Smoking your own cheese is a fun process, and once you’ve got the hang of it you can save yourself a lot of money. Grocery store smoked cheeses are often pricey, and it isn’t worth it.
By learning how to smoke your own cheese you can experiment with flavors to create something unique.
Choose your cheese
Hard cheeses are the best for smoking, especially for a beginner. Something like a mild cheddar is an easy starting place, as it has a higher melting point and absorbs the smoke well. Other good cheeses include Gouda, Gruyère, and Swiss.
For a first attempt, look for whatever big wheels of cheese are on sale at the grocery store.
Once you’ve got to grips with the process, you can begin to experiment with what cheeses you smoke. Mozzarella is a popular one, but it can be tricky. We recommend waiting until you know the process before trying this.
Most types of cheese can be smoked, so if you have a favorite then give it a go. It’s worth having a look at the grocery store to see what they have smoked, to give yourself some ideas.
Choose your wood
With your cheese sorted, you need to choose your wood pellets. There’s room to experiment, but starting with mild flavors tends to be the best option.
Popular choices are Applewood, pecan wood, and cherry wood. These add a flavor boost but aren’t too strong. Try these for milder cheeses.
If you prefer a really strong smoke flavor, then mix it up with oak or hickory. For a sharp, hard cheese, these powerful woods will match flavors. Otherwise, try mixing pellets.
Throw some hickory in with your Applewood to add some depth without overpowering the cheese. The wood choice is a matter of preference. Mix things up to find what works for you.
How to smoke cheese on a pellet grill
If you have your cheeses, and you have your wood, then it’s time to start smoking. Begin by cutting your cheese into smaller blocks. This speeds up the process, and gets a better infusion of smoke. Blocks of around 4 inches are good.
Don’t use shredded cheese, or anything too small that would fall through the grate. Bring your cheese up to room temperature before starting, to achieve a better smoke.
Pick a cold day to smoke, or set up your smoker in the shade. This helps to maintain the lower temperatures that are necessary for smoking cheese.
Now you need to set up your grill. The temperature should be kept below 90 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, otherwise you risk melting your cheese. This is best done using a smoke tube.
These can be purchased for a relatively low price in hardware stores or online at Amazon. A smoke tube creates a smaller heat source that can be kept away from the cheese.
Otherwise, use a limited amount of pellets and an ice tray. Pellet grills are generally quite large, so you should be able to set up the cheese further away from the heat source.
Light your grill, or use a heat gun to start the pellets smoking.
Place the cheese on a wire rack, and position them inside the grill away from the direct heat. Each chunk of cheese should be kept apart to allow for total smoke penetration.
Close your grill lid.
How long you smoke your cheese depends on how hard the cheese is and how smoky a flavor you like. Anywhere between an hour and three hours is fine.
An hour will give a light smoky flavor, where 3 hours can be strong. If you’re starting with a mild cheddar, two hours should be perfect.
Every thirty minutes, check the temperature of your grill using a thermometer. If the grill is too hot, use a pan filled with ice to cool it down.
Over the course of the smoke time, you may need to add more chips or ice. Regular checks will ensure the most consistent temperature.
Rotate your cheese. Do this every 30 minutes for optimum smoke distribution.
Once your cheese is finished smoking, transfer it off the grill with a spatula.
What to do when you’ve finished smoking your cheese
Having done all this, you’re probably eager to see what your cheese tastes like. Try to resist the temptation for a bite. At this point, the smoke will all be on the outside, leaving your cheese bitter.
Instead, lightly wrap your cheese in butcher’s paper. Leave it in the refrigerator for two days. When this time is up, unwrap the cheese and vacuum seal it.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can achieve a similar effect using a zip bag. Place the cheese in the bag with the top open. Submerge the bag in water, leaving the open top above the water. This will push the excess air out of the bag. Seal the bag.
Now it needs to be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. In this time, the smoke will chill and begin to distribute throughout. This process is essential for the best smoked cheese. Otherwise, you get a smoky and bitter outside, and no smoke on the inside.
Two weeks is enough, but smoked cheese can be kept sealed in the fridge for up to a year. This is why it’s good to get lots done during the colder months. That way, you have a stack ready to go for barbecue season.
What to do with smoked cheese
First, you’re going to want to eat it straight with a cold beer.
Once you’ve enjoyed your cheese as is, it’s time to use it in recipes. Smoked cheese is particularly good in mac and cheese, where the smokiness adds another dimension to the dish. Otherwise, melt it onto a burger during a summer barbecue.
Smoked cheeses also make surprisingly good gifts. Wrap them up in some butcher’s paper, and you have an easy present ready-to-go.