How to Cold Smoke Cheese

I've been wanting to cold smoke cheese and since the temperature today was in the low 60's, I figured why not!

I had some already-sliced sharp cheddar and that was perfect for what I needed.

Here's my easy method for cold smoking cheese using a tube smoker filled with wood pellets.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3-4 hours
  • Smoker Temp: <90°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: N/A
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan
What You'll Need
  • 20-30 slices sharp cheddar or your other favorite hard cheeses
  • Pan/Rack (optional)
  • Tube smoker (mine was cheap on Amazon)
  • 2 cups hardwood pellets
  • A smoker, grill or even a makeshift box to contain the cheese and smoke
  • Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)
IMG 0492 1000x715Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Considerations

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.
Step 1: Lay the Cheese On a Rack

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.

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You could also lay the cheese directly on the grates of your smoker or grill but I thought this would make it easier.

Step 2: Fill and Light Tube Smoker

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

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I used my butane torch to light it until it was burning on it's own

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Then it should be allowed to burn until it goes out, a couple of minutes usually.

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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.

Step 3: Place Rack of Cheese on Grates

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!

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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.

Step 4: Add Rub (optional)

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!)

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Step 5: Finish

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.

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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.

Step 6: Bag the Cheese and Wait

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.

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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.

Questions/Comments

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.

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Jeff’s Smoking Meat Books

smoking-meat-book-coverSmoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue – The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that “no smoker should be without this book”!

With more than 1000 reviews on Amazon.com and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended and is a Bestseller in Barbecuing & Grilling books on Amazon.

AmazonBarnes & Noble | German Edition

smoke-wood-fire-book-coverSmoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.

It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.

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Printable Recipe

IMG 1159
Print Recipe
4.5 from 2 votes

How to Cold Smoke Cheese

This is my easy method to cold smoke cheese using a cheapo tube smoker found on Amazon.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs

Ingredients

  • 20-30 slices Cheese, hard (sharp cheddar used in this recipe, use your favorite.)
  • 2 TBS Jeff's original rub

Instructions

  • Arrange cheese slices onto a pan/rack. Be sure to leave a little space between them.
  • Fill a smoke tube with pellets then lay it on the grate of a smoker or grill right next to an opening or hole so it can get air. Light it using a butane torch. Let it burn until it goes out.
  • Place the rack of cheese on the smoker/grill grate.
  • After about 2 hours, sprinkle Jeff's original rub on some or all of the cheese if you desire (it's really good).
  • When the cheese has smoked for 3-4 hours, it's finished and can be brought into the house to cool on the counter top.
  • Place the cheese slices into zip top bags and into the fridge for 2 weeks to "age" or mellow out.

Notes

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.

4 Comments

  1. Dave December 15, 2021 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    4 stars
    I’ve found the best and cheapest smoke generator is a tin can, some wood chips or dust, and an old soldering iron. Even if buying new it’s under $10. I stick the cheese, can and iron in my propane smoker (use any grill, smoker as box). Plug it in and walk away. I go out every 1/2 hour or so to turn cheeses and shake can as it burns. Perfect cheese after 2 hrs. On a 60 degree day the smoker pretty much stays 60.

  2. Mike Bryant December 4, 2021 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Jeff, where to begin. So many errors, so little time. I'll just hit a few highlites.
    Temp in the “60's”, is wrong. 60°f is way to warm. That's not a rind its forming, that's a dried crust. Your cheese should NOT turn brown, again, too warm. 60 is maximum, including the tube burning. Place tube under deflector. Try it late night, as temps drop. I make cheese in warmer weather, in a running refrigerator. I sell a LOT of cheese. Colder is better,30's are my fav.
    Surface area Is king, cut your cheese accordingly ,and FLIP cheese about an hour in. Theres a reason it's called COLD smoke. I'll stop there, but theres so much misinformation out there, MOST think the have the smoker running. Not even the fan should be on. Let me know if you want to learn the process a little better.

    • Jeff Phillips December 6, 2021 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Mike, fortunately, there's more than one way to do things;-)

      The most valuable lesson I'ver learned over the years is not how to smoke cheese, meat, etc. but rather how to give people basic guidelines and then let them tailor those things to the way that they like it.

      Your way may not be the way that I do things but if you like it that way and it's not unsafe, who am I to say it's wrong?

      I smoke cheese all year and while there are definitely ideal conditions, I smoke when it's not ideal and that's what outdoor cooking is all about.

      I appreciate you sharing your method.

  3. Vulcan April 15, 2021 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    I use the full 8oz blocks and Kraft is best, Crystal Farms second best. Most store brands aren't too good. I use the Amaze-n-smoker tray (basically 3 HOURS PER ROW, 3 rows, and you need 9 hours to smoke a pork shoulder on a cool day or overnight but MUST be done when temps are COLD or your meat will start to spoil) but the tube one is fine too. I have both. I set either on an angle to raise the light hole side a bit for the 10 minutes it needs to actually burn to start the pellets.

    I've smoked the shredded extra sharp cheddar too, works fine, but smoke for about 1.5 hours vs 3 the first time. You can test before you yank em and if you want more smoke, just let it go. They will MELT easier too, so again, do it on a 60 degree day.

    I have used a large torch lighter like Jeff showed, BUT they get HOT and I don't know but explosion is an outside possibility I'd guess. They're cheap so I don't trust them. If that detonated it could really hurt you. Best to use your simple blue plumbers propane torch!

    Much more flame, reaches deeper into the pellets for a better, faster light. I tried the little square tasteless fire starting blocks once and that is NOT a good way to light pellets, even when you just use a little corner of one pinched off. So don't bother. Been tried. GREAT for lighting wood in the burn pit though, and waterproof.

    You can get the entire blue propane torch at any major hardware store for like $12-14 on sale with a manual flint lighter, and the blue refill propane tanks are just $3.50 and will do many pellet tray/tube lights for you. Always have a spare, full blue propane tank or 3. No explosion risks either and can be used at lots of different angles. You do NOT need to crank up the flame on the blue torch either. Just a mild, gentle flame is adequate, and conserves the gas. You DO NEED to let the fire on your now lit pellets GO and BURN for 7-8 minutes, and protect from wind so it doesn't go out. THEN you can blow it out if it's still lit, put the lid on your smoke box and let er rip!

    I use apple for about 3 hours and as Jeff mentioned, it iS possible to over-do it but everyone's taster is different, so keep track the first time of smoke time and adjust accordingly next time. As for me, if I wanted a little more smoke I prefer just using the mild apple but extending the time a bit – versus stepping up to the slightly stronger Pecan pellets. Use the wire smoking trays for good smoke pass through.

    Smoke cheese in the cooler part of the day, BUT when using my Brinkman smoker shell for the smoking, the pellet smoker tubes or trays ONLY RAISE the temps inside about 15-18 degrees on a 60 degree day depending on wind – or so DEPENDING on the outside temp! The blocks of cheese stay that shape just fine so long as you keep the temp under about 80 – 85 degrees. Don't try to smoke cheese on a 95 degree day, of course. With the smoking pellets you would melt your cheese and then it's worthless as the oils separate. Pick a rainy cool day or make a BIG batch in the cool spring or cooling fall, VAC SEAL, and it will last most folks for some time.

    Two differences, while a zip lock is perfectly fine for short term storage, I'm single and smoke 6-8 blocks at a time and won't eat them fast enough for zip locks, so I vacuum seal them. Good for 6 MONTHS in the basement fridge. (Don't freeze… flavor is fine thawed but it changes the texture of the block of cheese and it doesn't want to slice and stay together as well is all. For some uses this wouldn't matter at all, like crumbles for salads or use in soups. For those, you could freeze your smoked blocks of cheese and freeze for a year! )

    I mark the vac bags with a sharpie as to what kind and flavor of cheese is inside, and date it. When smoking, you can simply put half a toothpick in one brand of cheese and none in the other, so you can ID them after smoking, if trying more than one brand of say, extra sharp cheddar that day.

    The vac sealing also changes the pressures inside the bag and “pulls” the smoke into the cheese a bit, a plus.

    I don't use the Traeger pellets, and found some that are better, and half the cost AND about 5 more pounds per bag. A win-win. A HEAVY bag on sale was only $10. Lumber Jack brand and Fareway grocery stores and many Feed stores have them. They make a 100% kind, and a regular kind, and the 100% kind INCLUDES the bark of that tree IN the pellets, and lots of tree oils are in that bark. You can go to their web site and look around.

    I love Jeff's site and recipes and always look forward to the new one in my email box. GOOD WORK, Jeff!!!

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