How to smoke cheese? You can smoke your own cheese at home, without the need for an industrial cheese smoker. You only need cheese, grill, wood chips, and a bit of patience. It’s a cold smoking process. Burning woods just enough to create smoke that adds flavor to cheese of your choosing.
Smoked cheese, as the term suggests, applies to all cheese that have been treated with smoke. The cheese absorbs the smoke creating a unique flavor and may assume golden brown appearance.
Smoking is divided into two categories, the cold smoking, 68-86℉ for a month period, and hot smoking, 104-194℉. Artificial flavorings are sometimes added to wood chips’ and hot smoking practically cooks the cheese.
The process removes moisture and creates antimicrobial compounds, thus extending product shelf life. It’s specifically a famous cheese preservation technique before the invention of refrigerators.
Cheese making often happens in large quantities. Done in walk-in or small box-type smokers. But, like I said, you can smoke cheese easily at home, without the need for a large walk-in smoker.
Why Smoke Cheese?
I get it. You love cheese. It doesn’t matter what type it is. However, flavor sometimes can be boring, and you want something unique. That’s one of the reasons why you need to smoke your cheese.
Likewise, you are a restaurant owner, wanting to differentiate your offerings from a massive number of competitors. Smoking your cheese to create a unique flavor will likely leave them clueless.
In the ancient time, when cold storage was not yet invented, drying the cheese and drying it further thru smoking makes the shelf life last longer.
Probably, you want to do it for flavor reasons. Let’s stop the flowery talk and let’s get started.
Choosing the Right Cheese to Smoke
Use a variant that’s not going to melt. Prefer cheese as hard as mozzarella and other harder cheese.
The right cheese to smoke are Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pepper Jack, Cheddar and any other hard types you can get hold of. Each will assume a different flavor profile so to experiment is exciting.
Cheese Hardness and Size Affect Smoking Time
The softer the cheese the shorter it gets to smoke. Conversely, harder cheese takes longer smoking time. Softer cheese has less dense molecular structure making it easier for smoke to penetrate. Don’t take it too far though. Too soft cheese will totally disintegrate in the process.
Size also matters. Smaller size cheese or cutting it into smaller chunks makes the smoking quicker.
Smoking regular hard cheese slab, Cheddar and Pepper Jack, takes about 2 to 3 hours. While semi-hard cheese, like Mozzarella, takes about 2 hours.
In addition, time may deviate on your preference. Extend and see what happens. Just don’t let it loose too much fat, ruining the shape and more importantly, impairing flavor.
1. Let’s Start Smoking. Firstly, Let the Cheese Rest
About 30 minutes before smoking, unwrap the cheese and let stand at room temperature. It will release some oil to the surface, which will give a better flavor profile.
2. Then Chill the Cheese for About 20 minutes
Before smoking, chill the cheese for about 20 minutes. This will make it resist melting during the process. You may skip chilling if the outside temperature is relatively cold, 75ºF and below.
3. Get the Best Woods for Smoking Cheese
Get the wood chips that are readily available in your area. In my opinion, apple, cherry, and maple are the best woods for smoking cheese. Cherry, hardwood oak and hickory are also great options. Mix and match to achieve different flavor outcomes.
4. Start the Fire but Aim for the Cold Smoke
Your aim is to create a cold smoke. The smoldering wood is definitely hot but the smoke it emits should be tolerable, thus, we call it cold smoke.
Start by burning some wood coal. Then slowly add wood chips until a nice stream of smoke starts rising.
Check out my post on Best sides for BBQ.
5. Create Enough Space Between Smoke Source and Cheese
Be sure, the heat deflector is installed properly, to avoid heat contact to cheese.
Ready this setup to add more protection. Get a sturdy wire mesh to serve as a cheese holder, then place it over a pan lined with ice cubes. Then place the setup over the grill.
If ice is not available, tap water or cold water may do, but you have to replenish it more often.
6. Smoke Cheese on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
Some grills, like the Pit Boss Pellet Grill, come with a pellet canister. Instead of wood chips, use smoking pellets like the Delight Apple Flavor Wood smoking pellets.
To smoke cheese on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill, put enough pellets inside the pellet canister. Then blow torch the pellets inside until smoking starts. Close the canister and put it inside the grill, farthest away from the cheese. It’s cold smoke but it still produces heat enough to melt the cheese.
7. Smoke Cheese on Your Regular Grill
With the smoke rising, place the cheese inside the smoker grill. Close. Then, after about an hour, turn the cheese upside down. Replenish the melted ice. Then continue smoking on the regular grill until the set time of 3 hours.
8. Rest and Age the Smoked Cheese
Rest the smoked cheese. Cool then put inside an icebox and let sit for 6 -24 hours. This will allow the smoke flavor to firmly set.
Rest the smoked cheese. Gently blot the cheese with a paper towel to remove exuded oil. Wrap with a plastic wrapper and age inside the fridge for 7 days. The aging process further develops the acquired smoke flavor.
The flavor of your favorite cheese is nice and it could be nicer after short experimentation. Go ahead and smoke some. Prepare the smoker grill and wood chips. Then get started.
The final appearance and flavor will depend on wood type, smoke intensity, smoking length, and cheese type. You may get a brown shriveled cheese with intense smoke flavor, or a slight change in appearance and mild smoke taste.
Try varying several factors until you get what you’re looking for. Try hard cheese first, like cheddar and pepper jack before opting for softer counterparts. For choice of wood, you can’t go wrong with apple, cherry, and maple.
Try the weakest smoke intensity on a small cheese slice. Go for larger blocks and stronger smoke once you get the hang of it. Finally, to develop the flavor further, wrap it with plastic wrapper and age for about 7 days in the fridge.
Read my article on ways to thicken grated cheese without a cheese grater.