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Beef brisket is without a doubt one of the most versatile types of BBQ out there. It can easily be enjoyed on its own alongside some fixin’s – but it’s also great between a bun for a sandwich, inside a tortilla for some brisket tacos, or a personal favorite of mine, inside some creamy mac and cheese.
There’s something about the beefy flavor of brisket and the cheesy goodness of mac and cheese that just work so well together. The great thing too is that you can make brisket mac and cheese as simple or as sophisticated as you’d like.
Below I’m going to share my some of by best tips for how to make it, along with my favorite brisket mac and cheese recipe. Let’s jump right in!
Why Brisket Mac and Cheese?
In all seriousness, you might be wondering why brisket and mac are such a dynamite combination. After all, it seems like nowadays restaurants will throw just about anything into some mac and call it a meal. So with all of the options out there, what makes brisket such a great choice?
To me, it has to do with the way the flavor and seasoning in a brisket interacts and balances with the creamy goodness of mac and cheese. I’m from Texas, so smoked brisket to me means a simple kosher salt and coarse pepper brisket rub – and plenty of smokey flavor from a low and slow cook on the smoker.
There’s something about the smokey, beefy, peppery flavor of brisket combined with cheesy and savory flavors of mac and cheese that just tastes so right. Adding some brisket to your mac also takes it from a side dish to a main course in a matter of seconds.
Choosing Your Brisket
There are really two ways to go about acquiring your brisket for this recipe – you can smoke your own or you can buy some brisket at your local BBQ joint.
The good news is that either option works perfectly fine with this recipe! If you’ve smoked your own brisket before, you know it’s a very long process and odds are you’re going to have a ton of leftovers. All of that leftover beef is great to use in this mac and cheese recipe (and you might have even more beef for some leftover brisket tacos too!).
Store bought BBQ is perfect here as well – you’ll pay a significantly higher price per pound for your beef but the tradeoff is that you won’t have to spend 12-16 hours cooking the meat yourself. Go with your preference!
The other thing to look out for is whether your brisket is taken from the lean or the fatty side of the cut. A full brisket has two sections (the point and the flat), and one side produces more tender, slightly more flavorful beef whereas the other produces leaner, beefier brisket.
The lean and fat side both work really nicely with this brisket mac and cheese recipe so don’t worry about it too much if you don’t have a preference. For me, I prefer to use meat from the fattier end.
Choosing Your Mac
Here’s the deal – you can make a tasty meal with just some BBQ and your run of the mill box mac and cheese. I don’t judge! Frankly, a lot of boxed mac tastes really good and you can throw some brisket on top to really take the flavor up a few levels.
But if you really want to impress your family and friends, you’ll want to go with something a little bit more gourmet (like our smoked mac and cheese recipe). It’s not hard at all, you just need to make sure you have the proper ingredients on hand to get the job done!
It’s worth noting that the mac and cheese portion of the below recipe can really be used with any type of meat you’d want in there, or even on its own. Throw in some lobster, chicken, hatch chilies, or whatever else and it still works.
Brisket Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 12" cast iron skillet, can substitute 9"x13" baking dish
- Large saucepan
- 1 lb dry macaroni noodles can sub shells
- 1.5 lb smoked brisket chopped
- 1/2 cup butter unsalted
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 1.5 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz cream cheese softened
- 3 cups cheddar cheese shredded
- 1.5 cups gouda cheese shredded
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375ºF
- Cook pasta according to the instructions on the box and strain
- In a cast iron skillet, melt butter. Once melted, whisk in flour until mixture is smooth
- Whisk in whole milk and heavy whipping cream. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese
- Add shredded cheese in small amounts at a time and whisk. As soon as a small handful of shredded cheese smoothly combines with mixture, add more cheese and keep whisking
- After all cheese is melted in, add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Add your chopped brisket to the skillet also
- Toss pasta in sauce until all noodles are evenly and thoroughly coated
- Place the last cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the mac and cheese
- Combine Panko and melted butter and evenly pour on top of the entire skillet
- Transfer skillet to the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and/or a crust has formed on the top layer
- Remove brisket mac and cheese from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Optionally drizzle with your favorite BBQ sauce, then serve and enjoy!
Frankly, I’m a fan of anything that helps you get the most out of your food. Brisket is one of those cuts that is so big, you’re almost guaranteed to have some extra if you smoke one at home. Putting it in some mac and cheese is a fantastic way to create another delicious BBQ meal.
Did you try our brisket mac and cheese recipe? What did you think? Have any suggestions for how we could make it better? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you happen to have a pellet grill, check out our pellet grill mac and cheese recipe for a variation of this recipe specifically designed for pellet grills!