Here's some things to consider when you cold smoke cheese. Many of these list items were sent in by readers:
- Make sure the ambient temperature is low ( I usually only smoke cheese when it's in the 60's or below)
- Make sure the smoker is in the shade (The smoker can get hot in the sun, even if it's cool outside)
- Wear latex gloves when handling cheese to prevent oils and bacteria from your hands transferring to the cheese. This will stave off mold and help the cheese to last longer in storage.
- Zip top bags are ok for storage but a vacuum sealer is even better.
- Let the cheese come to room temperature before smoking it. A thin skin or “rind” will develop and protect the cheese while it smokes.
- I used slices but you can also smoke larger pieces if desired.
- I used pecan pellets but the “more common” competition blend pellets are also perfect for cheese
- The 2 week aging process at the end is the minimum. 2 months is better.
I had all of these slices of sharp cheddar so I just laid them out on my pan/rack in neat little rows.
Feel free to be more “freestyle” with it if you so choose.
You could also lay the cheese directly on the grates of your smoker or grill but I thought this would make it easier.
There's a ton of these smoke tubes on Amazon and you can even find them in stores that sell smoke/grill supplies. I have “loaned out” all of my trays and tubes that are made by A-Maze-N smoker (the ones I usually use) so I was forced to use this cheapo tube smoker that I got on Amazon.
I filled it with pecan pellets and laid it on the left side of my RecTeq smoker, right next to the probe inlet so it could get plenty of air
I used my butane torch to light it until it was burning on it's own
Then it should be allowed to burn until it goes out, a couple of minutes usually.
This creates a “cherry” of coals that create smoke as the pellets smolder and it slowly works it's way from front to back creating smoke for several hours.
Once it's going good and the smoke is producing steadily, the cheese is ready to go on the grates.
Lay the rack of cheese directly on the grates of the smoker or grill you are using.
Note: The smoker or grill is not turned on or lit.. it's just an enclosed space to house the cheese and the smoke.
Man, look at all that smoke!
If you don't have a smoker or grill, you could also use a makeshift box with a hole cut out on the side for air. The tube would need to be elevated a little so it can get air all around it and far enough away from the sides of the box so it could not cause a fire. It's not ideal but it could be done.
I chose to use the RecTeq pellet smoker as my host.
Once the cheese has been smoking for a couple of hours, feel free to add a little original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the top of the cheese. I had not tried this before so I added rub to half of the cheese. (as it turns out, I should have put rub on every one of them 'cause it was good!)
After the cheese has smoked for 3-4 hours, it will have a brownish tint to it and this is visual clues that the smoke has done it's thing.
Bring the rack of cold smoked cheese into the house and set it on the counter to cool.
How Long To Cold Smoke Cheese?
Some folks smoke for longer times, others shorter times and this depends on a number of things
- How much smoke flavor you like
- How strong of a smoke wood you use (alder vs. hickory, etc.)
- How much smoke is being produced
I usually just use one of the pieces as a taster and take bites of it until it gets to the level I like.
The smoke tube was getting to the end of it's pellets by the 4th hour and fortunately the smoke was tasting perfect about then as well.
After the cold smoked cheese has cooled for a little bit, place it into zip top bags and place it in the fridge for 2 weeks to “age” and sort of mellow out.
During this time the smoke moves from the surface of the cheese and absorbs more into the cheese. This makes it more mellow and it will definitely taste better after this waiting period.
Be sure to write the finish date on the bag so you'll know when it's ready to eat.
What if the cheese sweats? This sometimes happens and is often due to the cheese getting a little too warm or if you place the cheese into the smoker when it's really cold. I don't worry about it too much. I am much more concerned that it doesn't melt.
Can I smoke soft cheeses? You can but it's important that the smoker stay really cool. For this we often use ice or just do it on a day when it's really cool outside.
Help, the cheese tastes like an ashtray! This is what I've heard many times. Place the cold smoked cheese into a zip top bag as mentioned in the method above and let it spend at least a couple of weeks in the fridge just mellowing out. This will often do the trick.
This may also mean that you prefer cheese that is less smoky. Make a note of this and next time, cut your smoke time in half and use a milder wood such as apple or alder.