How to Smoke Cheese

Three Methods:Preparing the CheeseSmoking Cheese in a Hot Smoker or GrillSmoking Cheese in an Empty Refrigerator

Smoking cheese imparts a nutty, smoky flavor quite unlike any fresh cheese. Because cheese can ooze or sweat at temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C), you'll need to use a "cold smoke" method. You can purchase cold smokers for this purpose, but doing it with available tools can be as easy as adding a pan of ice.

Method 1
Preparing the Cheese

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    Wait for a cool day. Cheese must be "cold smoked," to prevent melting. This is easiest to accomplish if the air temperature is no higher than 60 °F (16 °C), even with the methods we'll use to keep temperatures low.
    • If you do try this on a warm day, start with a small batch to minimize mess and lost cheese from melting. The store-bought cold smoker method is best for warm days.
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    Cut a cheese of your choice. Any cheese can be smoked, unless it is so soft it will fall through the grate. Gouda, cheddar, and Gruyère are all common options. For fully smoked cheese, use pieces no larger than 4" x 4" by 2" (10cm x 10cm x 5cm), so the smoke can penetrate through the entire piece of cheese.[1]
    • If you prefer cheese with a smoky rind and soft interior, use larger pieces.
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    Dry the cheese and bring to room temperature. Unwrap your cheese and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator the next day and leave it until it reaches room temperature.[2] This will cause some moisture to evaporate, making it easier to develop the smoky rind. Wipe off moisture from the cheese surface using a paper towel.
    • There's some disagreement among cheese-smokers over this step. Some people prefer to keep the cheese chilled or even frozen before smoking. Others dislike the texture changes that come with freezing, and may even prefer the convenience of skipping the refrigeration step and just leaving the cheese out at room temperature for one or two hours.
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    Consider buying a cold smoker. You can purchase a "cold smoker" attachment or adapter for your hot smoker, or a standalone cold smoker. These range in cost from about $35 to well over $100. However, once the cold smoker is set up, smoking is simple and risk of melting the cheese is low.[3]
    • Some cold smoker attachments are small, low-heat devices with special wood dust fuel. These can be placed at the bottom of the hot smoker, and used as directed.
    • Other cold smoker attachments are additional compartments that attach to your hot smoker. If not created by the same company, you may need to attach the two together yourself. Some models only require a drill, nut, and bolt to achieve this, but find out before you buy.
    • Either way, once you set the cold smoker up, cook the cheese over wood chips or wood pellets for 1–6 hours, turning at least once, then remove and refrigerate for 1–4 weeks before eating. See the "hot smoker" section for more tips.
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    Alternatively, make your own cold smoker. Continue on to one of the sections below, depending on the tools you have available:
    • There are two ways to MacGyver an ordinary (hot) smoker or closable grill to make your own cold smoker. You can use a pan of ice, or you can build your own mini smoke source from a tin can. Both are described in the "hot smoker" section.
    • If you do not have any type of smoker or grill and do not want to buy one, you can attempt to smoke the cheese in a spare refrigerator over a hot plate. This can be a successful smoker, but is difficult to control and requires extra attention to fire safety.

Method 2
Smoking Cheese in a Hot Smoker or Grill

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    Smoke cheese over a pan of ice. The simplest way to keep your cheese cool in a hot smoker or grill is to place a large pan of ice .[4] Put a grate over the pan for the cheese to rest on, then skip down to the "Light a flavorful smoke source" step. If you don't have room for the ice pan, or you are concerned about the moisture slowing the smoking down, try the next step instead.
    • If you have the space, fill a colander with ice instead and put it over a pan to catch drips. This makes it easier to replace the ice.
    • Read the section on preparing the cheese if you haven't already.
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    Alternatively, use a tin can. Take a clean, sturdy tin can, such as a soup can holding at least 10 oz. (300 mL). You'll use this as an undersize chimney starter, keeping the fire small and low-temperature.
    • If you have a large smoker, you may need to use a larger coffee can instead to get enough smoke density.
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    Light a flavorful smoke source. If using ice, start the fire as normal, using three or four small charcoal briquettes (or an electric smoker's heating element). Use a pan of flavorful wood chips or pellets directly over the heat to create the smoke. (See the tips section below for advice on flavors.) If you are using the tin can, there are two options available:
    • Tin can method A: fill half the can with charcoal briquettes. Fill the next ¼ of the can with water-soaked wood chips, then the rest of the can with dry woodchips.[5]
    • Tin can method B: Punch a hole in the can near the upper rim. Stick a brand-new, soldering iron into this hole, then fill about half the can with wood pellets (no charcoal necessary). Plug in the soldering iron to start the fire.[6]Never use a soldering iron that has been used for soldering, or the smoke will contain toxic chemicals.
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    Arrange the vents. Adjust the air vents until plenty of smoke is produced, but the wood is burning slow and steady.
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    Add the cheese. With the smoke source at the base of the smoker or grill, add the cheese pieces over the top grate. Close the smoker or grill.
    • If the day is windy, you can cover the closed device with a tarp to keep the smoke inside.[7]
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    Check the cheese frequently. With these methods, it's a smart idea to check the cheese every 15 to 20 minutes, especially the first time you try it. Look for the following problems and correct them:
    • Maintain the fire by adding more charcoal every 30–40 minutes, or more wood chips or pellets whenever they run low. (Include both wet and dry wood chips if using tin can method A.)
    • If the cheese develops sweat beads, it is getting close to melting. Narrow the air vents or cool the cheese using the methods below.
    • If using an ice pan, replace ice water with fresh ice. On a cool day with a low fire, this may not be necessary.
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    Smoke for 0.5 to 6 hours, turning occasionally. Cheese absorbs flavors easily, and does not need to be smoked as long as meat does. Turn the cheese over every 15–30 minutes, or at least once during the smoking process. Wait until the cheese has developed a darker "smoke ring" around its edges before removing from heat.
    • Soft cheese in a warm smoker can be finished in as little as 30 minutes, if you prefer a light flavor. One or two hours is more common.
    • Thick blocks of hard cheese smoked on a cold winter day may take as long as 4–6 hours. For your first attempt, 3 hours or less is recommended to avoid overpowering the original cheese flavor.
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    Let the cheese cure before eating. Remove the cheese and wrap it in wax paper or parchment paper. Keep it in the refrigerator for at least a week so the smoke flavor mellows into a more attractive taste. Often, the cheese tastes better after two to four weeks refrigerated.
    • Do not wrap the cheese in plastic. If you want to prevent it drying out, wrap in wax paper, then place in an unsealed plastic bag.

Method 3
Smoking Cheese in an Empty Refrigerator

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    Set aside a refrigerator to use only for smoking. This refrigerator may develop an ineradicable smoky flavor, and needs to be completely empty. This should be kept in an area without nearby fire hazards, such as a garage or basement with concrete floors and no flammable materials nearby. The refrigerator does not need to be functional.
    • Refer to the "preparing the cheese" instructions at the top of the page before you continue.
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    Place a hot plate at the bottom of the refrigerator. Place a hot plate on the bottom of the fridge, preferably one with a temperature control.
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    Add a wood chip pan. Place a small bread pan, tin can, or other heat-safe container over the hot plate. Fill it with wood chips or wood pellets intended for smoking, or taken from a source of pure wood with no toxic additives.
    • See the tips section for advice on wood flavors.
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    Place a pan of ice on the middle rack. Above the hot plate, fill a large container with ice. This will keep the cheese cool and prevent it from melting.
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    Begin to smoke the cheese. Lay the cheese pieces on the upper rack of the refrigerator. Turn on the hot plate to a low setting and shut the refrigerator door.
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    Smoke the cheese for 1–6 hours, checking regularly. Check every 10–15 minutes for these problems and correct them if necessary:
    • If the ice has melted, replace the ice water with fresh ice.
    • If the cheese develops sweat beads, turn off the hot plate until the cheese cools down.
    • Once the cheese develops a smoke ring around the edge, flip it over. Once the smoke ring is on both sides, remove from the setup and turn off the hot plate.
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    Refrigerate the cheese. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least a week for best flavor. Some cheeses taste best after two to four weeks for smoking.
    • Don't give up on a nasty-tasting cheese directly from the smoker – er, the refrigerator. The flavor often improves dramatically.


  • Don't worry if your cold smoked cheese tastes harsh the first few days. It needs the recommended resting time to produce the best flavor.
  • Generally, fruit woods or nut woods such as pecan, apple, or cherry work well with mild cheeses such as mozzarella, Swiss, or mild cheddar. Stronger woods such as mesquite and hickory should only be used for strong cheeses such as sharp cheddar, Stilton, or pepper jack.
  • Try new flavors by replacing the wood chips with bamboo chips, dry tea leaves, or nut shells.[8]
  • Most commercially smoked cheeses contain artificial smoke flavor ("liquid smoke"). Home-smoked cheeses usually develop a different flavor, based on the wood used.


  • If you use a soldering iron, keep this soldering iron expressly for smoking cheese and other foods. Using it on metal exposes your food to toxic chemicals, particularly lead.
  • Only use wood chips or sawdust sold for smoking or confirmed as a pure wood product. Some wood chips or sawdust for gardening or other purposes contains toxic finishes unsafe for food.

Things You'll Need

All methods:

  • Any cheese (hard cheese is easiest, but any will work)
  • Knife (optional)
  • Refrigerator or cool cellar
  • Wax paper
  • Plastic bag (optional)

Using a Smoker or Grill:

  • Smoker or Grill with lid
  • Baking pan and ice, or Clean tin can
  • New soldering iron (optional)
  • Wood chips or Wood pellets

Using an Empty Refrigerator:

  • Refrigerator that you can dedicate as a smoker
  • Fire-safe area
  • Hot plate
  • Wood chips
  • Ice
  • Small pan
  • Large pan

Article Info

Categories: Cheese