Cold Smoking cheese is a great way to take inexpensive ordinary cheese and turn it into incredible blocks of cheese that proudly earn their place on fancy charcuterie boards.
Smoked cheese also makes great gifts for the Foodie in your life and is relatively inexpensive to make compared to the cost of gourmet smoked cheeses.
$2-$3 blocks of cheese are completely transformed by the smoking process. I was really surprised by the change in texture of one of the harder cheeses.
The parmesan cheese took on an aged type of texture, the smoke mellowed the sharp flavor, and the texture was a little crumbly. It was delicious and reminded me of a cheese I would get at a 5-star restaurant.
The same size block of parmesan that you purchase at the store already smoked is just about twice as much money, so if you buy a lot of smoked cheese, the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill or Oven may be the way to go!
Not only is it a great electric smoker for traditional smoking, but the US models can also be used as a cold smoker with a push of a button.
If you want to learn more about the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill & Smoker, here is a comprehensive review and comparison: Ninja Woodfire Grill Comparison Guide
Using the (affiliate link)Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill & Smoker or the (affiliate link)Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven to cold smoke cheese is incredibly easy and only takes about 2 hours to infuse a nice amount of smoke flavor. However, there are some important things to know when cold smoking with the Ninja Woodifire Outdoor Grill or the Woodfire Outdoor Oven and I go over all the tips I have learned in this article.
Suggested Tools for Cold Smoking Cheese
- Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill or Oven
- Wood Pellets
- Parchment Paper
- Vacuum sealer or freezer bags for storage
Quick Tip: Choosing the Pellets
You can smoke cheese with any type of wood pellet, but I recommend starting out with milder wood like apple, cherry, or maple the first time you smoke cheese. There is such a thing as too much smoke flavor and heavier wood flavors can quickly overpower cheese. Once you try the milder wood pellet, then experiment with other woods until you find the one you love.
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is when smoke is infused into food with very minimal heat that is produced by burning wood chunks, wood chips, or wood pellets.
The food is not being cooked during the cold smoking process and for true cold smoking, the temperatures inside the grill/smoker or smoke chamber should not reach above 100℉/38℃ and ideally should be kept between 65-85℉/18-30℃. The only heat source when cold smoking should be from the burning wood or pellets and the food should be as far away from the burning wood or pellets as possible. Many times a smoker tube is used when using a gas grill to cold smoke, but it's a little easier than that when you use the Ninja Woodfire Smoker.
Cold smoking is best achieved on a cooler day when the ambient temperatures are below 60℉/15℃ and even better if they are below 40℉/4℃. Basically, the colder the outside temperature, the less it will affect the temperature inside the smoker. I have cold smoked cheese in the middle of summer when the outside temp was 90℉/32℃ and higher and it still worked on the Woodfire, but the cheese was very soft when I removed it and, if the temperatures were much higher, it may have started to melt. I tried using a pan of ice next to the cheese and did a little experiment smoking cheese when the outside temp was above 90℉/32℃ with and without the pan of ice and I measured the inside temperature of the Woodfire and there was no difference.
From a food safety standpoint, cold smoking temperatures can still result in food falling into the danger zone where bacteria can quickly multiply so it is important to always follow food safety guidelines for the specific item you are cold smoking. There is not one rule that applies to all types of food, so when using the cold smoking function on the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill or Woodfire Outdoor Oven I recommend following tested methods from reputable sources or doing independent research before cold smoking items that could pose a health risk. Cheeses, especially lower moisture cheeses, are relatively low risk and a great place to start your cold-smoking journey.
Types of Cheeses for Cold Smoking
Technically, you can cold smoke any type of cheese, but I recommend starting off with hard and semi-hard cheeses like mild or sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, gouda, parmesan, asiago, gruyere, Monterey jack, pepper jack, provolone, or any other cheeses that will hold their shape during the smoking process. Soft cheeses that have a higher moisture content and tend to be spreadable when cold may actually melt during the cold-smoking process.
People do smoke cream cheese and I understand it is delicious, but I haven't tried it yet. I'm sure you could use the cold smoke function for cream cheese, but make sure the cheese is in some sort of container or you may just end up with gooey cream cheese all over your grill grate. From what I've seen people usually hot smoke the cream cheese at low temperatures and serve it with a chutney, jam, or jelly on top.
Cold Smoking Tip
Pick a cooler day to cold smoke. Temperatures in the 50's or below is ideal for cold smoking.
I also recommend smoking cheese blocks and not shredded cheese, sliced cheese, or cubed cheese because the surface area of the exposed cheese will make a big difference in the outcome and you will have the best results from smoking a block of cheese and then shredding it rather than smoking it after it's shredded.
How to Cold Smoke Cheese
What I love about smoking cheese on the Woodfire Outdoor Grill is how easy it is. Simply take the cheese out of the package, choose your pellets, and set up the smoker for cold smoking. Flip the cheese a few times during the smoking process and that's about it!
Setting up the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill for Cold Smoking
The cold smoking feature is not an actual function on the dial, you use the Smoking function and lower the temperature until the display reads, "CLD."
Not all models have this function, so be sure to check if yours does before purchasing the cheese. I believe all the US models have the feature, but the UK ones do not.
When you are ready to start the Woodfire, fill the hopper with a scoop (¼ cup) of pellets.
My favorite type of pellets for smoking cheese are apple wood flavored and I've been using the (affiliate link)Camp Chef brand, but Lumberjack is also a good option, especially if you want to try out their variety pack. Here is the one I purchased: (affiliate link)Lumberjack Variety Pack Wood Pellets
Turn the Ninja Woodfire dial to the Smoker function and press the down arrow until the display reads, "CLD." This is the cold smoking feature. Set the time for 2 hours and hit start.
The pellets will ignite on their own and you don't have to press any other buttons.
It takes several minutes for the pellets to ignite and, once they do, the 2-hour countdown will start. Let it go for about 5-10 minutes to really get those pellets burning and then open the lid to let out the white smoke.
With smaller food times that are quicker smoking than larger pieces of meat, letting this smoke out is important because it can impart a bitter flavor to the food.
Once the heavy smoke has dissipated you can put the cheese on the grill grate.
Cold Smoking the Cheese
Place the cheese blocks directly on the grill grate or you can elevate them using a wire rack if desired. I haven't found that to be necessary because I flip the cheese every 20-30 minutes to ensure the entire surface of the cheese is exposed to the smoke during the cold smoking process.
It does not matter if you stand the cheese up or lay it flat. I usually start off with it standing up on the thinner side so I expose more surface area to the smoke in the beginning because once cheese gets a little warm, it is easier to keep it flat on the large side.
Make sure all the cheese blocks fit laying down on the large flat side or you will want to smoke them in batches.
Close the lid and set a time for 30 minutes.
Every 20-30 minutes, check the hopper and flip the cheese.
When the hopper is about ½ full of pellets, add more to fill it up. Unless you are at the last 30 minutes of the cold smoking and then just let them burn out.
I usually fill the hopper at least twice during the entire process and this gives the cheese a nice smoky flavor.
The smoking time determines how much smoke the cheese absorbs, so if you want less smoke flavor, cut the time down. Various types of cheese will absorb smoke differently, but I have found that 2 hours of cold smoking with burning pellets is great for a variety of different cheeses.
Keep in mind that there is absolutely zero reason to keep the cheese on the smoker if smoke is not being produced. So, if you want to only burn one hopper of pellets, take the cheese off when the hopper is empty and proceed to let the cheese rest.
Continue this process until the 2 hours smoking time is done and then remove the cheese.
Resting the Cold Smoked Cheese
When you remove the cheese from the smoker, it will be warm and soft. You may also see beads of sweat. This is normal.
You can either place the cheese on a rack in the refrigerator or wrap each block in parchment paper. The parchment paper helps to absorb the moisture while still allowing the cheese to breathe. You can put the cheese into a bag, but don't close the bag up. You don't want to trap in the moisture. Place the cheese in the refrigerator.
After a minimum of 2 hours, remove the cheese and, if it has firmed up and is cold, you can package it up. If it still seems soft or warm, keep it in the refrigerator longer.
Once firm and cold, remove the parchment paper and discard. Either vacuum seal the individual blocks of cheese or place them in a sealable bag and remove as much air as possible.
You can also wrap them in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 2-3 days to allow the smoky flavor to settle into the cheese. I recommend letting the cheese rest in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before serving for the best flavor.
Serve and Enjoy!
You can also grate the cheese the use in different dishes. I love the smoked parmesan added to pasta dishes, especially this recipe: Chicken Carbonara.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
How to Store Cold Smoked Cheese
You want to store your smoked cheese in the refrigerator in a sealed air-tight container after it has cooled and firmed up.
When properly stored and depending on the type of cheese it is, your smoked cheese can last months in the refrigerator.
Before freezing it is very important that the cheese is cold and has time for the smoky flavor to penetrate through the cheese.
I recommend letting it sit in the refrigerator for 2 weeks before freezing. Ideally, I would freeze in vacuum-sealed bags, but a sealable freezer bag will also work.
Frequently Asked Questions
The cold smoke option is not available on all models, but to check to see if you have it, select the smoker function and press the temperature button down all the way until it reads, "CLD." If you see "CLD" on the display, you have the function. If the lowest temperature you can set is a number and not "CLD" then you do not have the ability to cold smoke.
Trying to achieve the same results as cold smoking without being able to eliminate the electric heat from the smoker is going to be very difficult. It would be easier to follow instructions for cold smoking using wood chips and a smoking tube on your outdoor grill.
As long as they fit on the grill grate with the larger flat side facing down and have an inch or so between them, you can smoke as many blocks of cheese at one time as you can fit in your grill.
The cold smoking time does not change by the quantity of cheese, so it takes just as long to smoke 1 block as it does 5 blocks of cheese.
What to serve with Cold Smoked Cheese
Smoked cheese is great to use in all kinds of dishes or simply slice it and serve with crackers for a quick snack or a great party food!
If you are serving your smoked cheese as a snack or appetizer and want a few other things to go with it, here are some ideas for easy appetizers.
Smoked Cheese Recipe
- Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill & Smoker OR
- Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven
- Your choice of cheese blocks
- 1 cup Wood Pellets I recommend apple, cherry, or maple
Cold Smoking the Cheese
- Fill the hopper with pellets. Turn the Woodfire dial to the Smoker function. Push the temperature button down until the display reads, "CLD." Set the time to 2 hours and hit start.
- Let the pellets burn for 10 minutes, so when the time reads 1 hour 50 minutes, open the lid and let out the heavy smoke.
- Place the cheese blocks on the grill grate and close the lid. Set a time for 30 minutes.
- In 30 minutes, flip the cheese over and fill the hopper back up with pellets. You may have only burned some of the pellets, but it is best to keep it full so the burning pellets ignite the new ones. If the pellets run out you will have to hit the ignite button again and let the heavy smoke out.
- Flip the cheese every 30 minutes and fill the hopper until you only have 30-45 minutes left on the countdown. Then let the cheese smoke and the pellets burn out.
- Once the 2 hours is up, remove the cheese from the smoker and place it on a rack or tray. The cheese will feel soft and you may see beads of sweat. This is normal.
Resting the Cheese
- Wrap the individual blocks of cheese in parchment paper and place them in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours. This will firm them up and dry the outside.
- After the cheese has completely cooled, place each block of smoked cheese in a vacuum seal bag and vacuum seal it or place it in a ziplock bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Let the cheese sit in the refrigerator for several days before serving. I have found that waiting two weeks is optimal for the best flavor.
- Slice and serve!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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