Suppose you frequently use your smoker to prepare a variety of meats and are looking for something different and exciting. In that case, smoked cheese (or should we say cold smoked cheese) can be an excellent addition to your menu at any party or event. The natural flavors of the kind of cheese you choose to smoke can be complemented perfectly by the smoky flavor and the subtle undertones provided by the smoking process. Of course, it all comes down to the kind of wood you choose to smoke the cheese.
A sound starting point is choosing a type of cheese that can stand up well to the smoking process. It is also essential to pay attention to the natural flavor of the cheese and select the right wood that can help complement that flavor. With that said, let us take a closer look at some of the most appropriate choices when it comes to selecting wood for smoking cheese. With the help of this guide, you can make standard cheese much more delicious and import extra flavors and aromas that can make it a perfect foil for delicious meals and sides or even a wine pairing.
Not sure what is a good cheese to start smoking? The classics like Cheddars, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Gouda and Brie are all great cheeses to smoke. I still believe an old cheddar is the best cheese for smoking. It’s probably obvious but remember it doesn’t take much heat to melt cheese so, make sure you cold smoke under 90F. Any higher and you’ll have a mess to deal with which is a great way to get angry.
Read our guide on cold smoking cheese.
Fruit woods of different kinds can be an excellent choice when it comes to smoking cheese. They impart mild, fruity, and sweet flavors that can perfectly complement the natural flavors of the cheese while adding the right flavor components that can really amp up the deliciousness. Fruit Woods are also extremely safe choices if you are smoking a cheese that has a mild natural flavor.
One of the best woods for smoking cheese is apple. Compared with many other fruit woods, apple wood has a much milder flavor that can allow you to enjoy the natural flavor of the cheese without overwhelming it too much. Instead, it adds a delicate smoky flavor to the cheese and sweetens it considerably. If you are looking for a flavorful, sweet cheese to go with a sandwich or for putting onto soft sides like salads, apple smoked cheese can be an excellent option.
It is also important to remember that smoking with apple wood can be forgiving on the cheese which makes it an excellent option for BBQ beginners who are just starting out with smoking cheese.
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Another poignant way to add some sweetness to the natural flavor of a soft cheese is to smoke it with maple wood. Maple is a popular choice with a variety of proteins but can work just as well with cheese.
This wood imparts a very rich and delicate sweet taste that can permeate through the cheese and impart excellent additional flavor and aroma. For those looking to enhance the sweetness of a naturally delicate cheese, maple can be a worthy option.
Another important advantage of smoking cheese with maple wood is the deep, rich golden color that it can impart to whatever you are smoking. If your cheese already has a striking color, smoking with maple wood can make it even more attractive and give you excellent plating options.
It is important to remember that maple can be quite forgiving when it comes to cooking times. This means that you have a much more tolerant margin of error, and you can afford to make mistakes without disastrous results.
However, the smoke flavor is significantly stronger than apple, so you need to be careful while using it.
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Smoking cheese with cherry wood can do a few exciting things to your cheese. The smoke is sweet, heavy, and with a heady aroma that can get quickly absorbed in the cheese for an excellent overall flavor profile. Smoking with cherry wood also provides a deep dark red smoky finish to your cheese that can be excellent for aesthetic presentation. This can be a perfect option for harder cheeses with mild natural flavors.
The flavor of smoking with cherry wood is much like the flavor of the fruit itself. It provides the luxurious sweetness that is rich and deep while also being mild enough to avoid overpowering the natural flavor of the cheese. The type of cheese that you choose for this process can significantly impact your end results. For best results, avoid cheeses with more potent or more pungent flavors like blue cheese or old cheddars.
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If you are looking for a completely different kind of flavor, you can try smoking your cheese with peach wood. The flavor that peach can bring to the table is floral, mild, and sweet. This makes it a perfect foil for mild cheeses with pronounced dairy flavor.
This can also help create a light red coating on the cheese, which is excellent for presentation. You can also pair it with other, more traditional fruit woods to create exciting flavor profiles that are complex and delicious.
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Now, we gradually move into the territory of bolder flavors that can significantly transform the natural flavors of your cheese. The effect is still relatively subtle if you choose pecan wood. This wood can deliver a flavor profile that is assertive and robust while still being delicate enough to form that perfect balance with the natural flavor of the cheese. The nutty, savory flavor that pecan wood provides can be an excellent companion for a variety of hard cheeses with mild to medium intensity of flavor.
As you start smoking your cheese with pecan wood, you can also start interesting experiments by choosing other fruit woods to pair with pecan for smoking cheese. This way, you have the opportunity to create customized flavor profiles that you can tune to various different types of cheeses. You can also try and arrive at your own signature flavor combination.
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If you are looking to really transform the flavor of your cheese or prefer using harder cheeses with very strong natural flavors that can stand up to intense smoking, Hickory can be an excellent choice. A favorite for smoking meat like brisket, hickory can also work really well paired with the right keys. Hickory imports a strong savory flavor to the food that is intense, robust, and resembles the flavor of bacon. If you are grilling cheese and looking for that signature southern BBQ taste, smoking with hickory can help you achieve that.
While using cheeses with stronger natural flavors, like cheddar or stilton, smoking with hickory can add just the right amount of extra flavor to the cheese. It can also help mellow the cheese down by masking some of the more pungent flavors. This is a great way to build complex flavor profiles that truly enhance the experience of eating the cheese.
You need to choose the right cheese to begin with. Then, a good approach is to start with smaller amounts and very low heat settings on your smoker and experiment by tweaking these values to understand the right balance of temperature and smoking time for your cheese of choice.
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One of the most popular traditional choices for smoking, oak wood has a strong flavor profile that can pair well with any cheese that stands up to it properly. The flavors are and can really complement harder and more flavorful cheeses like cheddar. The natural flavor of oak smoke is woody and savory and it creates a smooth golden finish on the outside of the food that leaves nothing to imagination and straightaway indicates that the food has been smoked.
The golden hue of smoking with oak wood can also be a great thing for presentation if you are planning to serve your smoked cheese intact as a central part of your menu.
You can also experiment by adding other woods into the mix to create interesting, complex flavor profiles that can work well with specific cheeses. For example, you can really amp up the flavor by mixing some fruit wood into the mix if you are smoking intense cheese like cheddar or provolone.
While the payoff is indeed nice, you need to be careful while smoking cheese with oak. Oak burns for a long time and can reach very high temperatures. Precise temperature control is necessary if you want the cheese to stay intact and prevent any melting. With that said, once you get the hang of it, smoking cheese with oak wood can be a rewarding process.
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The Better Life without that much Effort
You need to get several things right if you are looking to create perfect smoked cheese. The right cheese needs to go with the right wood, for starters. Then, you have to master the process of cold smoking to ensure that the cheese remains intact and you do not lose large amounts due to melting. It is also a good idea to let the cheese sit for a while after smoking before you serve it. Indeed, some BBQ enthusiasts insist on letting the cheese sit in the fridge, vacuum-sealed, for up to two weeks after the smoking process before it is consumed.
Choosing any of the woods discussed above can give you magnificent results while smoking cheese. As always, it’s critical to keep an eye on complementary flavor profiles and to control your temperatures with absolute care so that your smoked cheese comes out exactly as you intended: delicious, aromatic, and imbued with complex flavors. This is a profound way to make cheese even better. Good luck and enjoy!
Now that you smoked your own cheese, try using in on our hassleback potato recipe.