21. Smoking cheese
[My better half is convinced that we can smoke cheese. Any comments?]
I had good success with mine. I could be better, but it was a lot better
than what you buy! I used sharp cheddar and Swiss. I placed the cheese in a boat I made
from foil with holes in the bottom. I put cold water in my ECB water pan (note: try ice
instead, it will keep the heat down even more, and for a longer period) and put some wet
hickory on a low fire. This created a lot of smoke and the temperature stayed pretty low.
I smoked it for about 1 hour (I think with ice I could have gone longer) but I smoked it
until the fat was starting to come out of the cheese. The Swiss had lost some of its shape
and the cheddar was pretty soft. I dried the fat off with a paper towel then put in the
refrigerator to cool. The cheese had a nice brown layer all over it, but the edges were
the darkest. While it was in the smoker, I turned the cheese regularly to get all sides
exposed to the smoke. I was going to make hors d'oeuvres for a big party with it, but it
was gone by the next day. Here's a couple of thoughts: 1) The day I did it, the
temperature was over 100F and the humidity was pretty high; 2) As mentioned above, use
ice. While both cheeses were very good, I liked the Swiss the best, it seemed to take in
more smoke. Next time, I think I will try the ice in the ECB's water pan and another pan
with ice in it and put the cheese on the ice (or in a foil boat on the ice).
According to Frank Kosikowski (in his book, "Cheese and Fermented
Milk Foods" which is considered the Bible of cheese making) commercial cheese smoking
is done at low temperatures and high humidity. The trick is not to exceed the melting
point of the fat in the cheese. Cheddar is cut into 1 to 2 pound blocks for smoke
penetration then hardwood smoke from slightly wetted sawdust is filtered and cooled
through refrigerated coils. Cheese is smoked at 70F for 6 hours then cooled.
I had a great result on the first attempt at smoking cheese in my
smoker. After I took my turkey breasts off the NBBD, I smoked some Swiss cheese to
absolute perfection. This is what I did.
The outside temperature was 34F, with light wind. After the breasts were
done, I took them off and opened up the intake 100% to allow the coals to burn down some
more. When I had a clump of hot coals about the size of a grown man's fist, I shut down
the intake to 25% open and put on the Swiss cheese at the end near the chimney.
Temperature at the cheese was 107F.
The cheese was bought in bricks, which I cut in quarters, ending up with
chunks about 1" x 1" x 3". These I put on one of those tight-mesh grates
meant for fish, shrimp, etc. Over the course of 1 1/2 hours, I had a single chunk of oak
laid up next to the pile of hot coals. This gave off a great-smelling, steady, white smoke
the entire time. At the end, the temperature was only 60F, the coals were gone, and oak
chunk was still giving off smoke. I was afraid it was smoldering, but sticking my nose
above the chimney revealed the smoke still had a great smell.
The cheese came out with a light yellowish-brown color. The flavor was
absolutely wonderful. Comparing this to the smoke flavored processed cheese you buy at the
grocery is like comparing home-smoked baby backs to 'McRibs'. It was far better than any
smoked cheese I've bought. I smoked a total of three bricks of Swiss. This was extremely
easy, though the air temperature was a big factor in this I'm sure.
On my second try at smoking cheese, I learned a few things in the
The outside temperature was 25F with no wind. I fired up a full chimney
of charcoal and dumped it in the NBBD and 20 minutes later. The temperature was 180F, too
hot for cheese so I went back inside and had a beer.
After a couple of hours, the temperature was down to about 110F and the
coals were almost gone. I pushed the remaining coals together, closed the intake to 1/4
open, and started another chimney of charcoal. Then I put a brick each of Colby, aged
cheddar, Swiss, farmer's, and mozzarella cheeses in the smoker.
This time I didn't cut them up as I did the first time. This time I just
cut the bricks lengthwise so there was just two skinny bricks. I put these in the cool end
of the smoker, near the chimney. I put the drier cheese towards the fire box end and the
moister cheese towards the chimney end. It didn't matter much as the temperature
differential between the middle and the chimney end was only 7F.
To make sure I didn't mix up the different kinds of cheeses, I made
little flags out of toothpicks and masking tape and labeled each kind. That worked out
I kept the temperature between 60 and 90F. I had trouble keeping a
decent draft, as you might expect. Again, I was worried about creosote, so I kept one
nostril over the chimney, but all smelled great. I was using oak chunks for smoke. I used
charcoal as a base so I could have a better control over temperature.
One thing I did this time was to keep a side fire going the whole time
so I could add a coal or two at a time and not get too high of a temperature. I let the
cheese smoke for about 2 1/2 hours, a little longer than last time. The results were
great. The aged cheddar was especially tasty. The mozzarella will be grated and used on a
homemade pizza. If you have not tried smoking cheese, I'd encourage it. For minimal
effort, you will get a product better than most smoked cheeses you buy.
Cut up some Jack, Swiss, or whatever cheese you like, and put it in a
metal mold, or bowl. Put it in smoker and place it as far away from the heat as possible,
and put the smoke to it. Guess what? This is one time that you don't want a lot of heat,
and a cooler climate will work great for you. After about an hour and a half, place cheese
into a little hotter smoking area, if it hasn't melted, and let it melt. Keep the smoke on
it! Take it out of the smoker, and put in refrigerator, and chill. Take out of mold, and
enjoy! The cheese will be a little drier than before smoking, but very good.