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The first time I tried smoked cheese was almost a spiritual experience. That might sound ridiculous, but there was just something about the richness and complexity of the flavor that hit me just right. It almost opened up a whole bunch of possibilities for me in the world of cheese.
As it turns out, it’s possible to achieve incredible smoked cheese results at home through the process of cold smoking. There’s something incredibly rewarding about getting this process just right, and after you start to master it you won’t go back to pre-smoked cheese from the store ever again.
In this post, we’ll go over a step by step process for how to cold smoke cheese. That includes everything from which woods are best for smoking cheese, tips, and best practices to get the job done right.
How to Cold Smoke Cheese
One thing to keep in mind with cheese is that it has a pretty low melting point. In fact, the milk fat in cheese begins to melt at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so in order to properly smoke cheese without melting it, we’ll need to make sure the temperature of our grill stays well under 90 degrees.
On that note, it’s probably best to pick a day that’s cooler to do this process. If you pick a warm day, smoking cheese will quickly become an uphill battle. The cooler the better, and smoking at night or early in the morning before the sun rises is also a great way to avoid warmer mid-day temperatures.
You might be wondering at this point how to create smoke while still keeping the temperature under 90 degrees. There are a few different ways you can achieve this, but I think the easiest and most straightforward comes by using a pellet smoker tube and your favorite wood pellets.
Remember, we want the smoky flavor but the temperature in your smoker has to stay under 90 degrees Fahrenheit – which is almost impossible if you were to start a charcoal or gas fire. The cold smoking process essentially turns your smoker into an enclosure for the smoke flavor to absorb into your cheese. We don’t really need it for purposes of heating things up.
Note – we also have a post on the best cold smoke generators right here if you want to opt for a full cold smoking set up.
Which Cheeses Should You Use?
This part is completely up to you! I typically just buy cheap cheese blocks from my local grocery store to add smoky flavor to. One tip I like to give out is when starting out at first, it’s probably best to learn on cheeses that have a higher melting point. This just makes the process easier and adds a little bit of margin for error. Here are some of the best cheeses for smoking with a relatively high melting point:
- Monterey Jack
You can most certainly smoke other types of cheeses, but those are the more popular and easier ones to work with. It’s highly encouraged to experiment and smoke multiple kinds of cheeses! The smoke will effect each one differently to create unique flavors and results.
Step By Step Guide for How to Cold Smoke Cheese
- Set the cheese out until it reaches room temperature. This step is necessary because if the cheese is too cold when placed in the smoker, you’ll likely see condensation form on the sides of the cheese. This has an adverse effect on the smoking process.
- (Optional) Cut the cheese into smaller blocks. Do this step if you want your cheese to be extra smoky, as the extra surface area exposure will lead to more smoke absorption. Personally, I prefer to just leave my cheeses as big blocks.
- Place wood pellets into your pellet smoke tube and light with a butane torch or lighter. After the first few pellets ignite, you are good to go. A light smoke should begin to permeate out of the tube.
- Place the pellet smoke tube into your grill or smoker. It should be placed in a location that allows smoke to fill the enclosure of your smoker, but far enough away from where your cheese will sit that the heat coming off of the smoke tube won’t heat up the cheese.
- Depending on the setup of your grill or smoker, it might be necessary to place a diffuser, or a pan filled with ice or water in between where your smoke tube and cheese are. The MOST important and difficult part of smoking cheese is maintaining a proper temperature so the cheese doesn’t melt. Even though the melting point of most cheeses is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we really want our temperature inside the smoker to remain around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (this is why it’s helpful to cold smoke cheese when outdoor temperatures are chilly). A pan filled with ice is a great way to ensure heat from the smoke tube doesn’t melt your cheese.
- Smoke your cheese for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The goal is to maintain a constant and light smoke for the duration of this process. The good news is, a pellet smoke tube basically does this part for you – a fully loaded tube will last approximately 3 to 4 hours. 4 hours is really the maximum and anything more you risk over-doing the smoke flavor.
- Bring the cheese indoors, wrap tightly in an airtight plastic bag or with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 to 7 days. It might be tempting to dive right in and taste the flavor, but the smoked cheese really needs to rest and set if you want to achieve the best results. The resting/refrigeration process allows the oils and smoky flavor to redistribute themselves across the cheese and really develop the flavor. Some other websites recommend refrigerating for as little as 24 hours before serving. There’s nothing wrong with that! We just like to give it a little longer to more thoroughly develop flavor.
- Slice, serve, and enjoy!
For all of you visual learners out there, here’s one of the best tutorials for how to cold smoke cheese – from the legend Malcom Reed himself:
Which Wood For Smoking Cheese?
This part boils down to personal preference, but generally speaking the following wood pellet flavors are pretty popular for smoking cheese:
- Mesquite (strongest smoke flavor)
If you don’t know which flavors to try, then get a variety bag and test out different flavors to see what you like best!
If you came into this post wondering how to cold smoke cheese, I hope you now feel equipped to achieve great results on your own! Let us know what you tried and how it went in the comments section below!