If you enjoy the smoked restaurant cheese, then you know it is very pricey. However, it is tasty and has that nutty taste you would enjoy. You don’t need to buy the overpriced smoked cheese as it is easy to make the cheese at home using the cold smoking procedure.
You can learn how to smoke cheese as the process is simpler than you might think. These steps will help you smoke the best cheese at home.
What is Cold Smoking?
Even if you use your grill to grill food often, you might not have cold-smoked food before. Cold smoking is a preservation method that allows the food to last longer. Moreover, it infuses the smoky flavor to the cheese, leaving it with a nutty flavor. Although you can cure meat with the grill before cold smoking, cheese does not need curing.
Cheese is delicate and can melt over certain temperatures; thus, you must infuse the smoke at low temperatures, hence cold smoking.
You would separate the wood chips in the curing chamber from the smoke chamber during cheese smoking. Cold smoking is associated with ancient societies, which preserved meats with smoky flavors during the winters, and you can perform it on your cheese stash to enjoy its beauty and taste.
The cheese might start morphing at 80°F to 90°F; thus, keeping the grill below these temperatures is better to prevent melting. You should check the smoker temperatures often and ensure they don’t go over this.
Moreover, it is wise to separate the wood pellets from the curing of the smoke chamber as they might increase temperature, making the cheese melty.
How Do You Cold Smoke Cheese?
Smoke Your Cheese During Winter
It is better to pick a cold day to smoke your cheese, as the outside temperatures might not exceed 60°F. The warmer outdoor temperature might impact the cheese, especially when cooling it without a cold smoker. You are likely to get a positive outcome when you smoke the cheese during a cold day.
Cut the Cheese Into Small Pieces
It is challenging for the smoke to penetrate large cheese blocks; thus, cutting the cheese into small pieces is wise. You can remove the rind and cut it into four-inch cubes or wedges. Smaller cheese pieces are easy to smoke, and they take a little time to absorb the smoky flavor.
Cutting the cheese might be ideal for individuals wishing to incorporate heavy smoky and nutty flavors.
However, if you enjoy your cheese with smoky skin and softer inside, you would leave it as a huge junk when smoking to avoid having the smoke on the inside.
Bring the Cheese to Room Temperature
Although you may choose to smoke the cheese during the winters and opt to smoke the frozen cheese, you may not achieve the desired results. Therefore you can bring the cheese to room temperature to achieve ideal smoky flavors.
Your cheese may lose texture, color, and flavor if you smoke in a frozen state, as some cheeses morph and transform rapidly in a frozen state.
Thus, you can fish the cheese from the fridge and sit at room temperature for two hours before smoking it. As you raise the temperature from the frozen state to room temperature, moisture may accumulate on the cheese and wipe it off to help develop a better skin that absorbs the smoky flavor.
Choose the Right Wood
The chosen wood type should complement the cheese type; you cannot underrate the smoking wood during the process. The soft and mild cheese may go well with delicate wood like pecan, cherry, and apple.
On the other hand, oak and hickory would go well with hard and strong-flavored cheese. You may get the best results by mixing the wood with nutshells and dried leaves; it is best to find the flavors which meet your taste.
Keep the Smoker Temperature Low
You should not undermine the importance of smoking cheese at low temperatures. In addition to choosing a cold day and keeping the cheese at room temperature, it would be wise to keep the freezer temperature below 90°F.
Temperature above 90°F may make the cheese sweaty, impacting the smoke’s ability to penetrate the cheese; cheese would also melt making it hard to achieve the desired outcome.
Use ice pans that keep the cheese and grill at low temperature; the ice pans act like the water pans you would use during hot smoking. The ice will keep the grill temperatures rising sense the curing wood may raise the internal temperature; thus, it minimizes temperature disruption in the grill.
Turn the Cheese Regularly
You would want the smoky flavors to get to all outer and soft inner layers. You can achieve consistent smokiness by turning the cheese regularly. You can turn them every 15 to 30 minutes, ensuring all the cheese surfaces are exposed to the smoke.
Ensure You Have a Timer
You should pay attention to the cheese smoking time as it impacts the smoky flavors and the outcome of the process. The time you may need for adequate smoking may vary from one cheese type to another. For mild smoky flavors, you may need about 30 minutes and several hours from heavy smoky flavors.
The moist droplets on the cheese surfaces attract the flavors, and you can leave the moisture on if you wish to cut down the smoking sessions while maintaining a strong flavor.
Smoke the soft cheese for a shorter duration than the hard cheese. However, if you don’t get the right flavors for the first time, you can keep practicing to learn about the needed time based on the cheese type.
Remember, cheeses can easily develop an acrid and overpowering taste when smoked for an extended time as they absorb the flavor faster than the other food types.
Keep the Smoke Constant and Light
Heavy smoke impacts the quality of the surfaces and prevents consistency; thus, you can keep some light and constant. You may add a few wood chips regularly as you smoke your cheese.
Set the Right Ventilation
Ensure the appliance has good ventilation, especially when using the grill or pellet smoker. The ventilation will keep the temperatures at the ideal level and ensure the appliance has smoke without a flame, potentially increasing internal temperatures.
What is the Best Cheese for Smoking?
Although you can smoke all cheese types, the soft cheese might not be ideal for smoking as they melt easily and absorb the flavors quickly. On the other hand, the semi-hard and hard cheese would be the best smoking as they absorb the flavors slowly and won’t melt from your grills.
You can experiment with the cheddar, hard mozzarella, Gouda, and pepper jack cheeses as they are moderately hard to hard cheese types.
These cheeses may smoke beautifully, and you can buy them in larger pieces and cut them into smaller pieces when smoking. Moreover, the cheese tends to be cheap, and they are good for experimenting, especially if you are smoking the cheese for the first time.
When you master smoking skills, you can upgrade to the more expensive cheeses.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke Cheese?
The cheese absorbs the smoke flavors faster than the meat, requiring less smoking time. 30 minutes to two hours would be ideal for smoking your cheese, depending on the cheese hardness and the type of wood pellets used in the process.
What Temperature to Smoke Cheese?
When cheese is exposed to high temperatures above 90°F, it may melt and flow down the grills. Thus, it is better to smoke the cheese at temperatures lower than 90°F. 6°0F to 80°F may be the ideal cheese smoking temperatures as they let the smoke infuse into the cheese without letting it melt.
What Fuel is Used to Smoke Cheese?
You will use the wood pellets to smoke the cheese as it requires low temperatures. You can burn the pellets in the curing compartment, separate from the grill and the smoking zone, and let the smoke flow into the cheese holding grills.
Sometimes the internal temperatures may rise due to the burning pellets, and you may lower it with an ice tray that controls the internal grill temperature.
What Pellets or Wood Chips are Best for Smoking Cheese?
The wood pellets you choose for your cheese may depend on the cheese type. For instance, semi-hard cheese may need softwood smoke such as oak and pecan; these soft cheeses absorb the smoke easily.
On the other hand, the hard cheese absorbs the smoke flavor slowly, and you may choose hard smoke flavors such as hickory and infuse tea leaves and other spicy wood. It is best to balance the smoke and the cheese type to achieve the desired results.
How to Store Smoked Cheese?
After smoking the cheese, you may not consume all of it all at once, and it is better to store it well to prevent spoilage. You can remove the cheese from the grill and wrap it with an untreated butcher’s parchment paper as it needs to breathe a little. Then put the smoked cheese in the fridge for one to two days, remove from the paper, and vacuum seal it.
A zip-top freezer bag may work as a vacuum sealer, and you would need to remove air from the bag. You can place the zip bag in the water while exposing the top seal above the waterline. The water pressure will work for you as it displaces the air in the zip bag creating a vacuum; you can seal the bag when it is half-submerged in the water.
You would want to freeze the cheese and start using them whenever you want, but it is better to label the cheese type date based on the day you smoked so that you won’t forget them.
You can start with those you smoked first and let the recent ones last when consuming the cheese. Avoid eating the cheese before two weeks are over after smoking; it may feel acrid when eaten in the first few days, but it would be lovely and ready within two weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Tools Do You Need to Smoke Cheese?
You might need an outdoor grill or smoker, a smoke tube, wood pellets, parchment paper, a heat gun, and a vacuum sealer.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke the Cheese?
Cheese absorbs smoke easier than any food type, and it would take ideally 30 minutes to 2 hours to grill cheese. The softer the cheese, the less time it takes to smoke; thus, softer cheese needs about 30 minutes while hard cheese needs about 2 hours.
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking infuses smoke into food at low temperatures and is ideal for smoking cheese. The cheese melts at high temperatures flowing down the grills, and it absorbs the smoke effectively at room temperature. Smoking the cheese on a cold day may lead to better results as the weather may impact the internal grill temperatures.
Which Wood Pellets are Ideal for Smoking Cheese?
The wood pellets you choose to smoke your food depend on the cheese type. For instance, softer cheese attracts the smoky flavors easily, and it may be better to use pecan and apple pellets as they produce light smoke.
On the other hand, you would need heavy smoke, such as hickory, to smoke hard cheeses that slowly absorb the smoky flavors.
How Do I Store the Smoked Cheese?
You may use parchment paper to temporarily store the smoked cheese for a day before transferring it into a vacuum-sealed container. You can store the air-tight sealed smoked cheese in a freezer and wait two weeks before consuming it.
Smoked cheese might be an expensive delicacy in high-end hotels, but you can learn how to smoke it at home. Smoking cheese requires cold smoking, which infuses smoke flavors at low temperatures. The procedure is ideal for cheese smoking as the cheese melts easily in high temperatures.
Depending on the cheese type, you can choose the wood pellets to use during the smoking process. A cold day would be ideal for smoking the cheese as the external temperatures might impact the smoking process.
When done with cheese smoking, you may store it in air-tight containers in a freezer and consume it whenever you want.