Smoked cheese is one of those treats that everyone enjoys. Any standard cheese can be taken to the next level with a simple trip through your smoker.
There are some obstacles to smoking cheese, and the most common one is melting it. In today’s article, we are going to cover how to cold smoke cheese in an electric Masterbuilt smoker.
I will also be covering ways to generate smoke without heating up your smoker. This can be done using an amazing smoke tray or a smoke generating device.
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What is cold smoking?
Cold smoking is a process of smoking food without adding heat. Certain items lend themselves well to cold smoking, and others do not.
Cheese and nuts are by far, the best and safest foods to cold smoke. Fish is also a common cold-smoked item, but the FDA recommends that you do not do this at home(click here for FDA document).
If you know how to cure fish, then you can smoke it in the same manner as cheese. Fish can be packed in salt or a saltwater brine to be cured.
Click here to read our article Cold Smoking vs Hot Smoking Foods.
Cold smoking temperatures
Temperatures for cold smoking need to be between 60 and 90 degrees. If your food product is not in that range, it tends not to accept the smoke.
Furthermore, you need to exercise care when you have food items in that range because bacteria can grow and that is not safe. Nuts are not a temperature concern and are a great item for practicing (see notes for nuts at the end of the article).
What is the melting temperature of cheese?
Different varieties of cheese have different melting temperatures, usually based on the moisture content. The more moisture a cheese has, the lower the melting temperature will be.
We have sorted cheeses into three groups based on moisture content; soft high moisture, medium-low moisture, and hard dry cheese. I avoid soft cheese, like mozzarella, because they melt at low temperatures.
The fats in the cheese tend to melt at 90 degrees resulting in loose or soft cheese. The average complete melting temperature of cheese like cheddar or swiss is just below 150 degrees.
Wood choice for cold smoking cheese
Wood choice is a bit subjective, just like spices. I always use mild fruit woods for cheese like apple or cherry.
If you want to go for a shorter smoke like 30 minutes, you may be able to use hickory. I would recommend to only use a stronger wood like hickory with pepper jack or a dry hard cheese.
Generating smoke for cold smoking
How do you smoke cheese without going above 80° in a Masterbuilt smoker? Temperature control is a real struggle because when you turn on the smoker to generate smoke, you also generate heat. I have two different devices I use to generate smoke without turning on the smoker’s heating element.
Normally, I use my amazing smoke tray placed at the bottom of the smoker. You can light the smoke tray outside of the smoker with a blowtorch or kitchen torch.
Then place the smoke tray back inside the smoker on the very bottom shelf and let it burn. The amazing smoke tray will burn consistently without generating a large amount of heat.
A smoke generator like the Smoke Chief is another great option. This device sits next to your smoker and has a tube that pumps smoke into your smoker.
Cooling your Masterbuilt smoker
I like to call my Masterbuilt smoker “the beer fridge.” The Masterbuilt smoker is not a refrigerator, but it has a striking resemblance to a mini-fridge.
The electric Masterbuilt smoker has insulated walls, so if you put block ice inside, it will get cold just like a cooler or refrigerator. With a little practice, you can put the appropriate amount of ice inside on the very top shelf to keep your temperature under 80 degrees.
You can also buy re-freezable ice blocks that will fit conveniently inside your smoker. A budget-friendly option is to reuse empty plastic juice bottles or half-gallon milk jugs. Fill your bottles ¾ full with water and freeze overnight.
I place my ice bottles in disposable plastic bags for easy cleanup.
Loading your cheese
Before loading your cheese, you should cut it into usable and smokable shapes. I prefer long skinny strips that are approximately 5 inches long, 1 inch high, and 1 inch wide.
Pieces of this size take the smoke well because of the increased surface area. When you slice cheese blocks in these shapes, it is easy and conveniently fits on a cracker.
I almost exclusively use grill mats because of the convenient cleanup. When I am done cooking, I put the grill mats in the dishwasher, and they come out clean.
How long to smoke your cheese
You will be pleasantly surprised how little time it takes to give your cheese that wonderful smokey flavor. In less than four hours, you can turn a small block of cheddar cheese into a smokey treat.
I have smoked cheese for more than four hours, and it starts to get bitter. To be on the safe side, always use less time to avoid bitterness and reduce the potential melting of your cheese.
As soon as you are done smoking your cheese, place it in the refrigerator to firm up. Even at low smoking temperatures, your cheese will start to get soft.
Storing your smoked cheese
Storing your smoked cheese depends on when you will be eating it. I recommend that you let your cheese rest for at least one week for the best results.
If you plan on eating your smoked cheese in less than two weeks place it in a zipper bag or wrap it with plastic wrap. You can store it in your refrigerator for three weeks without worry.
If you are going to have it around longer, you will want to vacuum seal it and consider freezing. Freezing your cheese should be a last resort because it will change the texture.
Cold smoking nuts
As I mentioned earlier in the article, you don’t have to be concerned with temperature safety when smoking nuts. Another benefit to nuts is you don’t have to worry about them melting.
I normally use roasted nuts, but you can use raw nuts and roast them in your smoker. I like whole pecans for smoking because they have a great flavor that matches well with hickory.
Spread the nuts evenly on your smoker tray. If you have smaller pieces of nuts, you will want to make a tray out of aluminum foil. Smoke your nuts for a minimum of 2 hours. Let your nuts cool completely before packaging them.
For extra flavor, you can coat your nuts with one of our dry rubs. Lightly coat your nuts with vegetable oil spray then sprinkle with the dry rub of your choice. Click here to check out our dry rub article and add our spicy mixture for a kick.
For more great ideas read our article on 17 Things You Can Smoke in a Smoker.
Smoked cheese is something that anyone can do as long as you keep temperature in mind. Don’t let the lack of a smoker hold you back. I have used my amazing smoke tray and a box to cold smoke cheese.
How long do you cold smoke cheese?
Cheese can be cold smoked in four hours for a piece of cheese similar to a butter cube. Large two-pound blocks of cheese should be smoked for six to eight hours. However, we recommend cutting your cheese into long skinny blocks that will cut well to match your favorite cracker, roughly 1 inch by 1 inch by 6 inches long.
How long should Cheese sit after smoking?
Cold smoked cheese should sit for two weeks tightly wrapped in the coldest spot in your refrigerator. The minimum resting time should be one week to allow the bitter smoke taste to mellow out and continue to penetrate the cheese block.