Grilled Mac and Cheese

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.

grilled mac and cheese

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.

grilled mac and cheese

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

Tyler Anastasio PrintServings: 6servingsPrep Time: 15minsCook Time: 1hr20minsTotal Time: 1hr35minsDifficulty: IntermediateBig on cheese flavor and lightly smokey, this grilled mac and cheese uses an easy no-roux cheese sauce that couldn’t be easier or creamier.

Ingredients

  • 1/2lb.elbow pasta
  • 6ozmedium white cheddar
  • 5ozsmoked gouda
  • 5ozAmerican cheese, Velveeta, or combination of both
  • 1tablespoonbutter

No roux milk sauce

  • 2 1/4cupsevaporated milk (1 and 1/2 12-ounce cans)
  • 1large egg
  • 1teaspoonkosher salt
  • 1/4teaspoongarlic powder
  • 1/4teaspoonwhite pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoonsmoked paprika
  • 2teaspoonscornstarch

Instructions

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.

Equipment

  • 1 grill

Notes

* Ordinarily you would never, ever rinse pasta but it is essential for this recipe to not let the pasta overcook. Also, those valuable starches are ok to get rinsed down the drain just this once because we don’t need them for thickening. ** While shopping for this recipe, you can find white cheddar, American, and smoked gouda at your deli counter. Just ask the deli counter attendee to slice you a whole chunk of cheese off the block rather than slices. Velveeta is sneakily hiding in the cracker aisle as it is shelf stable.  *** When you are trying to get your grill steady at a certain temperature, keep an eye on the thermometer (usually on the grill lid) for about 15 minutes after you’ve reached your intended pre-heat temperature. If the needle is climbing too hot, lower the flame, If you are losing heat too quickly, turn the burner up.You’ll notice that after a little tinkering, you can easily get your grill you hold at a certain temp. But don’t stress too much about the temperature. Every grill is a little different– as long as you keep the needle between 375 and 400 degrees, you’ll be golden. This recipe can easily be doubled. You can cook the grilled mac and cheese in two cast iron skillets, or in one 9x13x3 heavy-duty disposable aluminum pan. If you’re making this grilled mac and cheese in advance, pour the no-roux milk sauce into an air-tight container and set aside. Bag up the reseved shredded cheese, and cover the aluminum baking pan with foil and set aside. Refrigerate these 3 components for up to 4 days before grilling. When ready to proceed, let the ingredients come up to room temperature for approximately 30 minutes before continuing.

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