In my experience, the side dishes you choose for your barbecue are just as crucial as the main meals. For this reason, it’s vital to know the right sides to pair with your entrees.
Not sure of the best side dishes to make? Don’t fret. As an experienced chef, I’ve prepared numerous side dish recipes for family gatherings and holidays, and I’ll show you my 5 go-to recipes when I’m ready to have people over.
These recipes range from creamy mac and cheese to filling baked beans with bacon. By the end of today’s article, you’ll discover how to prepare these awesome smoked side dishes to blow your guests away.
1. Smoked Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a staple smoked side dish at barbecues and during the holidays. The main ingredients for this mac and cheese recipe include elbow macaroni, butter, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and cream cheese. Once smoked, these flavorful ingredients combine to create a dish that is creamy and filling.
How to Make Smoked Mac and Cheese?
8 oz. elbow macaroni
½ cup of butter
¼ cup of all-purpose flour
3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of hot sauce
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
7 oz. cream cheese cubes
2 cups of shredded smoked mozzarella
Fill a medium-sized pot with water, add a teaspoon of kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Next, add your macaroni and let it cook until it is partially done. You should achieve this doneness level after 10 minutes. To keep your cooked pasta from sticking, drain the excess water, pour in a tablespoon of olive oil, and stir.
Next, grate the cheese. Store-bought shredded cheeses tend to clump and may be flavorless; therefore, I suggest you use freshly grated cheese. I use mozzarella and cheddar cheese for this recipe, but you can also try colby jack and Gouda. Either way, the mac and cheese will taste exquisite.
After grating the cheese, preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and add your favorite wood chip. I use fruit wood chips like cherry for this recipe because of their light flavor. Preheating initiates the smoky flavor of wood pellets and ensures a more consistent cooking temperature. Now, it’s time to prepare the creamy mac n cheese sauce.
Melt the cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter and flour together for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add a cup of milk to the mixture until it is completely incorporated.
Next, add the hot sauce, cayenne, salt, and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat under the saucepan and let the sauce simmer for around 5 minutes, or until it thickens.
Now, add your cream cheese to the saucepan. Remove the pan of melted butter from the cooker and add the cheese cubes. Stir slowly until the cream cubes melt. Repeat the process with the shredded cheese mixture until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Afterward, add the partially cooked macaroni and gently stir it in, coating the pasta with the cream cheese sauce mixture.
Add a cup of green onions and more shredded cheddar as toppings. The green onions will add more crunch to the dish.
Lastly, place the saucepan in the smoker and close the lid. Allow the mac and cheese to cook at 220° for 45 minutes, and remove it once it appears golden brown.
2. Smoked Baked Potatoes
In my expert opinion, these smoked potatoes are far superior to regular oven-baked food because they are infused with rich smoked flavor. Before placing the potatoes on your smoker, ensure you wash and season them. Then, cook until the interior is light and fluffy. Smoked potatoes are so versatile that you can enjoy them with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, or bacon.
How to Make Smoked Potatoes?
4 medium-sized russet potatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of BBQ rub
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons of diced chives
First, preheat your smoker to 250°F. Next, wash and scrub your potatoes thoroughly to get rid of any dirt. Once, the potatoes are clean, prick them with a fork to allow the seasoning we’ll use to penetrate.
Lightly drizzle some oil over the potatoes. Then, generously sprinkle each potato with BBQ rub.
Arrange potatoes on the grill grates. Smoke the potatoes for 3–4 hours with the lid shut, or until the interior temperature reaches 200–210°F.
After removing the potatoes from the smoker, add the parmesan cheese, butter, and cream in a pan and stir under low heat till it’s smooth. This sauce will serve as the topping for the baked potatoes. Sprinkle the diced chives on the sauce once it has cooled and enjoy with your loaded baked potato!
Riblets are one of the best-kept secrets in the barbecue world. These smoked meat snacks are a great addition to any barbecue menu. They have a crunchy mouthfeel with a tangy aftertaste. Moreover, they’re easy to make, making them an ideal choice when you have a crowd.
Riblets are made from the round bone ends of a rack of ribs. Surprisingly, these cuts are often discarded by butchers after trimming the ribs. Thankfully, these cuts are readily available and affordable.
How to Make Riblets?
2 slabs of pork ribs
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 bottle of barbecue sauce
1 bottle of barbecue rub
Fire up your grill to 225 degrees.
Lay the riblets, bone-side down, on the grill and cook slowly on low heat for 3 hours.
Take the ribs off the grill and wrap them in foil. Mold a pouch with foil so you can pour liquid in the middle without it pouring out. Now, pour 1/2 cup of apple cider over the riblets, place the pouch back on the grill, and seal it tightly.
Cook the riblets for another hour and remove them from the grill. Unwrap the foil and slather the riblet with some yummy BBQ sauce.
Place the rib cuts back on the grill for another 30 minutes, this time without the foil pouch. The sauce should have caked onto the riblets by now.
After 30 minutes, increase the grill’s temperature to 300 degrees and sear the cuts for 1 minute. Searing the riblets will make them taste crispier.
After searing, take the riblets off the grill and allow them to rest for 10 minutes so they can bask in their juices. Lastly, serve and enjoy.
4. Smoked Baked Beans and Bacon
Baked beans and crispy bacon are the perfect side dish if you want something filling. This recipe is particularly great for feeding larger crowds.
Although this recipe is loaded with sauces and spices, you can change the proportions to your preference. Even though it takes a little longer to prepare than other dishes, you won’t regret the wait once you’ve tasted it.
How to Make Smoked Baked Beans and Bacon?
1 can of baked beans
8 slices of bacon
¼ cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup of molasses
1 large, chopped onion
1 can of chili beans
1 chopped jalapeno pepper
¼ cup of yellow mustard
Set your grill to 250°F.
In a cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon till the fat renders. Make sure the bacon isn’t too crispy; it should feel slightly flexible, but not crisp.
Once you’re done, remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel to cool and drain.
Next, cook the chopped onion and jalapeño in the same skillet with the bacon juices for about five minutes. The onion should be tender and translucent by then.
The next step is to add the beans, mustard, molasses, and brown sugar to the skillet.
Now, thoroughly stir the mixture. After you’re finished stirring, lay the fried bacon strips on top of the mixture and put the item in the smoker for 5 to 10 minutes. When it’s done, take the beans out of the smoker and enjoy.
5. Smoked Burnt Brisket Ends
Smoked brisket ends are a sticky, juicy, and smoky side dish! This delicious side dish is perfect for people who like their meat with lots of flavors and a touch of sweetness.
This is also an excellent recipe to try if you’ve never smoked before (since it doesn’t matter if it burns). Moreover, burnt brisket ends make a great appetizer and can also be eaten alone.
How to Make Smoked Burnt Brisket Ends?
5-pound untrimmed brisket flat
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of ground black pepper
¾ cup of ketchup
¼ cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
¼ tablespoon of cayenne pepper
First, use a sharp knife to slice the untrimmed brisket into 1-inch-wide strips.
Next, add the brisket cuts to a brine mix of water, sugar, and salt and cook for 2 hours. Once two hours have elapsed, remove the meat from the brine and pat it dry with a paper towel.
Now, set up the smoker and raise the temperature to 250°F.
Get a bowl and mix sugar, salt, and freshly ground pepper, then coat the briskets.
Place the coated brisket cuts in a baking pan and smoke for 2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the brisket strips after two hours and wrap them in foil.
Place the foil in the cooker and allow it to cook for one more hour. The internal temperature of the meat strips should be between 160 and 180 degrees. Once they reach this temperature and your desired level of charring, remove them from the smoker.
Now it’s time to make the sauce. Mix the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook for 5 minutes, or until it thickens. Make sure you cook the sauce over medium heat so the ingredients cook steadily. Afterward, mix the brisket strips and sauce together and enjoy.
That brings us to the end of today’s article. Try any of these smoked side dishes with your favorite main dishes and enjoy. These recipes aren’t set in stone, so feel free to add or remove any ingredients to suit your palate.
By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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