| |

How To Smoke Cheese (With Recipes)

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Smoked cheese is basically any type of cheese that has been infused with a smoky flavor. It has a unique flavor that, instead of just tasting smoky, has notes of meatiness, earthiness, and nuttiness when done properly.

Smoking not only gives the cheese a delicious flavor but also helps preserve it for a long time. In fact, it was the method of choice for preserving foods before refrigeration was invented.

To date, cheesemakers prefer smoking their cheese because it tastes incredible, and preserves it by affecting its maturation process.

While you can easily find smoked cheese in the supermarket, you will often notice that it is a bit overpriced. Luckily, you can smoke cheese at home using a few easy techniques.

So, how do you smoke cheese? You can smoke cheese by exposing it to slightly warm or cold smoke so that the flavor permeates into it. Alternatively, you can also add a smoke flavoring, a.k.a. liquid smoke, to cheese while it is fermenting.

Read on for a step-by-step guide for the multiple ways to smoke cheese. We’ll also cover how smoked cheese is used, and some very useful tips to follow while smoking it. Let’s get started!

What Is Smoked Cheese?

Smoked cheese is any cheese that has been smoked to give it a unique, rich, and nutty flavor.

The cheese can either be hot smoked or cold smoked. As a result of this process, it forms a yellowish-brown layer on top.

Best Types Of Cheese For Smoking

It is recommended to use hard or semi-hard cheeses for smoking. Soft cheeses tend to absorb too much smoke and can melt at room temperature.

Some of the best types of cheese to smoke include cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, brie, Swiss, and Monterey jack.

If you are smoking cheese for the first time, we recommend going with hard and mild-flavored cheeses like cheddar before moving on to the more expensive variety.

You can use smoked cheese as a snack or appetizer, add it to your pasta, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, nachos, or make dips or cheese sauce with it.

Best Methods For Smoking Cheese

While the exact origins of smoked cheese are unknown, it is believed that it was discovered by accident in a wood-burning fireplace.

Although the process is more or less the same, these days it is done using smokers instead of open fires. The smoke is wafted over wheels or blocks of cheese as they age using smokers or large commercial smokers.

In addition to that, cheese may either be lightly smoked to give the finished product a subtle smoky flavor or heavily smoked, depending on your preference.

Another very important thing to consider when smoking cheese is the type of fuel that you use since it can affect the flavor of the cheese.

Natural wood, such as apple, hickory, alder, oak, and chestnut are some of the most commonly used varieties in either pellet form, chips, or wood powder. You may even combine multiple types to create a unique blend.

There are multiple ways to smoke cheese that include:

Method 1: Hot Smoking

Hot smoking is a very common process used to smoke a variety of foods. However, when it comes to cheese, it might not be the best choice.

The temperatures used, which fall between 130°F and 175°F, are high enough to partially cook and melt the cheese. 

It does, however, allow the cheese to smoke quickly. A good trick to keep your cheese cool when using a hot smoker is to include a large pan of ice for the cheese to rest on.

Method 2: Cold Smoking

The other process, and the one most preferred for smoking cheese, is cold smoking.

This refers to exposing the cheese to smoke that is kept below a certain temperature at all times, usually 85°F and 90°F, to allow the cheese to soften a bit without cooking it.

Smoking cheese at this temperature may take a few hours, depending on the type of result you are looking for and the level of smokiness you want.

Cold smoking uses an attachment called a cold smoke generator that is compatible with a wide range of smokers, grills, and other cooking equipment.

The cold smoke generator is filled with wood-based fuel, which is gradually smoldered, allowing the smoke to penetrate through the generator into the cheese without letting it get too hot.

Method 3: Liquid Smoking

It is also possible to smoke cheese without using actual smoke, and that is through using something called liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke is created from actual smoke and is soaked into cheese during the fermentation process.

The flavor it creates is mostly indistinguishable from actual smoke. Since it is incorporated into the cheese when it is fermenting, it allows the flavor to completely permeate the cheese.

That is something that isn’t usually achievable with hot or cold smoking.

How To Cold Smoke Cheese, Step By Step

Cold smoking is the most commonly used method for smoking cheese and often guarantees great results if done properly. To cold smoke cheese, here is what you need:

  • A grill or smoker
  • A cool ambient temperature – preferably 60°F or below
  • A good smoking cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, brie, gruyere, Swiss, or Monterey jack)
  • A tube smoker or a cold smoke generator
  • Wood-based fuel (pellets, chips, or wood powder)
  • A grilling pan or tray with holes for easily placing and removing the cheese from the grill
  • Wrapping material such as plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag

Here are step-by-step instructions for cold smoking cheese:

  1. Prep the cheese by bringing it to room temperature. Take it out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before smoking and wipe off any excess moisture.
  2. Light the smoking tube or cold smoke generator and place it in the smoker or grill.
  3. Make sure there are no flames but a steady stream of smoke emitting from the cold smoke generator.
  4. Arrange the cheese on the grill pan or grate, making sure the pieces aren’t touching each other and that there is plenty of airflow between them to allow the smoke to get into the cheese from all sides.
  5. Using a thermometer or an automatic cold smoke generator, monitor the temperature of the grill/smoker and let the cheese smoke for a couple of hours.
  6. Once the cheese has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker, wrap it up with plastic or in bags, and wait at least a week for the flavors to develop. 

What Temperature Is Cheese Smoked At?

Temperature is a crucial factor when smoking cheese, which is why hot smoking is not the method of choice and it is recommended to cold smoke your cheeses.

That being said, cheese starts to melt at 90°F, which is why you must always smoke it at a temperature lower than that. 

It is also a good idea to keep the weather in mind when smoking cheese since a cooler temperature will help maintain the minimum heat levels and there will be one less thing to worry about.

What Is The Best Fuel For Smoking Cheese?

There are several ways you can create smoke for your cheese. Some common fuel choices include natural lump charcoal, woodchips, sawdust, hay, and stray, out of which, wood pellets are one of the most highly recommended fuels to smoke cheese.

With the help of a smoking tube or a cold smoke generator, the wood pellets can smolder and create a consistent level of smoke for several hours.

Although all types of wood can light up and produce smoke, for cold smoking, you need wood that can produce large amounts of smoke and less heat.

Some popular varieties include hardwoods such as cherry, apple, hickory, beech, oak, and alder. You may even combine the different types of wood pellets to give your cheese a unique flavor.

Whichever type of wood you use, just make sure to smolder it instead of lighting it up.

Useful Tips For Cold Smoking Cheese

Cold smoking cheese is a pretty simple and straightforward process. However, to achieve the best results, there are a few quick tips you can follow:

1. Pick A Cold Day To Smoke Cheese

The success of cold smoking is so heavily dependent on maintaining the right temperature. It is best done on a cold day when the outside temperature is not more than 60°F.

Temperatures higher than that may cause the cheese to melt and even cook it a bit. If that is not what you are aiming for, keep in mind the ambient temperature before smoking your cheese.

2. Cut The Cheese Into Smaller Pieces

Cheese is often sold as a block or in wheel form. But when smoking it, it is best to remove the rind and cut it into smaller wedges. Ideally they are no more than 4 inches in length, to allow the smoke to penetrate all the way through.

By exposing more surface area to the smoke, it will help speed up the smoking process. However, if you prefer less smokiness and a softer core, you may cut the cheese into larger pieces.

3. Bring Cheese To Room Temperature First

While there is no rule that says you can’t smoke frozen or chilled cheese, bringing it to room temperature before smoking it will give you the best results.

When smoked from frozen, the cheese may lose its texture, color, and flavor. That’s why you must always let it rest at room temperature for an hour or two before smoking, and make sure to remove any moisture.

4. Choose The Right Fuel

You must not underestimate the importance of good smoking wood and how it affects the final product when smoking cheese, or anything for that matter.

You need to pick the right type of wood that compliments your cheese and enhances its flavor. When smoking soft and mild cheese, try apple, cherry, or pecan wood that won’t overpower the flavor and aroma of the cheese.

For hard cheeses with a strong flavor, go for something equally strong such as oak or hickory. You may even mix it up with dried tea leaves and nutshells for a fun twist.

5. Maintain A Low Temperature

When cold smoking cheese, always aim to maintain a temperature below 90°F. Anything above that will cause the cheese to melt.

You may use an automatic cold smoke generator with a self-regulated temperature option. Or if you’re using a simple tube smoker, you can use an ice pan to make sure the temperature doesn’t exceed the limit.

These ice pans help maintain a cool temperature and minimize the effects of any external temperature disruptions as well.

6. Turn The Cheese Every 15 To 30 Minutes

To make sure that the smoke penetrates every inch of the cheese, you need to expose as much of it as possible to the smoke. The best way to do that is to keep turning it every 15 to 30 minutes.

7. Pay Close Attention To The Time

The total time it would take to smoke your cheese depends on several factors such as the type of cheese you are using and the level of smokiness you prefer.

While some cheeses may be ready in hardly 30 minutes, others may take several hours, with a longer smoking time equating to a stronger flavor.

You must keep in mind though that since cheese is quick to absorb flavors as compared to meat, over-smoking it may give it a very strong and intense taste.

It is also important to note that any moisture on the cheese will cause it to absorb more smoke particles. This will ultimately intensify the smokiness.

Softer cheeses take much less time to smoke than harder cheeses. Although it might take a bit of trial and error to get the flavor right. Experienced smokers can tell the doneness of the cheese based on the color of the rind.

As a general rule, for hard and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar or gouda, a smoke time of 2 hours should be enough to give it a delicious and balanced smoky flavor.

How To Store Smoked Cheese

For home-smoked cheese, it is best to let it rest for a while before looking at long-term storage solutions.

This extra time allows the smoky flavor to permeate into every corner of the cheese, giving it a delicious and strong flavor in every bite.

The best way is to wrap the cheese in a cheesecloth, cheese paper, or untreated butcher paper, and let it sit in the fridge for anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks.

Once that is out of the way, you may store your smoked cheese using one of the following methods:

Vacuum Sealing

A great option for long-term storage, vacuum sealers seal the contents tight by drawing all the air out of the bag.

By reducing the amount of air inside the bag, you minimize the risk of bacteria and other contaminants causing the cheese to deteriorate and go bad. The vacuum seal also helps retain all the flavor and moisture of the smoked cheese.

You can use vacuum pack machines to vacuum seal your smoked cheese. All you have to do is place the cheese into the bag, load the bag into the machine, extract the air, and seal the bag.

Vacuum sealed smoked cheese can last for up to a year in the refrigerator. Just make sure to label the bag with the date before storing it.

Plastic Bagging

If you do not have access to a vacuum sealer, you can use a good quality plastic freezer bag to store your smoked cheese. Just make sure to remove as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it shut.

A simple technique is to put the cheese in the bag and submerge it underwater, leaving the open part of the bag above water level. Take extra care to not let any water get in the bag.

The pressure from the water outside the bag will help force any excess air out. After that you can seal the bag and take it out of the water.

If you find this method too complicated, you can simply lay the bag on a flat surface and compress it with your hands to push air out of it. Repeat it several times until you remove as much air as possible.

When storing hard and semi-hard cheeses, it may be helpful to wrap them in a layer of parchment paper before bagging and sealing.

Waxing

Waxing is another great alternative for preserving smoked cheese for long-term storage. It’s a good option for hard cheeses that are free of moisture.

Here’s how to wax cheese:

  1. Before being waxed, make sure the smoked cheese is free of any contaminants. Wipe it with vinegar and dry it with a paper towel. Leave it at room temperature for a while to let it dry completely.
  2. Dry it once again since any surface moisture will prevent the wax from sticking to the cheese’s surface.
  3. Next, melt the wax, dip the cheese in it, covering only one side. Set it aside to dry and do the same with the other side.
  4. Repeat the process a couple of times to ensure the cheese is covered from all sides and is completely sealed.

If stored at a cool temperature, waxed cheese can last a really long time.

How To Smoke Cheese

How To Smoke Cheese

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Additional Time: 7 days
Total Time: 7 days 32 minutes

This handy recipe will have you smoking chef-quality cheese at home in no time!

Ingredients

  • A grill or smoker
  • A cool ambient temperature – preferably 60°F or below
  • A good smoking cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Gouda, brie, Gruyere, Swiss, or Monterey jack)
  • A tube smoker or a cold smoke generator
  • Wood-based fuel (pellets, chips, or wood powder)
  • A grilling pan or tray with holes for easily placing and removing the cheese from the grill
  • Wrapping material such as plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag

Instructions

  1. Prep the cheese by bringing it to room temperature. Take it out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before smoking and wipe off any excess moisture.
  2. Light the smoking tube or cold smoke generator and place it in the smoker or grill.
  3. Make sure there are no flames but a steady stream of smoke emanating from the cold smoke generator.
  4. Arrange the cheese on the grill pan or grate, making sure the pieces aren’t touching each other and that there is plenty of airflow between them to allow the smoke to get into the cheese from all sides.
  5. Using a thermometer or an automatic cold smoke generator, monitor the temperature of the grill/smoker and let the cheese smoke for a couple of hours.
  6. Once the cheese has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker, wrap it up with plastic or in bags, and wait at least a week for the flavors to develop.  

Related Questions

Now that you know all about smoking cheese and the multiple ways you can do it, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:

Can You Freeze Smoked Cheese?

Yes, you can freeze all types of smoked cheese without affecting its flavor and texture for 6 to 9 months if it is correctly sealed and packaged.

You must make sure that the cheese is sealed tightly. This will prevent freezer burn and excess air from entering the bag, keeping the smoky flavor and quality of the cheese intact.

How Do You Defrost Smoked Cheese?

When it comes to defrosting frozen smoked cheese, it is best to leave it in the plastic wrap it was stored in to help retain the flavor and moisture as the cheese thaws.

The ideal way to go about this is to transfer the frozen cheese into the refrigerator for 2448 hours. Then gradually bring it down to room temperature.

Although a bit time-consuming, this method will ensure the same smoky taste and delicious texture for months.

What Is Liquid Smoke?

Liquid smoke is a natural product made from actual smoke from burning wood by condensing it. When wood is burned, it produces smoke and steam.

The water in the form of vapor is condensed through a cooled tubing that captures the smoke and filters out impurities like soot and ash.

The result is a yellowish-brown substance that can be used as a flavor additive for a variety of foods such as barbeque sauces, marinades, and “smoked” cheeses and meats.

Can You Cold Smoke Cheese In The Refrigerator?

Yes, you technically can smoke cheese in a refrigerator, although you would have to set aside an empty refrigerator and designate it solely for the purpose of smoking due to the smoky smell and flavor it will develop.

Place a hot plate at the bottom of the fridge and add a wood chip pan on top of it. Next, place an ice pan on the middle rack of the fridge and lay the cheese on the top rack.

Turn on the hot plate and let the cheese smoke for 1 to 6 hours. Check every 10 to 15 minutes for issues such as the ice melting or the cheese developing sweat beads.

Related Articles

Pellet Smoker Vs Wood Smoker Vs Offset Smoker
5 Best Gouda Cheese Brands
How To Melt Cheese In The Microwave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *