Smoking cheese at home can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have. Smoked cheese is what you would find in high-end grocery stores and specialty stores. They’re quite expensive. Good thing if you have a grill or smoker at home as you can try cold smoking your own cheese and still get great results.
What’s the Best Cheese for Smoking?
The type of cheese you’d like to smoke always comes down to your personal preference. However, you may find it a little difficult to smoke soft cheese since high temperatures will melt it away and mess up your smoker. They also quickly absorb smoke and may have an overflow of flavors on them.
Semi-hard cheddar cheese is a great option. Go for cheese that is mildly soft and has a high melting point. Such cheese will absorb the right amounts of smoky flavors and not melt. This is the best trick to use when selecting the type of cheese to smoke.
Other types of cheese you’ll commonly hear and find in almost all grocery stores are mozzarella and Pepper Jack.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Cheese?
Although it takes cheese only two hours to smoke, it will take two weeks for the cheese to develop the desired characteristics. Additionally, it needs to be vacuum-packed before going into the fridge. Although two weeks is a long time, the wait is worthwhile. You won’t appreciate the acrid, harsh flavor of cheese that has been taken straight out of the smoker.
Which is the Right Temperature to Smoke Cheese?
Cheese normally starts melting when cooked at temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So be sure to keep the smoker below this temperature for impressive results. Use a smoker or grill thermometer to monitor the temperature of the smoker as you cook the cheese.
How to Store Smoked Cheese?
When sealed and stored appropriately, cheese can last up to a year. Simply wrap it and seal it in a vacuum sealer then place it inside the refrigerator for storage. Ensure you don’t leave it in the freezer. Freezing it would make the cheese crumbly rather than smooth and creamy.
Our Guide to Smoke Cheese
1. Pick a cold day to smoke
Cold smoking cheese is ideal when atmospheric temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This means your cheese will come out great when cold-smoked during the winter season or late fall.
2. Cut the cheese into smaller portions
Cutting cheese into smaller pieces or slices increases the surface area on which the cheese will be exposed to smoke. The more exposure, the more smoked flavor your cheese will absorb. For crispy smoked cheese, cut to smaller pieces. If you desire a soft internal texture, cut them into larger pieces of about four inches.
3. Bring it to room temperature
If you just removed the cheese from the freezer and are about to cook, it’s important to first let it thaw to room temperature. Some cheeses have structures that easily morph when smoked in their frozen state. This makes them prone to losing their original color, texture, and flavor.
Before smoking, let the cheese stay at room temperature for about one to two hours. Pat dry any moisture left on it. Dried cheese always yields great results.
4. Choose the right smoking wood
When selecting the type of wood for smoking your cheese, go for wood that complements or matches its flavors. Some of the best wood fuels for smoking include apple, maple, cherry, oak, and pecan. Hickory is particularly good for cheddar as it infuses a bacon-like flavor to the cheese. Sugar maple is a good option if you’d like an added degree of sweetness.
5. Keep the temperature low
Make sure the smoking temperatures are always below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures would definitely melt your cheese. You can incorporate ice pans to help maintain low temperatures even in warm weather.
6. Turn regularly
Keep turning your cheese at intervals of 15 to 30 minutes. This will give room for even smoke exposure and sufficient penetration of flavor.
7. Pay attention to time
The type of cheese you choose and the taste you want it to have will determine how long you smoke it for. You are permitted to smoke for at least 30 minutes or even for many hours. You’ll obtain more taste from your cheese if you take a longer time.
Additionally, softer cheeses take less time to be cold smoked than tougher varieties. If smoked within two hours, semi-hard cheese like cheddar will perform admirably. Don’t push yourself too much. Cheese that has been over-smoked typically tastes harsh and unpleasant. It will take some time and experience to achieve the perfect smoked taste. Being patient will help you become a pro cheese smoker quickly.
8. Keep the smoke light and constant
Always keep the smoke levels light and steady throughout the smoking session. Regularly add small wood pellets to maintain consistent smoking temperatures.
How to Set up your Smoker?
You can use whatever cooker you have to smoke your cheese; be it a charcoal smoker or grill. You only need to pay attention to the air vents which are crucial for controlling the temperature of the smoker. You can also get a dedicated cold smoker customized for cold smoking.
It may not be necessary to light it up as you can use a cold smoke generator or a tube smoker. For a start, use cherry, maple, or applewood to produce smoke. You may want to try out oak and hickory but they’ll produce stronger aromas which you’ll find irritating in the beginning. Once you fully grasp the concept of cold smoking, you’ll feel more confident using such wood fuels.
Light up the smoke generator or tube smoker, and ensure no flames come out, just smoke. Keep a close eye on the temperature, making sure it doesn’t exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Always make use of the smoker/grill thermometer in monitoring the temperature.
Now put the cut pieces of cheese on the grates, space them accordingly for an efficient flow of air then cover the smoker and let it cook for some hours.
After about two hours, remove the cheese and gently wrap it in a piece of parchment or an untreated butcher’s paper. These materials give room for the freshly smoked cheese to breathe. Place the wrapped cheese in the refrigerator and allow it to set for the next 24 hours. Afterward, remove the parchment and replace it with a vacuum seal. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can use a resealable freezer bag. Just make sure you push out as much air as possible from the bag. Put it back in the refrigerator and wait for another 1 to 2 weeks to allow the smoky flavors to fully permeate the cheese.
Enjoy your smoked cheese with a nice sandwich and onion pasties.
Smoked cheese can be an amazing recipe when you give it a try on your charcoal grill/smoker and do it right. Just be sure to get the right cheese texture – a semi-hard type like cheddar would be a good one. Also, maintain the right temperatures and be patient with the setting process in the refrigerator.
Follow these simple instructions and you’ll enjoy making tasty smoked cheese while saving some money.