Smoked Cheese, yes please. Have you ever wondered how to smoke cheese – or why? Read on friends…
Smoked cheese is fantastic; smoking adds flavor while the process slightly changes the texture of some cheese. The texture change results from extended exposure to air which makes harder cheeses (such as cheddar) slightly more crumbly while cheese with a rind (such as brie) barely changes at all.
All three of these cheeses (cheddar, brie and mozzarella)were white when we started:
We used smoke cheese different than unsmoked cheese. It is usually used as an ingredient (it’s great on pizza, grilled food such as hamburgers and stunning in a grilled cheese as we’ll share later this month) though it can be a little overwhelming when eaten on it’s own or topping a cracker. I also like to pair it with an acid such as drinking wine or dipping it in aged balsamic which contrast with the dark flavors of the smoke and the fat of the cheese.
Smoked Cheese – Essential Facts
Here’s a few things to keep in mind when considering making smoked cheese:
- You need to make sure that you cold smoke it. We’ll share more on cold smoking later this month but know that most cheese melts around 150 degrees so the container you use (in our case an unlit BBQ) must be kept under the melting point.
- Summer can make cold smoking difficult. If you’re using an unlit BBQ you may be surprised to find out how hot the BBQ becomes, even when unlit. This is compounded by the smoking wood which will add some heat to the chamber. You can reduce the heat by smoking at night or placing the cheese on a metal rack suspended over a metal bowl filled with ice. Being from Canada we easily overcome the heat issue by smoking cheese during the cold months of winter which makes the process hassle free.
- If you’re new to cold smoking you may want to pick up a pellet smoker (like this one) or buy large wood chunks (like these). In both cases the fuel is lit and burns for a few minutes before being blown out and smouldering like incense (without the BBQ being lit). If you’re daunted by the process stay tuned – we’ll be sharing more about these options later this month.
- Use care not to over smoke. This comes with experience and trial and error. Soft wood (such as most fruit trees) is more forgiving than hardwood but hardwood will leave a smokier flavor and is my preference. Cherry and apple are common softwoods while oak, hickory and pecan are great hardwoods to use.
- If you over-smoke (you will know because the cheese tastes somewhat like an ashtray), don’t panic. Transform over-smoked cheese into a sauce or fondue (nachos or lasagna are great uses for such a sauce) and reduce the smoke by mixing some of the over-smoked cheese with unsmoked cheese to cut it. This will help balance it.
- On cold days you may wish to light the BBQ on one side for a few minutes to bring the air closer to room temperature which will prevent the smoker from being extinguished by the cold.
Smoked Cheese – How to
- Cheese (you can do multiple types at once though re recommend cutting larger pieces into blocks no larger than 5x5x2 inches (12.5x12.5x5 cm)
- Tin foil
- Wood chips (look above for advice)
- Unlit BBQ
- Light your wood (for a pellet maze we use a blowtorch; for chunks we use the side burner of the BBQ turned to high and place the wood directly on top of it until it turns to coal before transferring them to the BBQ with tongs).
- Blow out the flames and place the wood directly on the grill (using a metal pie plate will make the ash easier to clean from wood chunks) on one side of the BBQ. The BBQ should not be lit.
- Place the cheese on the top rack on the opposite side of the BBQ. I place small pieces of foil under each piece in the off-chance that melting occurs.
- Smoke until desired smoke level is reached, rotating and flipping a few times. If you're using hardwood this is likely 4-6 hours while softwood is often 8-10 hours though this is largely dependant on the amount of smoke you are using.