We all know that cheese can be the perfect complement to meals you’ve created on your Louisiana Grill, and it can hold its own as the centerpiece of a charcuterie board. However, it’s time to consider elevating the flavor profile of your favorite cheese by trying your hand at cold smoking.
Cold smoking cheese is a fairly simple process that pays off in flavor. Let’s start with the basics.
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is the process of smoking food at temperatures between 68°F and 86°F. It doesn’t cook the food, but simply infuses it with smoke flavor. When cheese is smoked, the milkfat in the cheese rises to the surface and creates a preservative skin around the outer layer of the cheese. The longer the smoke, the thicker and harder this layer is and the stronger the flavor.
Cold Smoking Cheese – Step-by-Step
The “smoked” cheese bought at the store is full of liquid smoke and isn’t actually smoked at all. The resulting flavor is strong and the rind on the outer edges of the cheese is very dark and hard.
Cheese that is smoked the old-fashioned way (that is, with wood fired smoke) is a delicate and delightful flavor that is both subtle yet complex. Think layers of earthy, sweet, salty, and savory notes.
Follow along with our step-by-step guide to make authentic, decadently cold smoked cheese right in your backyard.
- Dry Your Cheese
First, you want to be sure to dry out your cheese by keeping it overnight, unwrapped, in the refrigerator. Then, before smoking, let it sit and reach room temperature. Drying the cheese helps preserve it in a similar manner to curing meat. The dryness helps keep bacteria from growing on the cheese during the cold smoking process.
- Choose Your Hardwood Pellets
Your choice of hardwood pellets depends on how you want your cheese to taste. We recommend fruitier hardwoods such as apple or cherry, or our Competition Blend. Whichever wood you choose, be sure it is 100% natural food grade hardwood with no additives or fillers – like our pellets. Other types of wood or wood pellets can either be toxic to humans or just not very pleasant to taste.
- Smoke Outside in Cooler Temperatures
It’s just easier to keep temperatures in the cold smoking zone, between 68 and 86°F, if you’re not performing it in a hot environment like the summer heat.
- Smoke Your Cheese for Around 2 Hours
The length of time you cold smoke your cheese will depend on the amount of cheese you are smoking and how strong you want the smoke flavor to be. The longer you smoke, the smokier the taste will get. We recommend smoking cheese for about 45 minutes to 2 hours for a mild smoky flavor. If you’re looking for a bold smoky flavor, try smoking the cheese for 2 hours or longer.
Also, be sure to rotate your cheese every 15 to 30 minutes to ensure each side is evenly smoked.
Don’t Turn on the Grill or Light the Smoker
If your pellet grill or smoker doesn’t have a cold smoke cabinet extension that will keep the heat source away from you cheese, it is best to use a smoking device like a smoke tube which will generate smoke, but not heat. This A-MAZE-N tube smoker is a great option.
- Put a Tray of Ice Water Below the Cheese
Place a baking pan full of ice water on the rack below the one holding your cheese. If you don’t have a lower rack, you can place a grill grate on top of the baking pan and put the cheese above the ice water. This will help the cheese stay cool at all times during the cold smoking process.
- Let the Cheese Rest for at Least Three Days
After all that work, you might be tempted to have a taste right away, but we recommend letting it sit, wrapped in cheese paper for at least three days. This will let the flavor permeate the cheese even more as it rests and the fat and proteins in the cheese have a chance to settle.
The Best Types of Cheese to Use for Cold Smoking
There are many types of cheese you can cold smoke, but we recommend using harder cheeses since they will be least likely to melt slightly during the cold smoking process.
Blue Cheese, Gouda, Cheddar, Brie, and Swiss are all examples for cheeses that taste great when smoked and have high melting points. Parmesan is another option but be aware that it absorbs smoke quickly so it will need less time on the grill.