As the long, hot days of summer pass, I find myself searching for ways to avoid heating up the kitchen.
My remedy is to grill or smoke meats outdoors. At first I was intimidated by the grill/smoker. In my mind, it was a thing “guys” used. Growing up, my dad did all the cooking outdoors.
As you can probably guess, I’m not one for being told, “No, you can’t do that.” So, I taught myself to grill but the smoker still intimidated me. This Mother’s Day, my family surprised me with an electric smoker. This gadget is a whiz to use and so far has been fairly idiot-proof.
The secret to preparing a delectable smoked chicken is in the rub. Creating a barbecue rub sounds complicated, however, it is just a combination of spices from your pantry. Make sure to mix up a double batch, then store your leftover rub in a Mason jar for next time or give it as a hostess gift at the next barbecue you attend. I promise you will love this stuff.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the mac and cheese and then toss it into the smoker, too. This creamy, smoky mac and cheese is a game changer. You will never look at mac the same!
Ultimate Meat Rub
½ c sea salt
½ c black pepper
½ c brown sugar
¼ c dried thyme
¼ c smoked paprika
¼ c garlic powder
¼ c onion powder
► Mix together ingredients and store in an airtight container.
► Follow your manufacturer’s instructions on setting up your smoker. I like to use hickory and cherry wood for chicken. Make sure and soak your wood chips for an hour before adding them to the smoker. To prepare your whole chicken, simply rub the inside and outside with my Ultimate Rub. Stuff the cavity with chopped lemon, orange and onions. Place in the smoker and cook until you reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Allow the chicken to rest and cool at least 20 minutes before serving.
Smoky Bacon Mac and Cheese
1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
2 T vegetable oil
1 lb hickory smoked bacon, sliced thin
¼ c all-purpose flour
1 qt half and half
4 c cheddar cheese, grated
1 c sharp cheddar, grated
1 c smoked gouda, grated
½ c Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated and divided
salt and pepper
1 ½ c panko bread crumbs
¼ c butter, melted
1 t Ultimate Meat Rub seasoning
► Spray a large foil 9"x13" disposable cooking pan with non-stick spray. Place the elbow macaroni in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with vegetable oil, toss together and set aside.
► In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp then blot on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve half the pan drippings and turn to medium heat. Sprinkle the warm bacon drippings with ¼ cup flour and stir to make a roux. Whisk in the half and half and continue whisking until it slightly thickens. Add the grated cheeses to the sauce and continue stirring until cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thick, thin with milk as needed. Pour the creamy cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir in the cooked bacon. In a small bowl combine the panko bread crumbs with the melted butter, Parmigiano Reggiano and spice rub. Pour the macaroni into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the panko over the top.
► Place the macaroni pan in the smoker and cook at 250 degrees for two hours. To finish, place the smoked macaroni in the broiler and cook until the topping is browned. Place the mixture in one large casserole pan.