Are you ready to take your cheese game from boring-and-ordinary to deliciously-smoky? Look no further, because in this blog you can learn how to make your own smoked cheese that will be sure to tantalize your taste buds! (…am I laying it on too thick, or is it a Gouda thing?!)
With a few simple ingredients and smoking techniques, you can create delicious snacks and add a smoky nutty flavor to your favorite recipes.
In this guide, we will cover the basics of creating smoked cheese at home, including:
- What types of cheese are best for smoking
- Tips on adding flavor with the right wood
- Preparation techniques to get you started
Whether you’re trying out food smoking for the first time or want to find new ways to make your favorite dishes more flavorful, this guide has information on how to make smoked cheese on your smoker grill at home.
Gather the Necessary Supplies to Make Smoked Cheese
Making smoked cheese can seem like a complicated endeavor, but with the right supplies and some careful preparation, it is an easy process.
Things I strongly suggest you have are a pellet smoker, hard cheese, a lighter pellet like apple or pecan, and a vacuum sealer.
Additionally, you’ll need thermometers to check the interior temperature of the pellet smoker as well as the internal temperature of the cheese.
Once you have all of these supplies gathered together, you are ready to begin making your smoked cheese.
Equipment Needed to Smoke Cheese
To smoke cheese, you will need a few key pieces of equipment:
- Smoker: You can use any type of smoker, such as a charcoal, electric, or pellet smoker, as long as it can maintain a cold smoke (90-100F) cause you don’t want to melt the cheese!
- Cheese: Choose a firm cheese with a low moisture content, such as cheddar, gouda, or colby jack, especially to start.
- Wood chips or pellets: Choose your desired wood chips for smoking, I really like lighter wood such as apple.
- Cheese grates: These will allow the smoke and air to circulate around the cheese, ensuring even smoking, if you’re not using a setup conducive to smoking (like an offset or pellet grill)
Best Woods for Smoking Cheese
- Hickory: A strong, robust flavor that pairs well with sharp cheddar.
- Mesquite: A bold, earthy flavor that complements sharp and tangy cheeses.
- Apple: A sweet and mild flavor that pairs well with creamy and mild cheeses.
- Maple: A subtle, sweet flavor that complements nutty and buttery cheeses.
Though I’ll be honest, I’m a big fan of the Pit Boss Competition blend. It just seems to be perfect for just about everything including cheese.
Choose the Best Cheese
Choosing the right cheese is essential to achieve the ultimate flavor and texture of your smoked cheese. But which is the best cheese?
To start, you should look for semi-hard-to-hard cheeses as they are best suited for smoking. I recommend starting with one of these cheeses: cheddar, gouda, provolone, Monterey jack, and Colby cheeses.
- Cheddar: A firm cheese with a tangy flavor that is perfect for smoking.
- Gouda: A semi-hard cheese with a nutty and caramel flavor that smokes well.
- Colby Jack: A mild cheese with a smooth texture that is easy to smoke.
- Brie: A soft cheese with a creamy texture that can be smoked, but will not hold its shape as well as firmer cheeses.
If you decide to use soft cheese like feta, brie, or mozzarella, it is important to keep an eye on them during the smoking process because these varieties don’t hold up as well when exposed to too much heat and smoke. This will be the real test of if you can cold smoke cheese.
If you’re going to chance it, I would make sure you have a pan of some sort below them as they tend to break down and get messy if things get too warm. You want to be sure when you set up the smoker that you’re using cold smoke.
I’ve been playing around with not even using the grill and just using my mini smoke stack tube with softer cheeses, but a little bit of heat seems to help the harder cheese take on the smoke a bit better.
Once you have chosen your cheese to smoke, it is important to prepare them properly before beginning the smoking process. The most important step is to make sure all of the excess moisture has been removed from the outside of the cheese by patting them dry with a paper towel or cloth. You also want to make uniform blocks or bricks to allow for more surface area to accept the smoke.
Smoke the Cheese (Cold Smoke)
Once you have selected the right wood chips and cheese for your smoker, it’s time to get cooking! Heat your smoker to its lowest setting usually between 90-100 F and if you have the space, you can add a tray of ice directly over the burn area to help keep the temperature down. This will help to keep the cheese from sweating or worse, melting.
I usually smoke cheeses in the colder months to help with keeping the temps low. Cold-smoking cheese is the ideal method.
Place the pre-cut cheese blocks on top racks and away from the heat source. Close the lid and allow it to smoke from 30mins to several hours. This time really depends on the volume and type of cheese you chose. The longer the cheese is in the smoker, the stronger the flavor. Especially if the cheese sweats as the moisture will soak up more of the smoke flavor and intensify it.
Monitor the Process on the Grill
Monitor the process throughout the entire smoking process to ensure the desired outcome is achieved. Position the thermometer in a place where it can easily read the temperature of the box without opening it. Too much heat will cause the cheese to melt, while too little won’t cause it to smoke properly.
For example, using mild wood such as apple wood will provide little flavor, while using a strong flavored wood, like hickory or mesquite can be far too strong. The smoke created by this wood should be monitored and controlled so that there’s enough to impart flavor without overpowering it.
Check on your cheese on the grill every 15 minutes and turn the cheese. This will also help you learn the ideal smoking times for each type of cheese until you know how long the smoking process takes for the particular thickness of your cheese, and adjust as needed. The optimal smoking time is between 30 minutes – several hours for most harder cheeses, depending on how robust you’d like your smoked cheese flavor to be.
With softer cheese, I might not even use a grill burn pit and just use my smoke tube to get the ideal flavor without worrying about melting them.
Now that the cheese has been smoked, it’s time for curing! You can, but I don’t like to eat the cheese right away. The first thing to do is to remove the cheese from the smoker, wrap it in parchment paper and allow the cheese to rest in your fridge for an hour or two to bring the core temp down. After that, I like to use my food saver and remove all the air, but in a pinch, you can wrap each block individually in plastic wrap and store them in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 3 days to a week. This allows flavor from smoke to mellow out from its acrid, just-smoked, flavor and enhances its richness even further! Once complete, smoked cheese can last up to 4 weeks sealed and refrigerated before needing to be replaced or enjoyed!
Store the Cheese
In terms of storage, smoked cheese should be treated like other aged cheeses. It should always be stored in the refrigerator and it should never be left at room temperature for any length of time. Ideally, I like to vacuum seal the cheese (and it can be resealed) as it will yield the longest results.
A word of warning to keep strong-flavored items away from your cheeses is also recommended as delicate flavors will take on stronger flavors if placed too close together in a refrigerator.
Smoked cheeses last for up to a month or two when stored properly, after which point freshness and flavor begin to degrade rapidly. To get the best results from your smoked cheeses, enjoy them within two weeks after finishing your smoke.
Enjoy the Smoked Cheese
There’s nothing better than slicing up some smoked cheddar cheese that came from your own cheese recipe and severing it up on crackers or a burger. I love to grate mine on some pulled pork tacos for that added zing!
Purchasing Smoked Cheese: Many grocery stores offer pre-smoked varieties for those who don’t have access (or interest) to doing their own cheese smoking at home. Varieties range from Gouda and Cheddar variants for sale whole or in sliced form for sandwiches and crackers. One of the most popular pre-smoked varieties is Applewood Smoked Cheddar – known for its distinctive nutty flavor compliments of applewood smoke that penetrates this tasty cheddar variety!
But, if you’re going to do it, might as well find your perfect mix so you can repeat the process for years to come, and at a fraction of the cost of store bought cheese!
I hope you take some tips and and experiment with your own variations, that’s half the fun.