Cold Smoking is something I love to do, it can bring out a whole new dimension of flavor. It doesn’t require anything really apart from a little cold smoke (and a cardboard box – more on this).
Seriously, sometimes you only need 15 or 30 minutes of smoking cheese to get a desirable flavor. But remember that you won’t actually find out straight away what the smoke level flavor is.
You need to rest the cheese and stick it in a reusable container or something and let it permeate inside, trust me it will get smokier after 2-3 hours in the fridge.
There’s a lot of hot air (or hot smoke?) when it comes to wood flavor, I kind of keep it simple and break my woods down into light-flavored woods like most hardwood fruit woods (apple, peach, pear, etc) and down the other end of the scale heavy stronger hardwoods like hickory or mesquite (hey you can always mix them up too!).
So you might even have what you need to cold smoke at home it’s really simple.
What most people don’t understand – I’ve found out, is that when you are cold smoking meat, your flavoring and drying it out at the same time.
Cold Smoke carries antibacterial and antifungal properties, the reason why cold smoking has been used for thousands of years.
Nowadays it’s all about flavor.
Food – vegetables, cheese, chili, nuts, and chocolate it’s a modern flavoring -so there isn’t really any preserving going on it is just giving the cheese a complex new angle and flavor.
If you starting out, nuts and cheese are super simple.
Best Cold Smokers for Cheese
- Charcoal, Cardboard Box & Wood Chips
- Pellet Tube or Maze Smoker (2nd Top Pick)
- Cold Smoking Accessory for a BBQ Smoker
- Cold Smoker Generator (Top Pick)
Now above I just mention a cardboard box, charcoal, and wood.
I better explain this, sometimes when I have been at a friend’s place or housesitting. And of course, I have had the urge to do some cold smoking, so I came up with this simple process.
I used a camping gas burner to get the charcoal going, or you need some form of blue hot butane lighter torch. like a crème brûlée torch. If your barbecue grill gets hot enough, you can also use a gas burner on high to get a piece or two of charcoal going. You just want a quarter or less of it white and burning.
A decent chunk of low & slow charcoal will burn for 30 minutes to an hour, which is plenty of time to cold smoke your cheese.
With cold smoked cheese, and this may seem a little bit obvious but it needs to be a little cold to do it!
The general guide to cold smoking is it needs to be under 86°F/30°C.
Above this and meat, like fish actually starts to cook.
I like to smoke cheese at under 60°F/15°C, often just in the evening as things start cool down.
You do want a little bit of airflow when cold smoking, but the old saying that less is more when it comes to the cold-smoked flavor I think is very true.
I’ll be surprised what 15 or 20 minutes of cold smoking will do to the cheese flavor.
Even in my super-secret cold-smoked dry-cured bacon recipe, I’m only smoking the pork belly for eight hours tops which isn’t really that long, it’s more about hanging out and letting it dry out of it. (I use grapevine wood with spices of juniper berries and garlic FYI-Equilibrium Cured – more on E.C Bacon here.).
With a cardboard box, you can just adjust the flat easily of the top, you can either cut yourself a shelf or use some sort of hook and have the cheese hanging from the top.
Smokers that Won’t Cold Smoke Cheese
Any smoker that produces heat like a pellet grill turned on, electric smoker turned on or gas smoker is too hot to smoke cheese.
However, any of these can be used as a vessel or area for cold smoking cheese. Especially if you’re going to be using a pellet tube & maze smoker more on those below.
Cold Smokers – Equipment Breakdown
Charcoal & Wood Chip Method
Any type of smoking wood like wood pellets, wood sawdust or wood shavings can be used. It goes without saying, that you’re using a low resin hardwood either you bought the wood at a store or got your own.
Fruit trees and grapevines are very useful for having your own easy supply from pruning and trimming. (dry and chip it)
So as mentioned get some charcoal burning, put half a handful of smoking wood on it and then provide a little bit of airflow.
And that’s it your cold smoking cheese!
Pellet Tube or Maze Smoker
Probably one of my favorite ways to do cold smoked cheese, even though I have a huge range of options at home.
I prefer to keep it simple, I did explore the idea of refining a motorcycle exhaust baffle as a cheap pellet smoker DIY style.
But going around mechanics. I could only find big chunky car exhaust baffles, the metal was very heavy and I would’ve had to probably spend a lot of time drilling more holes.
So for $30 a board pellet tube, you stand upright, fill it with pellets, get the top lit with a decent lighter torch, let it burn for six or seven minutes, and blow it out (here is a post on using a pellet tube).
If you’re not smoking meat or don’t plan to you could probably get away with the 6″ pellet tube, you still get two or three hours of smoking out of one load.
With the 12″ pellet tube you can get 4 to 6 hours depending on what type of wood you use.
Maze smokers are all similar designs, but you can sometimes use a tea candle set up to start the maze.
Some of the designs are only for sawdust, and some of the designs are for sawdust and pellet wood.
Check out some pellet tube and maze smoker I recommend here.
Cold Smoking Accessory
So if you have an electric smoker you can get an offset separate cold smoking attachment sometimes.
It’s a little investment but it means you can switch it on and use electricity easily to pump some cold smoke.
You do the cold smoking in the main chamber just with the power off and no heat going into it.
It depends on your set up but yeah there are a couple of accessories to existing barbecue and low & slow smokers.
There aren’t a lot of’s smoke generators on the market but they do a good job of producing cold smoke, and you can actually control how much air pushes through them and hence the amount of smoke.
They work on the venturi effect so air is pushed through the middle and it pulls the burning smoke which is in a vertical tube through it. Pretty ‘Cool’.
You can attach these to any space or cooking area so the one that I have of used in a very old kettle grill sometimes.
I can place things on the grill inside and pump in the smoke like this.
Basically, it’s a variable pump with a dial, considering I’ve had it for about 8 years and only done a little bit of maintenance on it that’s lasted a while.
It can be the biggest investment for cold smoking some cheese though! But wanted to give you towns, so more if you want to expand your cold smoking repertoire in the future!
Check out more I wrote on smoke generators here.
Cold Smoking Cheese – Length of Time
I definitely wouldn’t go more than 60 minutes for most cheeses, but it all depends on your taste preferences and how much airflow you’ve got going through. I have heard some guys like up to an hour but hopefully, they are just using a wisp of smoke.
My partner is European, traditionally in Slovakia cold-smoked sheep cheese gets a rather long treatment. I’m pretty sure this is traditional for preservation since it can overpower the cheese a bit.
If your looking for the 'ducks nuts' (that means a very good bit of equipment). A smoke generator can be used as a cold smoker, or adding smoke to indirect cooking which equates to a form of 'low & slow' bbq or making smoked ham and some much more.
The inventor of smoke generators was Smokai, it's a simple device that uses the venturi effect and a variable air pump to control the amount of smoke you are pumping.
I have a range of cold smoking options, and the Smokai is my favorite.
By far the smokai is the most efficient cold smoker I've come across because you have control.
It also burns very clean, which flavors the food exceptionally well. I've been using smoke generators for over 10 years, and this one is the ducks nuts.
Check out this review I did of the Smokai Smoke Generator here.
Other Cold Smoking Projects
If you’re new to cold smoking starting off with some cheese is an excellent idea, but maybe only the beginning!
Another interesting project is sea salt, for a different angle (just put it in with the cheese!).
Good old heavy cow cream can be quite a fascinating little cold smoke project, you really want to be nice and orangery cold if you’re doing things like cream or chocolate.
I wrote a really really long guide on cold smoking if you want to check it out here is the post.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for decades.
I Hunt, Fish, Forage, Buy, Butcher (Wannabe Norcini), Make, Savor (I’m not a Saviour), and love curing and smoking meat.
Learning and consuming in a circular fashion, I am always interested in what is happening around the curing and smoking world
Seeking the passionate behind the passion.
Hi man, i’m from New Zealand and have been hunting, fishing and diving since a kid (i’m now an ageing teen at 52yrs). I also make cheese and grown mushrooms. (still a bit of crazy stuff going on here but non the less nailing some tasty morsels). I have always loved cooking my bounty and feeding my “guinea pig” friends as opposed to thinking of the money I could make selling it. Progressively I have developed a real interest in smoking, curing and more recently drying meats.I plan to open an open air restaurant specializing in cooking on open fires and promoting wild meats as a gift from the land in all forms.
I just wanted to say that today I came across your website for the first time and have learned more and gained confidence in three hours of reading than I have over the past 5 years of youtube etc.
Coincidentally, (Because we are locked down so I have time) I have just started building a meat and cheese curing system. Your advice has been easy to follow and so damned practical, thanks. I have been online and much of the gear you recommend is on its way to me.
I have just said to my partner that when we plan our next overseas trip I would cherish to opportunity to meet you if it was possible.
All the best for you and your family in the current unfortunate circumstances.
I’ve been doing this cured meat blogging thing for quite a few years. I have to say, this was the kindest comment I have had!
Glad to hear it’s helped – it’s a noble craft.
All the best,
You’ve had a really good binge on my content!
What a great time to learn more about this curing stuff now, during unprecedented times.
All the best,