Smoking cheese is not the easiest thing to do especially if you are a beginner. So here, we have a complete guide on how to smoke hard cheese by using different methods and tricks.
Hard cheese is also not easy to smoke due to its tougher outer crust and moisture inside it. Some other types of cheese are easier to smoke to learn how to do this.
When you smoke cheese, the usual method used is cold smoking, unlike any other slow and low cooking type. You need to get to low temperatures to complete this process.
You will need to make sure that the smoke gets induced into the cheese. You do not need much heat with this cooking method as it will melt the cheese you are smoking.
There are not many cooking appliances that can reach the required temperature for smoking cheese so you will need to do some tricks to lower the temperature inside them.
Fortunately, there are many ways to smoke cheese and we have here the steps you need to follow to smoke your hard cheese, so make sure you learn the process and tricks.
What Happens When You Smoke Hard Cheese?
Smoking cheese allows the milk inside the cheese to create a layer on the outer part of the cheese that functions as a preservative coating. This also prolongs the life of the cheese.
Depending on how long you smoke the cheese, you will get a strong smoky flavor especially on the surface of the cheese. Usually, cheese is smoked for up to 4 hours to get that nice flavor.
Contrary to popular belief, the outer layer of the cheese does not necessarily harden when you smoke it. It does become darker depending on how long you smoke it but it is not a bad thing.
The darker the color of smoked cheese, the longer it was smoked. This puts a nice layer on the cheese that blends well with the lighter color on the inside of the cheese when you cut it.
Most restaurants usually use liquid smoke to induce the smoke into the cheese. This, while effective, brings a really strong flavor to the cheese which can be unpleasant to others.
The safest way to get that smoky flavor into the cheese is to smoke it without the help of liquid smoke. That way, you will be able to control the amount of smoke getting in the cheese.
Selecting The Smoking Method
As we have mentioned above, there are many ways to smoke cheese. You can make your smoked cheese with the appliances or tools that you already have at home in the kitchen.
For this part of the post, we will be discussing the different types of smoking appliances that you can use to cold-smoke hard cheese. We will also be discussing the tricks that you can do.
Get your notes ready and your tools out so you can start smoking your hard cheese right away. Make sure to choose which one applies to you best and the tools you have available.
Using A Smoker
The most obvious appliance that you can use in smoking cheese is, of course, a smoker. This cooking appliance can produce thick clouds of smoke without putting up too much heat.
Smokers are known for producing heat as low as 160 degrees Fahrenheit. While that is pretty low, it is still too high for cold smoking and will still melt the cheese if you put it in that heat.
When you use a smoker, it is easier since you will have no trouble producing the right amount of smoke that you will need. The issue is when you get to the lower temperature range.
You can also modify the smoker so it can produce lower temperatures during the process. Another good thing about a smoker is that you can switch the wood pellets that you use.
This will allow you to put additional flavors into the cheese. Not only can you add the smoky flavor into the cheese but you can also add some fruitiness to it by using certain wood pellets.
Using A Grill
Aside from smokers, there are also pretty versatile grills that you can use for smoking hard cheese. Some use wood pellets as well or you can stick with charcoal fuel.
For the sake of differentiation, we have used a charcoal grill for this post. Charcoal grill or charcoal as fuel might not be the most suitable fuel for producing smoke for the cheese.
It emits little to no smoke at all and only produces heat. Remember, you do not need much heat for this process so you need to make sure that the charcoal does not burn.
You only need to start the fire and allow the charcoal to cool down before smoking cheese inside. You will also need something else to produce the smoke for the process to work.
That is a very simple problem that can be solved by adding wood chips into the embers right before you put the cheese inside. That way you can also select the type of smoke you get.
Using A Smoke Tube
A smoke tube is a simple device that you can use on either a grill or a smoker. This is a small compartment usually made with stainless steel mesh or something with holes all around it.
This small compartment fills up with wood pellets and then they are lit up to create smoke. You need to wait for the fire to subside before you put it inside the grill so it does not heat up.
You can use this device on anything as long as you have a compartment that can fit the cheese inside and seal the smoke. This is one of the safest tools to use for cold-smoking cheese.
For a detailed post on this, you can check out how to smoke cheese using a smoke tube post.
Tricks To Use
Aside from putting the wood chips on your charcoal grill to produce smoke, we also have some tricks that you can use to properly smoke the hard cheese you have.
This is perhaps the most recommended and most popular method of cold smoking. You use a tray of ice to lower the temperature inside the grill or the smoker you use.
While it reduces the heat inside the appliance, it also does not affect the fire or the smoke. So if there are embers in the fire, they will continue to produce smoke even with the ice inside.
It is right beside the source of fire or right under the cheese that you are smoking. The tray of ice acts as a neutralizer and can be added or removed depending on the temperature.
One trick that you can do is to make sure that you palace the grill under a shade when cold smoking your hard cheese. This will help keep the temperature under the required heat.
As long as the appliance you use has great insulation, then it should not gather more heat from the outside. However, it is better and much safer to place it under a shade for this process.
That way, you will keep the lid and the surrounding of the smoker or grill cool. That way, the only heat inside it is from the firebox which is already neutralized by the ice tray method.
How To Smoke Hard Cheese
Now that you know all the effective methods and tricks to cold smoke cheese, we will guide you on how to do it with this simple guide that we have prepared for you.
Step 1: Prepare The Smoker
Since we have used a smoker in this process, we will teach you that you can follow this guide even if you use a grill or a smoke tube when smoking the hard cheese.
Prepare the wood pellets that you will use for smoking. As I have said, you can select any kind of wood that you want to use but I recommend going with mild to soft types of wood pellets.
I prefer apple or cherry wood pellets for smoking cheese. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and close the lid to allow the heat to distribute inside for 15 minutes.
After preheating, turn the heat down to the lowest setting. You will need to let the smoker cool down to a temperature less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the cheese from melting.
Step 2: Prepare The Cheese
Since you are smoking hard cheese here, you will need to prepare it properly. First, allow the cheese to dry by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight and letting it rest before smoking.
While the smoker is preheating, remove the cheese from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature. You can then cut the cheese into smaller or thinner slices.
This will help in inducing the smoke into the hard cheese. You can also leave it as a whole block but it will take longer to smoke it and it is not guaranteed always that the smoke will get deep.
Step 3: Smoke The Cheese
Place the cheese or cheese slices on a mesh cooking grate and then put it in the smoker. Place a large tray inside the smoker as well right under the cheese and let it smoke.
You will need to fill up the tray with ice to not refill it frequently. Allow the cheese to smoke for at least 2 hours before checking for the right color and flavor in the cheese.
When checking the cheese at the 2-hour mark, make sure to adjust the temperature by adding more pellets or ice on the tray, depending on the smoker’s temperature.
You can smoke the hard cheese for at least 4 hours especially if you did not cut it into smaller pieces. You can check them at the 3-hour mark for the sliced ones and see if you like the color.
Step 4: Let It Rest
Once the cheese has attained the desired color, you can then remove it from the smoker. Place it on a plate and allow the moisture to evaporate and for the hard cheese to cool down.
After it cools down, wrap it with parchment paper and then place it in the refrigerator for two to three days. From there, you can consume the cheese but I suggest letting it rest a bit longer.
After two or three days, the cheese would still have a pretty strong smoky taste. The longer you let it rest, the milder the smoke flavor will be and by the second week, it will taste great.
Smoking hard cheese is not that hard, but you need to learn how to properly do it, especially controlling the appliance’s temperature.
As you can see, there are many methods that you can use to smoke cheese using cold smoke. That way, you can prevent the cheese from melting.
The result will be a delicious smoky cheese that is ready for a snack or as a side dish to your favorite food. You can also use it as a garnish on your salads and many more recipes.
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