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posted December 23, 2018

Smoked Cheese: A How-to Guide

Smoked Cheese is the perfect snack, sandwich addition, or flavor booster to pasta or soups. I’ll teach you how to smoke cheese so you can replicate this gourmet product at home!

Three different types of cheeses cut into chunks and arranged on a metal tray. Text overlay reads, "How to make: Cold Smoked Cheese."

Smoked Cheese

Smoked cheese is typically only seen at high-end grocers or specialty stores and they come with a price tag. Luckily, if you’ve got any type of grill at home, you can easily recreate those expensive results over and over again with fantastic results. Plus, you get to have a lot of fun doing it! Here’s what you’ll need:

An outdoor grill (any variety)
A cool day (the internal temperature of your grill needs to stay well below 90 degrees F)
A Smoke Tube
Wood Pellets
Parchment Paper
Vacuum Sealer (not necessary, but recommended)

Best Cheese for Smoking

Select your favorite varieties of cheese. I recommend hard or semi-hard cheeses for smoking. Soft cheeses have a tendency to take on too much smoke flavor, as well as giving you trouble keeping them from falling through your grill grates. My favorites to start with are a nice cheddar, hard mozzarella, pepper jack, and gouda. Any of these take on smoke beautifully. I buy the large blocks and cut them down into 2-3 inch bricks. Once you feel confident with your technique and flavor profiles, you can branch into more expensive cheeses!

Slices of cheese on a tray inside the grill, next to a metal tube emitting smoke.

How to Smoke Cheese

To make the best smoked cheese, start with an outdoor grill or smoker. You need a grill that has good ventilation (electric vault smokers don’t always work for smoking cheeses). You won’t be turning on your grill as a heat source, it is simply acting as the vessel for holding your cheese and keeping the smoke flowing around it.

Cheese is notoriously melty, so the first requirement of smoking cheese is cool temperatures. I use a Thermoworks thermometer inside my grill to be sure it stays under 90 degrees F.  To make your grill into a cold smoker, I use a tube smoker. There are different sizes and varieties, but I find I get the most use out of this 12 inch tube smoker because it lasts long enough to smoke a bunch of cheese but doesn’t take up a lot of space in the grill.

As far as smoke, I prefer using mild wood varieties. My favorites are apple, cherry, maple or pecan.

Light your tube smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and place it in your smoker. Make sure the flame is extinguished and the smoke is rolling. Arrange your cheese bricks on the grates of your grill. Make sure they aren’t touching on the sides and there is air flow around each piece of cheese. Close the lid and let that wood smoke do its’ thing. I like to leave my cheese on for about 2 hours. I find that it takes on enough smoke flavor without becoming overwhelming. If you want lighter smoke flavor, only leave your cheese in for 1 hour.

Smoked cheese wrapped in butcher paper with each package labeled with the types of cheese.

Now comes the hard part. Waiting. Once your cheese is done smoking, remove it from the grill and wrap it in parchment or untreated butcher paper. It needs to breathe for a little bit. Put it in your fridge for 24-48 hours. From there, remove it from the paper and vacuum seal your cheese.

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, place it in a zip top freezer bag and get out as much air as you can. I do this by submerging the bag in water, leaving the top seal above the water line. The water will force out a majority of the air and when the zip top is almost under water, you seal it tightly (don’t let any water in the bag). Now label and date those cheeses so you don’t forget which cheese is in which bag.

Place your sealed bags in the fridge and wait. For 2 weeks. Not kidding. If you sampled some of your cheese right after smoking, you will taste really really smoky, almost acrid, cheese. The smoke is heavy on the outside of that cheese. As it sits in the fridge, that smoke flavor will distribute throughout the cheese and mellow out significantly.

After 2 weeks, your cheese will be lovely and ready to munch on as is, mix into Mac and Cheese, or melt onto a glorious cheeseburger. Enjoy!

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