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Creamy cheddar baked brisket mac and cheese in a large cast iron skillet with chopped chives and grated cheese around it.
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Creamy Cheddar Baked Brisket Mac and Cheese

Creamy cheddar mac and cheese topped with smoky slow cooked beef brisket and baked until bubbly. Finished off with a drizzle of BBQ sauce, fresh chives, and served with multiple forks, plates, and extra napkins! (Instructions for both slow cooker and instant pot methods!)
Course Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Barbecue
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Pressure Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Cost $30

Equipment

  • slow cooker (crockpot) or pressure cooker (instant pot)
  • large dutch oven or high sided oven-safe skillet (cast iron preferred)

Ingredients

For the Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

  • 2 lbs beef brisket trimmed and fat removed
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

For the Creamy Cheddar Mac and Cheese

  • 1 lb dried pasta rotini, fusilli, cellentani, or cavatappi preferred
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 4 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 0.75 lb block)
  • 2 cups freshly shredded gruyere cheese (about 0.5 lb block)
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt plus extra for seasoning water
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

For the Slow Cooker Brisket

  • Trim off any excess fat from the brisket. Set it aside.
  • In the base of a slow cooker (crockpot) or pressure cooker (instant pot), add unsweetened applesauce, ketchup, ½ cup brown sugar, water, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
  • In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, ½ tablespoon brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to make a BBQ dry rub.
  • Using your hands, pat the spice rub on all sides of the brisket. Use all of the rub so the meat is heavily coated.
  • Place the brisket in the slow cooker or pressure cooker and cover it with the sauce. If using a slow cooker, cook for 8 hours on high. If pressure cooking, pressure cook for 90 minutes on high.
  • When brisket is done, carefully remove it from the juices. Allow it to cool slightly before using two forks to shred the meat until it breaks apart into fine, long strands. Set it aside.

For the Creamy Cheddar Mac and Cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Boil pasta on the stovetop in salted water 1 minute less than instructed on the package.
  • While the pasta is boiling, shred the cheeses and prepare a baking dish by spraying it with nonstick spray. Set the cheese and baking dish aside.
  • When the pasta is done, drain it and drizzle some olive oil over top to keep it from sticking. Stir to coat each noodle in oil. Set pasta aside.
  • In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet, combine butter and flour over medium-low heat to make a roux.
  • Cook the butter-flour mixture until it becomes golden brown and bubbly.
  • Turn the heat to low. Carefully whisk in milk, heavy cream, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • When thick and fully combined, turn off the heat. Whisk in half of each type of cheese, reserving the other half for later.
  • Add cooked pasta to the creamy cheese sauce and stir to fully coat each noodle.
  • Add half of the pasta to the baking dish, then sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over top. Add the rest of the pasta on top of the cheese.
  • Top off the macaroni with the shredded brisket. Bake the brisket mac and cheese in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the brisket is slightly dark and caramelized.
  • Garnish with finely chopped chives and a drizzle of your favorite BBQ sauce.

Storage

  • To store: Homemade brisket mac and cheese is generally best served fresh from the oven. However, if you have leftovers, you can allow the macaroni to cool completely before scooping it into an airtight container.
    Place the container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
    To freeze: You can also freeze homemade macaroni and cheese in individual serving-sized containers for easy lunches on the go or in a large pan for a quick reheat-able weeknight dinner.
    Freeze up to 3 months.
    To reheat: To reheat macaroni and cheese, microwaving is not recommended, as the cheese tends to separate and becomes greasy.
    Instead, place refrigerated or frozen mac in a preheated 375 degree F oven and cook until warmed through in the middle, anywhere from 20 minutes if refrigerated to about an hour if frozen.

Notes

  1. Both the brisket and the mac and cheese can also be served on their own.
  2. Instead of brisket: you can use pulled chicken or pork:
For chicken - Use the recipe above, substituting the brisket for 3 boneless chicken breasts. Slow cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork.
For pulled pork - Use the recipe above, substituting the brisket for 2 to 3 lbs of pork shoulder. Slow cook for about 5 hours on high, or until the pork is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork.