6 Best Woods for Smoking Cheese [Applewood, Hickory, Oak & More]

By Ben Isham-Smith

Published:

Make the best cold smoked cheese with these best smoking woods. Delicious mild woods including applewood, hickory, and oak. Get the best smoking wood for cheese today.

barbecue smoking wood chips for cold smoked cheese

Many guides to smoking focus on meat, but that leads to too many people missing out on the wonders of smoked cheese. Popping cheese in the smoker is a great way to include any vegetarians attending your barbecue or add a fun twist to your spread that even the convinced carnivores will enjoy.

Smoking cheese comes with a different challenge than smoking meat, as you want to create a smoke that will enhance but not overpower your cheese. The best woods for smoking cheese are mild woods that do not have intense smoke, such as applewood or maple. Even more durable hardwoods, such as oak and hickory, are good choices.

cold smoking cheese electric smoker

Apple

Applewood comes from the apple tree, a fruit tree that may not be native to North America but has now definitively covered these shores (particularly in the northern part of the United States). Applewood is a popular choice for smoking many types of food because it has a mild, subtly sweet flavor.

Applewood pairs well with many types of cheese for smoking, from semi-soft to hard cheeses. Its sweet, fruity flavor pairs well with the hint of smokiness from the cooking process and the cheese’s natural saltiness.

Maple

Maple is a sweet hardwood from the maple tree, which grows throughout most of the United States and southern Canada. You can get regular maple and sweet maple wood for smoking. Even standard maple has a light, sweet flavor that matches many smoked foods, including cheese.

Maple pairs well with smoked cheese because its flavor is sweet without overpowering the mildness of the cheese. If you are looking to get a good color on your cheese, maple is one of the best woods you can use because it helps cheese get that mahogany, smoked color. You can even plank cheese using sugar maple.

Pecan

Pecan trees are technically a type of hickory tree, but the wood from these nut trees native to the southern United States is far sweeter than hickory. Pecan smoke is slightly sweet, but it has a nuttier, earthier flavor than maple or applewood.

Pecan is one of the best woods for smoking cheese because it has a savory, bacon-like aroma that imparts an intense smoke onto your cheese. However, it is not as intense as oak or hickory, so it works with semi-soft cheeses as well as hard cheeses.

Hickory

Hickory wood is a staple of Carolina-style barbecue and comes from a type of nut tree spread throughout the southern United States. Hickory smoking wood is one of the most durable woods in the United States, thanks to its hardness and steadiness, and produces a long, steady supply of smoke.

Hickory smoke has an intense, smoky flavor that often tastes like bacon. It is a good choice if you want to add some meaty flavor to your smoker without actually making meat. However, hickory smoke is too strong for milder cheeses, so use it with an intense hard cheese such as cheddar. Hickory also pairs well with gouda, a creamy Dutch cheese that starts tasting like smoked bacon when prepared over hickory.

Cherry

Reddish-brown cherry wood comes from the cherry tree, which grows in most of the United States. Cherry wood is similar to applewood because both are fruity and sweet, although cherry is sweeter than apple. 

The mild, sweet flavor of cherry wood goes well with cheese, including semi-soft cheeses that may not hold up as well to intense woods such as hickory. However, if you’re smoking with cherry wood, you should know that your cheese will turn an intense dark color from the red in the wood. Don’t worry, you didn’t burn it!

Oak

Oakwood, from the durable, steady oak tree, is one of the most popular woods for smoking, thanks to its steady, long burning time and smoky flavor. Oak has a nutty, earthy flavor to its smoke, but it is not as overpowering as hickory.

Oak smoking wood is versatile, particularly when smoking hard cheeses (semi-soft cheeses should go with a milder wood such as cherry as oak can be overpowering). The best cheeses to smoke with oak are cheddar, gouda, and asiago. 

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.


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