Dutch Oven Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food for fall months. Creating this creamy, cheesy recipe in the dutch oven makes it easy to fry your bacon and slip right into creating a roux from the excess bacon grease. And of course, clean up is a breeze.
As a mom of a large family, mostly to tiny kiddos, you can imagine that Mac and Cheese is a family staple around here. With 7 family members, we need to be able to make massive amounts to enjoy for dinner and leftovers the next day. Add a bit of bacon and well, it’s classic comfort food any day of the week.
Why bake in a dutch oven?
A 4 to 6-quart dutch oven does wonders for making large quantities of soups, chowders, and mac and cheese. The design of the dutch oven lends itself well to not only making large quantities of food, but also keeping that food warm. This is especially important if adapting this recipe for cooking over a campfire. For more information on adapting Mac and Cheese to the open air and campfire, check out Fresh Off the Grid.
Ingredients for the best mac and cheese
Of course we know that we’re a little biased in our opinion calling this the Best Mac and Cheese – but I dare you to challenge me after using this cheese combo and a full pound of bacon. That’s right, you can’t. Your mouth will be too full!
- Pasta – cannot have macaroni and cheese without macaroni, or can you? Use your favorite shape of pasta – we won’t tell!
- Bacon – a full pound because we know it’s highly unlikely that some won’t get eaten before it’s added into the mac and cheese at the end.
- Cheese – you can use variations of your favorite cheeses but we suggest blue cheese, gruyere, cream cheese, and a sharp chedder or parmesan.
- Milk – we prefer whole milk or heavy cream for that added richness
- Butter & Flour – to add to your leftover bacon grease to make your roux
- Spices – sage leaves, garlic powder, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt for your pasta.
Can I use preshredded cheese?
You certainly can for ease, however buying in blocks and shredding yourself is always prefered. Pre-shredded cheese has an anti-caking coating on it similar to flour – but it’s not – and thus prevents the cheese from sticking to itself in the bag. That also means that it makes it more difficult to melt together in the pot. So if you can, shred the cheese yourself even the day before, and save in a Ziploc bag.
How to make Mac and Cheese
Step 1: Start by cutting your bacon into small pieces, about an inch to two inches in length. Dump them in, about a half pound at a time, into the dutch oven and use a wooden spatula to fry. As they are done, remove them from the dutch oven and set to the side on a paper towel lined plate. While frying your bacon, boil the pasta to al dente and set aside in a colander.
Step 2: Remove all but 2 Tablespoons or so of the bacon grease. Add your butter and melt. Dust in the flour and cook about 2-3 minutes while stirring.
Step 3: Add your milk 1 cup at a time and whisk into the flour fat mixture, creating your roux. You want it to be thick and remain thick. You’ll need to let the milk cook for a few minutes after every addition of more milk to thicken up.
Step 4: Add your cheese and spices. Dump them all in! Then stir to melt and combine.
Step 5: Finish it off by stirring in your sage, cooked pasta, and bacon bits. Be sure to reserve a few pieces of bacon and blue cheese for your topping.
Dig in and enjoy with some hearty cornbread!
How to store and reheat Mac and Cheese
How to store Mac and Cheese and can you freeze it?
Mac and Cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refridgerator for 2-3 days. It can also be transferred to a tin pan, covered with tin foil, and frozen for about 2 months. Do keep in mind that from frozen and through the reheating process, the consistency may be a bit off from the cheeses as dairy has a funny way of freezing.
How to reheat Mac and Cheese
From the refrigerator, reheat on medium in a microwave safe bowl with a damp paper towel lightly covering it. Heat for one minute, then stir. Repeat until your desired temperature is reached. You want to make sure all of the cheese and noodles has warmed and remelted.
How to reheat Mac and Cheese from frozen
Place the frozen Mac and Cheese into the oven. Then turn on your oven to 350F. As your oven preheats, your Mac and Cheese will begin to dethaw. Leave it covered for about an hour then check the center. Once your Mac and Cheese has warmed up, remove the top covering and dust with buttered breadcrumbs or freshly shredded cheese, and bake for 10 minutes.
What to serve with Bacon Mac and Cheese
This Mac and Cheese is rich and hearty. So we suggest some lighter sides that will not completely wear you down.
Dutch Oven Bacon Mac and Cheese
- Dutch Oven
- 1 pound bacon
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- 5 ounces blue cheese
- .5 lb gruyere
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 fresh sage leaves
- Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. I add 1/4 cup of salt to the water as it boils for perfectly seasoned pasta.
- Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the raw bacon in to half inch pieces. With the dutch oven on the stovetop over low, cook half the bacon at a time. Use a wooden spoon to separate the pieces so they cook evenly. As they are done cooking, remove them from the dutch oven to drain excess grease on a paper towel. Once all the bacon is cooked, remove all extra grease from the dutch oven except for 1-2 Tablespoons.
- Add butter to the dutch oven and melt. Sprinkle in flour to the butter and whisk to cook through. Once the flour butter mixture starts to bubble, slowly pour in the milk 1 cup at a time. Stir until thickened before adding the next cup of milk.
- After all the milk has been added and the mixture is thickened, add the cream cheese and stir to melt. Once melted add the cheese and seasonings. Mix well until creamy.
- Add the cooked pasta, sage, and bacon. Stir well. Top with any extra bacon and the reserved blue cheese. Enjoy while warm.