is there a way to do this where I would go Mac -> External and then External -> Mac?
Honestly, Time Machine works really well for this. You just back up to an external drive and when the time comes to set up the machine, it's just a few clicks to replicate the "profile."
@frankspin: You don't use an external at all with Migration Assistant... just connect the 2 machines. If you really have to use an external for some reason, you can use Disk Utility to clone the drive to the external, then connect that to the new one and run Migration Assistant... I think. I never use it, though, when I move someone to a new machine. I have seen it cause weird issues at times over the years, especially if the 2 versions of OS X are not identical. I do still recommend it to people when I'm trying to avoid getting dragged into their computer tech support vortex, though, since it is easy enough for normal people to use. When I am the one who has to pick up the pieces, I feel more sure moving it all over myself.
I have been an absolutely sloth with my parade of Macs, but after 3 computer upgrades via Migration Assistant( the first being Power PC to intel), and two version upgrades after that, my mighty Mac runs like a champ! I don't, however, recommend this. I need to do a clean instal of OS and applications.