Usually, any kind of barbecuing is going to involve temperatures somewhere around the 250 degree mark. This type of lower-temp cooking gives proteins plenty of time to break down and develop flavor. But what happens when we want to smoke something else? Cheese, for instance.
You may have had smoked cheese from your local grocer before -- perhaps a nice gouda or mozzarella. The smokey and salty combination pairs perfectly with a rich, flavorful cheese. But, how do they do it? Wouldn’t 250 degrees just melt any cheese to a puddle? It would indeed. And so, enter the process of cold smoking.
The name “cold smoking” is a bit misleading. Perhaps more accurately, we should refer to it as “warm smoking”. The temperatures used in cold smoking are not cold at all, but are just slightly above ambient room temperature. Specifically, our magic temperature today is going to be 90 degrees fahrenheit. This will leave our ingredient (in this case, cheese) unharmed and undisturbed, while still allowing smoke flavor to be created and imparted. There are a few different ways to execute this technique, but today, we are just going to look at two: one suitable for gas grills, and one for charcoal.
Whether using gas or charcoal, though, you need to shield your cheese from any flare-ups or accidental temperature surges.
To do this, fill a cake tin with water, and throw it in the freezer overnight. That will create a large ice-block that will help protect the cheese. Once the water is entirely frozen, leave the giant ice cube in the tray, and put a resting rack on top of it. The cheese will then sit on the rack, on top of the cake-pan of ice.
Smoking Cheese on a Gas Grill:
Now, let’s look at gas grills first.
The issue with gas grills (where this process is concerned) is that the lowest propane setting will still push your heat over 90 degrees fahrenheit. Because of this issue, the gas grill is really only going to be used as a smoking ‘chamber’. You’ll want to put a hot plate directly on the gas grill itself, and then place a pie tin on top of the hotplate.
We know -- it sounds bizarre, but stay with us here.
Place the wood chip variety of your choice on the hot plate. From there, cover it with tin foil, pop a few holes in the foil, and then fire it up! The hot plate -- not the grill, that is. Place your (equally bizarre looking) cheese/ice tin contraption on the opposite side of the grill, and close the lid. The hot plate is going to generate the smoke, so it’s best to keep an eye on the grill thermometer. Remember -- keep it under 90! We’d suggest smoking for 2-3 hours.
Smoking Cheese on a Charcoal Grill:
If you have a charcoal grill, things are simpler.
Light a few bricks of charcoal in one side of the grill, and let them burn until they turn grey. Then, place you cheese/ice-block setup on the opposite side of the grill, close the lid, and wait! The low-temperature coals won’t go over 90 degrees, so you should be good to go! Again, this also takes about 2 or 3 hours.
After you’re finished smoking, cover your cheese in saran or plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge for a few days. This will give ample time for the smoke flavor to fully penetrate the block of cheese, creating that big, bold flavor we love.
There’s about a thousand different combinations of cheese and wood chip varieties you can put together, so we would definitely suggest experimentation! Have fun, and eat up!