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Without a doubt, one of the best things about pellet grills is that you can cook just about anything inside of them.
Whether it’s a juicy steak, a gigantic brisket, or in this case pellet grill mac and cheese – it can be done on these do-it-all cookers.
The best part of course is that pellet grills impart a beautiful smokey flavor into your mac and cheese – so this is essentially a smoked mac and cheese recipe, done on a pellet grill.
How To Make Great Pellet Grill Mac and Cheese
Who doesn’t love a proper mac and cheese? It’s one of my favorite things to make, and to me is the ultimate comfort food. Throwing some smokey flavor in there just adds a level of richness that’s hard to beat.
The pellet grill definitely makes the smoking process fairly easy, although it does add some extra steps. I wouldn’t call pellet grill mac and cheese hard by any stretch, but a little bit of planning ahead will go a long way.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help set yourself up for success:
- Preheat your pellet grill. Even though this recipe calls for a relatively low temperature of 225ºF, the process gets easier, and your cook more consistent when you preheat the grill. Simply turn your grill on and set your temperature before you get started on the mac.
- Use a cast iron skillet. Ideally a traditional 12″ diameter skillet. Not only do cast irons produce excellent mac and cheese, they’re super easy to transfer between the stove top and the pellet grill. It’s also possible to do this recipe with a regular skillet and a disposable aluminum pan – but it just complicates the operation and makes for more clean up.
- Use a lighter flavor of wood pellets. For pellet grill mac and cheese we’d recommend oak, cherry, apple, or maple pellets. Hickory is also fine if that’s all you have on hand! We’d stay away from mesquite as the strong smokey notes are likely to overpower the more delicate flavors of the pasta.
- Grate your own cheese. Grocery store shredded cheese has additives that prevent clumping – but greatly take away from the flavor of your cheese. You’re already allocating over an hour to making pellet grill mac and cheese… so don’t skimp out on the chief ingredient. Take the time to grate your own cheese, you’ll thank us later!
Mix-in Ideas for Your Mac and Cheese
Don’t be afraid to experiment with mix-ins! It’s so easy to add in some hearty BBQ or other foods into this recipe to really elevate the dish. Here are some ideas off of the top of our heads that work great with this pellet grill mac and cheese recipe:
- pulled pork
- smoked sausage
We intentionally left these “extras” out of our recipe below but it’s super easy to elevate the dish with 1-2 cups of any of these ingredients.
Getting the Smoke Flavor Right
Not all pellet grills are designed the same in terms of smoke output. Some let you customize your smoke levels and some do not.
Generally speaking, we like to have our pellet grills on a high smoke setting for this recipe, with the mac and cheese on the grates for about an hour. Remember, that’s with us using a mild wood.
So if your grill only has one “medium” smoke setting, you may need to leave your mac on longer to get the sort of smoke flavor you want. On the other hand, if you only have a strong type of wood pellet like mesquite or hickory – you might not need to smoke your dish for the full hour.
Either way, an hour is a good rule of thumb to get started as you’re very unlikely to overdo it on smoke if you’re using a mild wood. You can always put the dish back on for a little longer if you want to impart just a little more smokey flavor.
Pellet Grill Mac and Cheese [& Tips]
- Pellet grill
- 12" cast iron skillet (or a 9" x 13" disposable aluminum pan)
- 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles can substitute shell pasta
- 1/2 cup butter unsalted
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz cream cheese softened
- 3 cups cheddar grated
- 1.5 cups gouda grated
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- Preheat your pellet grill to 225ºF. Set the smoke setting to high (don't worry about this if you can't customize your smoke setting)
- Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box and strain
- In a cast iron skillet, melt butter and whisk in flour until smooth
- Whisk in whole milk and heavy whipping cream. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to simmer and stir in cream cheese
- In small amounts at a time, consistently add shredded cheeses while whisking. As soon as a small handful of shredded cheese smoothly combines with mixture, add more cheese and keep whisking
- After the shredded cheese has been whisked in, add the cooked pasta to the skillet. If you're adding something like brisket, lobster, pork, or something else we suggested in the post, do that now
- 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 pellet grill and close the lid
- Keep the temperature at 225ºF for an hour while the mac and cheese smokes
- Remove the skillet from the grill and serve while it's still warm and enjoy!