While you can buy some varieties of smoked cheese in the grocery store, there’s nothing quite like smoking your own so you can get the perfect balance of flavor and smoke the exact cheeses you enjoy.
Cold smoking is an easier process than you think, all it takes is some patience, careful temperature monitoring and a lot of ice. Here’s how you do it.
1. Wait for a Cool Day
You can’t smoke cheese in the summer. It’s best to wait until the temperature outside is below 70 to 60 degrees. Keep the grill out of direct sunlight if you can as this will help ensure the pit stays at the extremely low temperature.
2. Choose Your Cheese
Cold smoking works best with hard and semi-hard cheese. Soft cheeses still work, but they can sometimes take up too much smoke flavor and become bitter and acrid. They also tend to fall through the grates as they warm up.
Good cheeses to start with are gouda, cheddar, hard mozzarella, and pepper jack. Cut them into 2 to 3-inch blocks for smoking. Once you master your technique, you can move up to more expensive cheeses.
3. Set Up Your Grill
Offset smokers work best for smoking cheese. They give you the most temperature control and the best smoke distribution. Fill your chimney more than a quarter to a third full with charcoal and allow to fully ash over.
Place the lit charcoal in the Side Fire Box and allow the grill to come up to temperature. You want it hovering right around 90 degrees. Your dampers will likely be almost all the way closed to achieve this.
4. Smoke the Cheese
Place the squares of room temperature (very important) cheese on a wire cooling rack (you can also use the warming rack if your grill has one).
You want the cheese to be room temperature to prevent it from sweating in the grill. The moisture from the sweat will prevent the smoke from getting into the cheese.
Fill a large sheet pan or drip pan with ice and place under the cheese. This will help the smoke cool down and prevent the cheese from melting.
Add your desired wood chips or chunks to the Side Fire Box and close the lid. Ensure the grill is staying below 100 degrees and check on the temperature and add wood about every 30 to 45 minutes depending on how much smoke you want.
Check that there is enough ice in the pan every 45 minutes and add more as needed. Allow the cheese to smoke for 2 to 3 hours and remove from the grill.
To maximize the smoky flavor, wrap your cheese and allow it to rest in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Enjoy sliced with crackers, melted for a dip or made into this Pimento Cheese Spread!