Smoking Cheese at Home

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

Given how popular smoked cheese is, it's surprising more people don't try smoking cheese at home. With a dedicated cheese smoking kit, it couldn't be easier.

The Perfect Cheeseboard

Putting together the perfect cheeseboard, you have to cater for all possible tastes. There'll be soft cheeses and hard cheeses, strong cheeses and mild cheeses, and there will always be at least one smoked cheese. Everyone loves smoked cheese. They're often the first to be finished, but imagine how good it would be if instead of saying 'I'm sorry, that's the last,' you could say, 'Finish it up, I'll smoke some more!'

Smoking Cheese at Home

With a dedicated cheese smoking kit, like the Foghat Smoking Cloche Set, you can easily smoke a piece of cheese - or anything else, including charcuterie - in a few minutes. It will also impress your guests and definitely give them something to talk about. Kits like these come with a chopping or serving board, so you could smoke the entire cheeseboard in one go, if you wanted to try it.

Smoking cheese at home is also going to give you better results. You may not realize it, but the smoked cheese you buy at the store isn't smoked at all. It is infused either with liquid smoke or even a smoke flavoring, to get those results. When you smoke cheese at home you're using natural wood to provide the smoky flavor that people love.

How to Smoke Cheese at Home

Cheese smoking kits work by providing you with a blown-glass cover that fits snugly over the board. A hole in the top of the glass cover allows you to insert a holder with a metal mesh tray in it. Into this you put some flavored smoking fuel, like wood chips or wood shavings, and then you smoke the fuel with a regular kitchen torch. If you already have a torch you can buy the components without a torch, or if you're getting a cheese smoking kit as a gift for someone you can buy the whole kit and caboodle, including the butane.

When you heat the fuel, the smoke swirls down into the glass cover allowing the cheese(s) to soak up the smoky aroma. By using different fuels with different cheeses you can produce original smoked cheeses that you wouldn't find in even the best deli or cheese store.

Which Cheeses to Smoke at Home

The advantage of smoking cheese at home is that you can try any cheese: you're not limited to what you can find in the store. Everyone's tastes are different, and by experimenting you can discover what works best for you. Just as some people love really peaty Scottish whiskies, while others hate them, you can decide what degree of smokiness works best for you. You might find one minute of smoking is enough for you, or you might want to smoke the cheese to the last dying ember.

Do keep a record of the different combinations of type of cheese, type of smoking fuel, and length of smoking time. After all, when you achieve perfection, you want to be able to replicate it.

As to which cheeses to smoke at home, start with fairly plain and inexpensive hard cheeses, like cheddar, gouda, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack. Even the plainest (and cheapest) of cheddars can be transformed when it's infused with smoke. Hard cheeses can stand longer smoking times. Depending on the cheese and how you cut it, the smoke may not permeate all the way to the center, giving you a great combination of smokiness and natural flavor. Once you start to master the technique of smoking cheeses at home, you can move on to try more expensive varieties.

Smoking Soft Cheeses at Home

By their very nature, soft cheeses will soak up more smoke than hard cheeses, and for that reason you'll want to start with a shorter smoking time. Doesn't the very thought of a Smoked Brie make your mouth water, though?

Couldn't I Just Smoke Cheese on the BBQ?

Yes, you can, though softer cheeses can make a heck of a mess. It's far better to cold smoke them direct on the cheeseboard or other wooden platter.

What Flavors Can You Use to Smoke Cheese?

To start with, play safe and use the types of flavor that cheesemakers use to smoke their cheeses with: apple, cherry, maple, and nutty flavors. Later you can move on and get more experimental, using flavors such as mesquite, bourbon, or sherry. The best woods are usually those that come from fruit or nut trees.

Two Final Tips on Smoking Cheese at Home

1) If you can, let the cheese rest for up to three days after smoking. Wrap it in cheese paper and keep it in the fridge. That way the smoke has more chance to permeate the cheese. Take it out and let it get to room temperature before serving.

2) If you're preparing a cheeseboard, cut some cheeses in half and only smoke half of each one. That way you can compare the taste of the smoked and unsmoked versions. Also, guests still have a wide choice whether they like or dislike smoked cheeses. 

by Mike Gerrard