • 4 garlic cloves minced or grated
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream room temperature
  • 2 cups whole milk room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese divided
  • 2 cups Gouda cheese divided
  • 2 cups Gruyère cheese divided


  • Heat smoker to 225 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the elbow macaroni one to two minutes less than what the package directions dictate. Drain and reserve in a large mixing bowl.
  • While the water boils and the pasta cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the panko crumbs and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring every so often, until the panko crumbs turn golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.
  • Melt the remaining ½ cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk constantly for about three minutes.
  • Slowly pour in the heavy cream and milk, whisking constantly to create a smooth mixture. Season with spicy brown mustard, salt, black pepper and smoked paprika. Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Do not boil as that can cause the milk to separate and leave you with a grainy sauce.
  • Turn off the heat. Stir in 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup Gouda and 1 cup Gruyère until the cheese melts and becomes one cohesive mixture.
  • Pour the cheese sauce on top of the reserved macaroni and stir to coat.
  • Pour half the mac and cheese into a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Layer half the remaining cheese on top. Pour the rest of the macaroni on the cheese layer and top with the last of the cheese. Sprinkle the browned panko crumbs on top.
  • Place in the smoker with a water pan and close the lid. Smoke for one hour. The sides should be hot and bubbly when ready. Enjoy!



Make-ahead directions: Rinse the macaroni with cold water after cooking. Prepare this dish through the step 5 of stirring the pasta with the cheese sauce. Let it cool, tightly cover with plastic wrap or foil, and then store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Thirty minutes to one hour before baking, pull the pasta from the fridge to allow it to come closer to room temperature. As the pasta sits in the refrigerator, it will absorb some sauce, so you may want to add a splash of milk to help cream it up again. Once creamy to your liking, assemble as directed and smoke. Alternatively, you can store the components separately in airtight containers and completely assemble it the day of baking. You’ll just want to zap the cheese sauce in the microwave for a couple minutes.
  • Let the milk and heavy cream sit at room temperature. If the liquid is too cold, the roux can seize. Set the two at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking or give them a quick 1-minute trip to the microwave.
  • For the best texture, shred the cheese yourself.
  • For 2 cups of grated cheese, you'll need about 8 ounces of each cheese.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for three to four days. You can reheat in the microwave. Feel free to add a little additional milk or cream. 
  • Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.


Serving: 1scoop | Calories: 1056kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 73g | Saturated Fat: 45g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 240mg | Sodium: 1370mg | Potassium: 409mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2319IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 1080mg | Iron: 1mg