Smoking cheese at home is just as easy- if not easier- than smoking meats. And without the hefty price tag of specialty cheese. Let BarbecueLogic teach you techniques for smoking cheese at home.
Everyone loves a good piece of smoked meat. Whether it's beef, pork, chicken, fish, or anything else you can get your hands on, it all tastes so much better when it's been thrown on a grill or into a smoker. But what about smoking things that aren't meat?
One great candidate for non-meat smoking would be cheese. You might have tried some in the past at a fancy party and loved it, but the fact that it usually costs a hefty chunk of change at the store might make it seem out of reach for normal occasions.
This couldn't be further from the truth, though. Smoking cheese at home is just as easy if not easier than smoking meats. It's all about knowing what to do - that is, how to smoke cheese. Once you've got the technique down, you'll be golden.
If you'd like to take the plunge and learn what you need to do to make this delicious delicacy, here's a simple and quick guide on how to smoke cheese in your own backyard. You'll be able to learn all the tips and tricks that result in flavorful blocks of perfectly smoked cheese in less than a day. Let's get started.
In order to successfully learn how to smoke cheese, you'll need to gather a few ingredients first. It's a rather simple list, though, so you should have no trouble getting what you need.
Blocks of cheese.
Aluminum foil (optional).
Charcoal grill or smoker.
Freezer bags or vacuum bags (and vacuum sealer).
When you've gathered your supplies, you can begin the process of smoking your cheese. This is a relatively low stress recipe, so it's easy for even the greenest of grillers to break into with ease.
First, select the type of cheese you'll be using. Virtually any type of non-crumbling cheese (and even some of the crumbly varieties) will work for smoking, so experiment to see what kind of flavors you can produce. Some of the best candidates are cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, though you shouldn't limit yourself to just the conventional choices.
When you've chosen the cheese you wish to smoke, cut it into small blocks around two inches by four inches thick and wide. The more uniform the size, the more evenly they smoke. Keeping them on the smaller end like this also ensures that the smoke can penetrate fully throughout rather than just into the surface. As you gain more experience with cheese smoking, you can adjust the size for different flavor and texture results, too.
After cutting your cheese into the appropriate size, let it warm up for at least one hour at room temperature before proceeding to the next step. This helps to more evenly smoke the cheese and prevents excessive amounts of condensation from forming during the smoking process.
After giving the cheese a chance to warm up, you can begin preheating the grill or smoker. It's more important than ever to use real natural chunk charcoal for this, as the organic filler in charcoal briquettes can leave your cheese with a gross, tarnished flavor compared to the pure smokiness that you want.
For best results in smoking your cheese, you want an extremely low fire of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. One strategy to achieve this would be to create a two-zone fire, meaning that only half of your grill will be filled with charcoal. This would leave half of the cooking surface at a much lower temperature than the other, making it ideal for smoking cheese over without risk of melting it. If you have an electric smoker, an alternative could be a cold smoking kit.
To do this, fill only one half of your grill or smoker with charcoal on one side and light it, closing the lid to let the fire burn. You'll want to let the fire burn down for quite a while, almost to the point of going out. To ensure you've got a good read on the temperature, use a digital thermometer.
Another strategy is to smoke on a cold day in fall or winter, as the ambient air will prevent the grill from getting too hot. This would let you fill the entire grill with charcoal without bothering with the two-zone method, giving you more room to smoke more cheese. Overall, though, try to avoid smoking at low temperatures during the hot summer months, as this makes it difficult to get the grill as low as you need it and will likely result in melted cheese and a dirty grate.
Blot your cheese with paper towels to remove any moisture that collected on the surface as it warmed up. Throw your wood on the fire and allow it to smoke for at least five minutes before introducing the cheese, giving you a pre-smoked environment for maximum smoke absorption right from the start.
Make sure to space your cheese at least an inch apart along the grill grate to allow for good air circulation between each block. While melting shouldn't be an issue provided you've kept the temperature at the right level, you can set down a single layer of aluminum foil across the grate for safety if desired. Make sure to poke holes in it before you do, though, as this will allow the smoke to filter through without issue.
Alternatively, place your cheese on a wire rack above the foil-lined grates to simulate the same smoking environment while using the foil to catch any cheese drippings.
During the smoking process, you'll likely need to frequently add more wood to the fire. Unlike in most smoking recipes, you do not want to soak your wood chips, since having them burn quickly produces more smoke more quickly. Monitor the levels of wood and charcoal during the smoking and add more of each as needed, adjusting the air flow to help regulate the temperature and keep it consistent.
Your cheese will likely need to smoke for around three hours to fully absorb the flavor of the smoke. Additionally, turn the cheese frequently during smoking to make sure each side has a chance to take in even amounts of smoke. After you've tried cheese smoking the first time, you can experiment with smoking shorter or longer amounts of time to get the flavor just how you like it.
After smoking the cheese, remove each block from the grill and transfer to a plate or platter. Be careful while moving them, as they will likely be very soft and could easily fall or smush apart when handled.
Place each block of cheese into its own vacuum sealed bag. Alternatively, you can simply place them into freezer bags with all the air sucked out. While your instinct will be to eat your cheese immediately, this is a poor decision to make as the smoke has not had time to mellow out and combine with the natural cheese flavors. To avoid wasting all your hard work, allow your cheese to rest in the refrigerator for at least a week and up to 14 days before trying it.
Learning how to smoke cheese has finally paid off. Once you've given your cheese ample time to develop its flavor, you'll finally be able to try a slice. As any experience cheese eater knows, you should only eat your cheese once it's had the chance to reach room temperature. With that out of the way, cut yourself off a piece and try it plain or with a cracker, savoring that smoky accent to your favorite cheese flavor that you made yourself.
The smoking process typically leaves cheese with a tougher, more richly flavored exterior "skin" caused by the solidified smoke residue. This is perfectly safe to eat and many enjoy its flavor, though others choose to cut it off and discard it. Try it to see whether you enjoy it, too.
Now you know how to smoke cheese in your own backyard. This is simply a technique recipe, though, so there's a multitude of ways you can customize or improve upon what you've got here. It's little more than a base to adapt as you please, like adding combinations of wood, using larger blocks, or smoking with homemade cheese. The possibilities are limitless.
Did you enjoy this guide? Any tips for smoking cheese you'd like to share? Leave a message in the comments. As always, remember to share this guide with a friend who's in need of learning how to smoke cheese as good or better than the kind they'd buy in the store.