The team at All Things Barbecue enjoys sharing our passion for cooking. There's nothing like creating food that delights our friends and family.
Over the thousands of hours we've spent cooking, we've learned a lot about infusing flavor. One easy way to add smoky goodness to charcuterie boards, snacks, entrees and desserts is to include cold smoked items such as cheese, nuts and even chocolate chips.
In this article, we'll walk you through how to make cold smoked cheese at home just like expensive cheeses you find in stores. We'll also share our favorite tools for cold smoking.
What Is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is simply passing smoke over low-temperature food without the use of a heat source to cook the food. It's best performed with an accessory such as a smoke tube or smoke box that allows wood to smolder and produce a small but continuous quantity of smoke over time.
The Right Outdoor Temperature for Cold Smoking
One of the most important factors in cold smoking is the ambient temperature outside of the grill. The grill temperature must be under 90°F. When working with items that can easily melt such as soft cheese, choose a day when outside temperatures are under 70° and keep your grill in the shade, or cold smoke your food early in the morning or at night. Along with preventing your cheese from melting, this will reduce moisture and oils sweating out of the cheese during the smoking process.
How to Set Up for Cold Smoking
The Smoking Chamber
Cold smoking can be performed on any grill or smoker as long as you have a way to generate smoke without producing heat.
We prefer using a Yoder Smokers pellet grill because it makes cold smoking as simple as pushing the power button and lighting a smoke tube or smoke box. When you turn the unit on, the fans turn on and move your smoke through the grill.
Warning: Do not push the start button as this will ignite the grill and you will no longer be cold smoking.
If you don't use a Yoder Smokers pellet grill, you can still create great smoked cheese, nuts and chocolate by opening the grill once in a while or using a fan to move the air around inside the grill. This removes heat from the smoking chamber and helps pass smoke over the food and out of the chimney.
Airflow in the smoking chamber is crucial to cold smoking. When smoke is allowed to rest on food, it can make it bitter.
Our team members at ATBBQ prefer to create smoke with wood pellets rather than wood chips. Wood pellets provide more consistent smoke and stay lit for a longer period of time than wood chips.
Fruit woods such as apple or cherry create a softer smoke flavor for softer cheeses. Hardwood pellets such as oak, hickory, or pecan can be used on hard cheeses because they can take a little more smoke.
We use a smoke tube to hold our pellets. Smoke tubes range from a 6-inch tube that provides two hours of smoke to an adjustable tube that extends to 18 inches, giving over six hours of smoke.
To operate the smoke tube, simply fill the tube with pellets and place it on the lower left side of the grill. Light the wood pellets in one end of the tube and let it burn for five to ten minutes. Blow it out so it can slowly smolder to the other end of the tube over the next few hours.
Get Your Cheese Ready to Smoke
Pro Tip: Set your cheese blocks on the kitchen counter prior to smoking to allow them to come up to room temperature.
Place your cheese directly on a baking rack or a frog mat on the upper shelf. This allows smoke to reach everything as it rises and passes through the chamber to the chimney.
Do not leave the cheese on the grill grates. This prevents grease and debris from getting on your food.
Make sure to leave enough room between your cheese blocks so that smoke can pass all of the way around.
We recommend smoking cheeses for no more than two hours to prevent a harsh, bitter flavor from too much smoke.
Pro Tip: When smoking soft cheeses on warmer days, use an ice pan under the rack holding your cheese to keep temperatures as low as possible.
Finishing Your Cheese: The 5 to 7-Day Wait
After two hours, pull your cheese out of the smoking chamber.
Now the hard part begins. You need to rest your cheese for five to seven days so the smoke can absorb into the cheese and the flavor can mellow out. We promise it will be worth the wait!
Wrap each piece of cheese tightly in plastic wrap, making sure all the air is removed. Place your wrapped cheese in a zip top or vacuum sealed bag and place it in the refrigerator.
Ways to Use Smoked Cheese
Smoking cheese is easy and is an excellent way to add aroma and flavor to whatever you're cooking. We recommend preparing a few types of cheese at a time so you have it at the ready to sprinkle on pizzas or tacos, add to mac and cheese or scalloped potatoes, stir into breakfast casseroles or queso, or use in other dishes. You also can serve smoked cheese on party trays and charcuterie boards.
Smoked cheese also makes a great gift. A basket of smoked cheese and nuts makes a thoughtful, yet inexpensive gift suitable for many occasions. People will appreciate the time you spent curating their favorite types of cheese as well as the time you spent preparing them.
Make sure to also check out our Tips & Tricks Video On Smoking Cheese by Chef Tom.