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Grilled Cast Iron Skillet Mac and Cheese (with Kale)

As noted in my post on how to cook almost anything on your grill instead in the oven or on the stove, one of my favorite summer comfort foods is grilled skillet mac and cheese mixed with copious amounts of fresh greens.

Kale is beyond a doubt my all-time favorite leafy green, but this recipe is fully adaptable to any ingredient in that vegetable category.

Try it with what looks fresh at the farmer’s market, whether that’s chard, spinach, or even beet greens or mustard greens if you like it spicy. (It’s also great to mix whatever you’ve got on hand!)

grilled cast iron skillet mac and cheese with kale
GIF: Casey Barber

Following is my recipe for grilled skillet mac and cheese, made in my beloved cast iron skillet.

It’s really not that different than making skillet mac on your stove, but make sure to have all your ingredients measured and ready to use before you begin.

grilled cast iron skillet mac and cheese with kale
Photo: Casey Barber

Unlike inside the kitchen, where the fridge is only a few steps away, you don’t want your garlic to burn if you need to spend 5 minutes measuring the broth or milk.

Note that I use a 3-burner gas grill for all of my recipe testing. If your grill is smaller, or if you’re using charcoal instead of gas, your cook times may vary.

grilled cast iron skillet mac and cheese with kale
Photo: Casey Barber

For example, the kale may sauté more quickly on a smaller or hotter grill, or the milk may take longer to heat if your coals aren’t giving off as much heat.

Like campfire cooking, it’s always best to keep an eye on your food until you have a more comfortable sense of average cook times on your particular grill.

grilled cast iron skillet mac and cheese with kale
Photo: Casey Barber

Grab a beverage and pull up a patio chair while you give your skillet mac and cheese a periodic check-in.

The payoff of eating warm, gooey mac and cheese straight from the skillet without heating up your kitchen? Worth it every time.

grilled skillet mac and cheese
make mac and cheese on the grill, via www.goodfoodstories.com

One-Pot Grilled Skillet Mac and Cheese with Kale

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Grilled skillet mac and cheese, made one pot-style in a cast iron skillet, satisfies your comfort food cravings and keeps your kitchen cool. Add fresh kale!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 cups whole milk or reduced fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces; 227 grams) elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup (4 ounces; 113 grams) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces; 57 grams) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet on the grill and preheat to medium-low (300-350 degrees F) for a gas grill or indirect cooking for a charcoal grill.
  2. Heat the oil in the preheated skillet and add a few handfuls of the kale. Stir to coat with oil, then cover the grill and let the kale cook for a few minutes. 
  3. As the kale wilts and softens, add another few handfuls, repeating the process until all the kale is cooked through and dark green.
  4. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt, and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Add the broth and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.
  6. Stir in the milk, black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon additional kosher salt. Cover and let the milk come to a simmer.
  7. Stir in the elbows. Cover and cook, lifting the grill lid to stir frequently, until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the liquid.
  8. Stir in the cheese a few handfuls at a time, letting the cheese melt into the sauce before adding the next handful.
  9. Sprinkle the panko and Parmesan across the mac and cheese. Cover and cook until the panko is toasty and the mac and cheese is bubbling around the edges.

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