Cold smoking cheese may be one of the most rewarding smoking experiences I’ve had, because the results are so unexpected and you can enjoy the results for sometimes months after. And smoked cheese makes a great holiday gift for friends and family. So in our house, we’ve made it a tradition to start the cold smoking for holiday gifts as soon as the weather hits the 70s – which doesn’t usually happen until Thanksgiving (it’s Houston, TX afterall). I will smoke up to 10lbs of cheddar at a time – usually smoking about 30-40lbs during the holiday season
How to Cold Smoke Cheese on the Big Green Egg
A few things I’ve learned after doing this for a number of years:
- Make sure your outdoor temps are in the 70’s (if not lower)
- Use an ice tray in the egg to help catch the creosote & add some additional cooling factors
- Get yourself some grill mats to put the cheese on – keeps it clean!
- If doing a large amount, create some stacking grids
- Make sure your pellets are dry – otherwise they won’t smoke well
- Do this in advanced – you’ll need to let it age after smoking for 2-3 weeks for the best flavor
Note: I’ve tried hot & cold smoking cheese before and by far have had the best results with the cold smoking method, utilizing the Pellet Tray Maze Smoker – (alternative available via Prime). I would highly suggest the tray if cold smoking is something that you want to repeat. The cold smoking tube does not hold as many pellets, therefore not giving you the longest smoke time. And the tray fits perfectly in the bottom of a large egg
For pellets – I like the BBQer’s Delight BBQ Pellet Sampler for beginners because they come in the smaller bags (perfect for someone that doesn’t have a pellet smoker) and I can order them on Amazon. I’ve tried Maple, Cherry, Alder and Mesquite. Maple so far has been the favorite for cheddar cheese smoking. The smoke flavor is not too harsh and not overly sweet. Cherry was just a little too sweet tasting (probably great for a fruit type cheese) and Mesquite was harsh – but if smoked for a shorter period would probably end up pretty nice, so worth a shot. Get yourself a couple of flavors and try what works for you.
Cold Smoking Setup
I’ve cold smoked in a large and a small egg – both with great results. I typically stick with the large egg when doing a large volume at once. So the directions below are for a large egg, but you can mirror them with just about any size (I would avoid the mini & minimax though due to how close the pellet tray would be to the cheese).
- Step 1: Remove your charcoal from the base of the egg. Having a Kick Ash Basket makes this super simple. I’ll usually do a quick clean out of the ash at that time for maximum air flow (and type A tendencies) but you don’t have too.
- Step 2: Fill your pellet tray or tube and light. When I light my Amazen tray, I place it on the plate setter (legs up and off the table) and use the Bernzomatic torch to light it. Once it’s for a good flame going, I blow out the flame and let the smoking start. I usually let it mellow for a few minutes before placing it on the bottom of the egg (see images below)
- Step 3: Place the tray in the bottom of the egg (bottom vent of egg open all the way)
- Step 4: Plate setter in egg, legs up
- Step 5: Drip pan/tray with ice on top of plate setter
- Step 6: Grid on plate setter, grill mat on top of grid and cheese on grill mat.
- Step 7: Close your dome, open the top vent all of the way and enjoy the smell of sweet sweet smoke
That’s it – now let it smoke away. If you temps are in the 60s and you are using the cold smoking tray, you can easily cold smoke your cheeses for up to 8 hours. I usually run a cold smoke of cheddar for 5-6 hours, flipping and rotating the cheese every 45-60 minutes. The flipping and rotation of the cheese ensures that the smoke penetrates every side of the cheese, so don’t miss this important step.
Now once the cheese starts to sweat (see below) it’s time to pull it off the smoker. Now refrigerate the cheese until it hardens up and then vacuum seal – and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks before eating. During this time, the smoke flavor will mellow out and create quite a tasty treat. If you try the cheese right off the egg you’ll only taste the smoke and not the cheese. Like I said, we do a lot of smoked cheese for the holidays and always try to have some around for ourselves – but it usually doesn’t last very long!
- Grill mats – Cut to Size
- BBQ Pellet Sampler
- Kick Ash Basket
- Bernzomatic torch
- Pellet Maze Tray Smoker– Must have for cold smoking cheese
- Here’s an alternative tray – same thing, different seller
This sounds great, do I need a vacuum sealer or can I wrap it tightly in Saran wrap?
Vacuum sealer is recommend – that way the cheese will last 2-3 months
This looks like lots of fun and I’m wanting to try this out!
Did I miss where you stated the dome temp?
The pellet tray shouldn’t give off enough heat to raise the dome temp at all. Dome temp should be the ambient temperature within the egg – which is why I recommend only doing this when temps are below 70 degrees if possible.
When you say to open the top vent all the way, does that mean to keep the bottom sliding vent closed?
Both vents should be open all the way to allow for maximum airflow – the pellets won’t generate enough heat to raise your dome thermometer temp
If you live in the Midwest where it is cold in the winter should we smoke the cheese in the garage or is it ok to smoke outside.