Big on cheese flavor and lightly smokey, this creamy, dreamy grilled mac and cheese is the only show-stopper you need for your next cookout. With an easy no-roux-needed cheese sauce, you’ll save on indoor cook time and get right to the grilling.
Why grill mac and cheese?
Let’s face it, a big family-sized pan of ooey gooey mac and cheese is what barbecue side dish dreams are made of. But who wants to slave all day inside when all the action is happening outdoors by the grill? Making grilled mac and cheese instead of a traditional stovetop or oven method lets your stove stay off and your house stay cool. Plus, with our grilled technique, you’ll be able to whip this up days in advance of your cookout leaving precious time to be better spent with family and friends.
How to choose your cheese(s)
When it comes to cheese, it will ultimately depend on your personal preferences (and maybe even what you have lying around in the cheese drawer), but here are our tips for choosing the perfect blend of cheeses:
- Add at least one cheese for deep flavor– gouda, cheddar, brie, and even bleu if you’re feeling funky.
- Use at least one cheese for ultra meltiness– American, mozzarella, jack, or that tried-and-true block of Velveeta.
This variation of mac and cheese uses medium white cheddar and smoked gouda for flavor, and American and Velveeta for melt and creaminess.
To shred or not to shred?
Shred, baby! It’s essential for any mac and cheese recipe that you buy blocks of cheese and take the time to shred them yourself. Pre-shredded cheese can include anti-clumping agents that can cause your cheese sauce to “break.” This is when the oils separate from the milk solids in the cheese and can cause your sauce to look and feel grainy. To make all this shredding a little easier, pop your whole cheeses in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will firm up the cheese for you before shredding on a box grater.
How to grill mac and cheese
Assembling grilled mac and cheese can be broken up into 4 simple steps: cooking the pasta, shredding and combining the cheeses, mixing the no-roux sauce, and finally, layering it all up. These steps can also be done in 3-4 days in advance of when you plan to grill your mac and cheese.
Instead of a traditional roux method, which is cooking butter and flour on the stove before whisking in milk, this method of sauce does not need to be precooked. Evaporated milk combined with eggs, spices, and a touch of cornstarch is poured over the cooked pasta and shredded cheese, and the sauce self-forms while grilling. This method is great because it not only allows you to assemble your grilled mac and cheese in advance but also helps save you from the risk of a broken cheese sauce!
Goes Perfectly With
- Grilled Rack of Lamb
- Peach Burrata Salad
- Grilled Edamame
- Smoked Jalapeno Poppers
- Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- Peach Cobbler
Grilled Mac and Cheese
- 1/2 lb. elbow pasta
- 6 oz medium white cheddar
- 5 oz smoked gouda
- 5 oz American cheese, Velveeta, or combination of both
- 1 tablespoon butter
No roux milk sauce
- 2 1/4 cups evaporated milk (1 and 1/2 12-ounce cans)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Prepare the pasta and cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt liberally with kosher salt. Add the 1/2 lb. of elbow pasta and stir to prevent from sticking. Boil pasta for 2 minutes less than the minimum suggested cook time according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.*
- On a box grater, grate the cheddar and gouda. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheddar and set aside. Cube the American cheese and/or Velveeta into ½ inch cubes and set aside.** Combine the remaining cheddar, gouda, and american/velveeta in a large bowl and set aside.
Assemble the pasta and cheese
- Butter a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Layer 1/2 of the cooked and cooled pasta, 1/2 of the shredded cheese mixture, and repeat with remaining pasta and cheese. Press down firmly on the pasta and cheese with clean hands or a spatula. You want to make sure that when you pour over the milk sauce, all if not most of the pasta gets submerged.
No-roux Milk Sauce
- Measure 1/4 cup of the evaporated milk and set aside. In a large bowl whisk to combine the remaining evaporated milk, egg, salt, garlic powder, white pepper, and smoked paprika. To the reserved milk, use a fork to throughly whisk in the cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch milk into the milk and egg mixture and whisk to combine.
Grilling your mac and cheese
- Preheat your grill to 375 degrees with the lid down.*** Create an oven-like environment for your grilled mac and cheese by only igniting burners on half of your grill. This will create a hot zone and a cool zone. Cooking the grilled mac and cheese on the cool zone will prevent it burning from underneath.
- Pour the no-roux milk sauce over the pasta and cheese and cover with foil. Place the pan on the side of the grill with no burners lit. Grill for one hour, lid closed, lifting the foil and stirring and rotating the pan every 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Because the cheese sauce is forming while your mac is grilling, mixing it regularly ensures even thickening and will prevent burning.
- After each stir, keep an eye on your grill’s thermometer. You might have to turn the burners up a bit to reach 375 degrees again, as your grill will lose heat each time you open the lid. At the 45-minute mark add the reserved cheese AFTER stirring and leave uncovered for the last 15 minutes. After one hour on the grill, bring the pan inside for a quick hit under the broiler to melt and caramelize that top layer of cheese. Put the oven rack on the second highest slot from the top and only broil for a minute or two, careful not to burn.
- When golden and bubbly remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- 1 grill
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