Photo: Reddit: Ozzvaldo
Grilled smoked cheese, mac, and smoked cheese, smoked cheese pizza—sorry lactose intolerant readers, we’re about to make you a little jealous.
Of course, you can always smoke some of the good stuff for your friends and family. To everyone else who agrees that there are few problems this delicious dairy product can’t solve and that a life without it is no life at all, you’re about to discover ten simple tips for smoking cheese like a pro.
Photo: Reddit: Dogpeppers
Pick a Cold Day to Smoke
Cold smoking cheese is best done during the fall or winter months when the outside temperature doesn’t rise above 60ºF. Warmer temperatures can cause your cheese to melt, mainly if you’re relying on various cooling methods rather than using a cold smoker.
Cut the Cheese into Smaller Portions
To reduce the smoking time and ensure the flavor penetrates the entire piece of cheese, it’s best to remove any rind and then cut the cheese into smaller wedges or 2-inch by 4-inch blocks. If you enjoy a soft interior and smoky skin, then you’ll want to smoke larger pieces.
Photo: Reddit: RonSwanson710
Bring Chilled Cheese to Room Temperature before Smoking
While there’s no reason you can’t smoke chilled or even frozen cheese, you should consider the changes in texture, odor, color, and flavor. Since the molecular structure of the cheese changes when frozen, you’re likely to find that some cheeses become crumbly and less intense in color, odor, flavor, and creaminess once thawed. If you are using chilled cheese, bring it to room temperature and wipe off any moisture. Drying the cheese will help it develop better skin.
Pair Your Cheese with Complementary Woods
Just as you would pair your meat with complementary wood flavors, you should match your cheeses with woods that enhance their taste. For soft and mild cheeses, try fine woods like cherry, pecan, or apple. For hard and strongly flavored cheese, try rich and pungent woods like oak and hickory. You can even mix things up with nutshells or dried tea leaves.
Keep the Temperature Low
Ideally, you want to create as little heat with the fire as possible, keep the vents open, and operate your device below 90ºF throughout the smoke. Anything above this temperature will result in your cheese sweating and potentially melting. Besides monitoring the temperature of your smoker carefully, be sure to keep an eye on your cheese and replenish your ice pans as needed.
Turn the Cheese Regularly
For even smoke penetration, you should ensure all the surfaces of your cheese gain sufficient exposure to the smoke. Depending on your total smoke time, be sure to turn your cheese every 15 to 30 minutes.
Smoke Your Choice of Cheese for the Right Amount of Time
Cheese tends to absorb smoke flavors quickly and easily, taking on an acrid, overpowering taste when it’s over smoked. The length of the smoke depends on the type of cheese you’re smoking and your taste preference. Cheese can burn anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, with longer sessions developing stronger flavors. Also, any moisture on the cheese will cause it to collect a more significant amount of smoke particles.
It’s recommended that you test out a variety of cheeses with varying smoke times and then determine which you enjoy most. Many pro cheese smokers learn to distinguish smoke times based on the finishing color of the rind. Keep in mind that softer cheeses generally require a shorter smoke.
Keep the Smoke Light and Constant
When it comes to smoking cheese, you want to keep your smoke light and ensure there’s a continuous stream throughout the smoke. Be sure to add a small number of wood chips or pellets at regular intervals.
Wrap Your Smoked Cheese Properly
No, not in tight plastic wrap—you’ll suffocate your smoked cheese and promote the growth of bacteria. Moreover, plastic wrap contains chemicals and flavors your cheese can absorb. Instead use waxed paper or parchment paper and wrap your cheese loosely so it can breathe properly.
Leave It to Rest
If it’s your first time smoking cheese, you’ll be shocked to discover that cheese right off the smoker can taste pretty nasty. It’s best to let your smoked cheese age in the refrigerator for several days before enjoying it with fine wine. Resting allows the flavors to mellow and develops a more appealing taste.
From cheddar, mozzarella, Gruyère, and Gouda to pepper jack, Stilton, brie, and provolone, almost any cheese that won’t fall through the grate can be smoked. It’s excellent plain or added to some of your favorite recipes, so make sure you take advantage of the next cold day to whip up some of this delightful treat and enhance life at the grill.
Are you a fan of smoked cheeses? Do you have a barbeque grilling tip of your own you want to share? Head over to our Facebook page to leave your comments. Don’t forget to share this post with other cheese fanatics in your life. You might find yourself with a chunk of your favorite smoked cheese as a thank you.