Most of the things I have shared here is about smoking meat. But I want to let you in a little secret that not everyone knows about. It’s smoking cheese, yes you read it right; you can smoke cheese, too!
The best woods to smoke cheese would depend on the specific type of cheese you want to smoke. Hard cheeses are best paired with flavoured hardwoods, and nut woods and mild fruit woods are perfect for semi-soft cheeses. Some of the best woods to try for smoking cheese are apple, pecan, hickory, cherry, water oak, and lilac.
Although they are the best woods to use for smoking cheese, you can always experiment until you find the best flavour for your smoked cheese.
Why is it a good idea to smoke cheese on your own?
We all know how expensive cheese can be, especially when buying from a speciality deli. Add the fact that smoked cheeses are more expensive than regular or non-smoked ones. Smoking cheese at home can help you save a lot of money.
If you are like me, who wants to experiment with flavours, smoking your own cheese allows you to do this. I have tried several kinds of woods with different cheeses until I found the perfect match of wood and cheese. It was interesting how using various types of wood can give a distinct taste to a block of ordinary cheese.
Another advantage of smoking cheese is that you can give them as gifts. If you have family and friends like mine who love getting personalised gifts, then they would definitely enjoy receiving a smoked cheese made with love for their next birthday or any occasion.
What I did before was I made a special basket with homemade smoked cheese, a bottle of wine, honey, and some pretzels.
Lastly, smoking cheese is a fun activity, maybe more fun than smoking meat if you don’t have the patience to wait for six hours. The minimum time to smoke cheese is around two hours, but it would depend on the type of cheese and how big it is. But still, it is much faster than smoking meat.
However, it is important to know that smoked cheese need to be kept in the fridge for about two weeks before consumption.
What types of cheese can you smoke?
Due to the large variety of cheeses, some may find it hard to choose which one to try. However, I think the majority would go for gouda or cheddar for their first smoked cheese. While there is nothing wrong with that, and I would say that both kinds of cheese are actually a great option for smoking, don’t limit yourself with them.
You can try other kinds of cheese, too. You will be surprised at how they taste when paired with the correct kind of wood. Semi-hard and hard types of cheese are the best to smoke. They can keep their shape even when placed under hot temperatures.
Plus they do not lose their natural cheese flavour when smoked, unlike soft cheeses, they melt easily and tend to lose their natural cheese flavour. Other types of cheese apart from gouda and cheddar that are best for smoking are the following:
- Blue cheese
- Mozzarella (be sure to get the hard variety)
- Pepper Jack
For cheddar cheese, don’t be afraid to try the flavoured ones such as spicy pepper, jalapenos, and any other ingredients that may be included in it.
Best Types of Wood for Smoking Cheese
As mentioned earlier, fruit and nut woods are great options for smoking cheese, and applewood is one of the best. Why? Because applewood gives a very mild flavour to the cheese. Of course, nobody wants the smoke flavour to overpower the natural taste of the cheese.
Using applewood to smoke cheese leaves a sweet and smoky flavour that is not overwhelming. Smoked cheese using applewood would go well with salads and sandwiches. It is also the best wood for beginners to try.
Using cherry wood for smoked cheese gives an exciting flavour profile and is also great for aesthetic purposes. The smoke from cherry wood gives the cheese a sweet and aromatic scent and a deep, bright red finish to the cheese.
This type of wood is best used for harder cheeses and with mild flavours. It is important to use the right cheese when using cherry wood. Old cheddars and blue cheese may not go well with cherry wood due to their potent flavours.
For a more distinct flavour, try peach wood. It can leave cheese with a mild, sweet, and floral flavour that is slightly different from apple or cherry wood. Similar to cherry, it can also leave a nice shade of red coating to the cheese. Best used with mild cheese that has a strong dairy flavour.
If you are feeling more experimental, you can combine peach with other common fruit woods for a block of more delicious cheese.
While maple wood is an common favourite when smoking meat, it can also be used with semi-hard cheese to add a sweet taste. The maple’s sweet taste can penetrate deep inside the cheese, leaving it with a sweet, smoky taste and aroma.
Maple wood can also envelop your cheese with a deep golden colour, making your cheese delectable and attractive.
Another popular choice for smoking protein is oak wood. It is best paired with harder cheese since burning oak for a long period can reach high temperatures that may cause the cheese to melt. This is a good option for those who want to try something different from the sweet flavoured cheese.
Oakwood can give a savoury and woody flavour to the cheese, and it also creates a golden finish on the outside. Same with peach, you can combine other wood flavours when smoking cheese, such as provolone or cheddar.
Pecan offers a savoury and nutty flavour to any cheese. However, the perfect cheese to pair with pecan wood is a cheese with mild to medium flavour and is hard. Pecan can also be combined with other woods to create a different twist to the cheese.
Hickory pairs well with harder cheeses and have natural solid flavours. The taste that hickory wood imparts is an intense savoury flavour that is almost similar to bacon. The best cheese to use for hickory is stilton or cheddar due to their strong natural flavours.
Woods To Avoid When Smoking Cheese
While I mentioned earlier that it is okay to experiment and try to mix and match woods, there are some types of wood that you should never use when smoking cheese or any meat, for that matter.
For instance, never use softwoods for smoking any kind of food. These woods typically contain high levels of terpenes and sap, which may cause sickness and leave a funny taste in the food.
Sycamore, elm, eucalyptus, and liquid amber are also not great options for smoking as they can leave a bad taste. While cedar planks are a big no for smoking, they can be used for cooking salmon. Other examples of wood to stay away from when smoking cheese and meat are pine, cypress, redwood, fir, and spruce.
Although mesquite is safe to use when smoking cheese and meat, I am not a big fan of it when it comes to cheese. I feel that its strong flavour can overpower the natural taste of cheese, and it tends to generate extreme heat. However, if you like to give it a try, don’t use it on semi-soft cheese and those with mild flavours.
When it comes to mixing and matching woods, one of my favourites is applewood and oak. I love the good mix of mild and strong flavours that these woods give to almost any type of cheese.
For a more savoury, smoky taste, try hickory and applewood. Of course, you can try other wood combinations to create your own custom smoked cheese flavour. When experimenting, try mixing savoury or nutty wood with fruitwoods.
If you are new to smoking cheese, I recommend using harder types of cheese first and woods like apple and cherry as you can’t go wrong with them. As you gain more experience, you can try more flavourful woods such as hickory and oak.
Let the cheese smoke for 2 to 4 hours. Flip the cheese over after an hour or two and let it continue smoking for another hour or more. Take the cheese off the grill once the smoking process is done.
Remember to maintain a light and even smoke by using a smoking device or by adding wood chips or pellets to keep a stable smoke.
Smoking helps in preserving cheese and can prolong its shelf life. Cheesemakers still smoke cheese despite having a refrigeration system because they like how it maintains the cheese and affects the maturation process.