Where’s there’s smoke there’s a woman who smells like a campfire. That woman was me as I tried smoking cheese for the first time this past June. Armed with a 30W smoldering iron, a tin can, hardwood chips and my Weber I was ready to MacGyver it up. The Spread article about the experience will also tell you everything you need to know. (Including how I struggled through a hurricane-like storm to achieve my lofty goal…..a smoked cheese burger). But it did not include pictures of how this simple technique will make you look like a culinary superstar.
So here, with visuals, is the step by step.
STEP 1: Remove the label from your can. Now open the top with a can-opener about 2/3 of the way around. Bend back the lid and remove the contents (save for later). Rinse out the can.
STEP 2: Using a triangular can opener, make a hole in the centre of the opened lid of the can (where it’s still attached). It can be hard to get the right leverage so I put a pen under the open part of the lid to prop it up. Make a hole (vent) in the bottom, too.
STEP 3: Fill the can with wood chips. Fruit wood is a good choice because it gives a sweeter, milder note (mesquite chips can be overpowering for cheese). Home Hardware has them.
STEP 4: Insert the soldering iron all the way into the triangular hole in the top, where the lid is hinged. (I had to make the hole bigger.) Place the can with the soldering iron at the bottom of your grill (where the coals or flame would usually be). You want the iron lying on the bottom of the grill – so the chips in the can fall on top of it. Replace the top grate, close the lid. Plug in the soldering iron (you may need an extension cord). Its heat will cause the chips to smoulder but not catch fire. The barbecue should be filling with smoke in about 15 minutes.
STEP 5: I smoked cheese on my Kettle grill (above) and on our gas BBQ and it worked perfectly both ways. Lay a piece on foil on the grill and lay your cheese on top. Close the grill.
I used three cheeses: Balderson 3-year-old cheddar, Pecorino Romano and half a ball of mozzarella (regular, not fresh). Check after 30 minutes to gauge how much smoke flavour you like; bigger hunks of cheese will take longer. Flip the cheese half-way through the smoking to expose all the surfaces.
STEP 6: Remove the cheese and let it come to room temperature. If moisture has beaded up on the surface, dab it with paper towel. Wrap the cheese and refrigerate overnight (or at least a few hours) to let the flavours settle. The cheese will be slightly golden but not intensely dark.
After a bit of troubleshooting, the results were amazing. The cheddar was flavoured with the sweet, fruity smoke (I will be melting it on nachos). The Pecorino was also satisfying – the smoke was a nice match to the sweet/salty notes of the cheese. The mozzarella, which had a denser exterior, took on the mildest flavour, but would add perfect, subtle smoky notes to a pizza.
TIPS WHEN BUYING YOUR SOLDERING IRON:
Use a soldering iron with a cord. I bought a cordless version that stayed on only while your finger was pressing the button – back to the store for me. No amount of duct tape would make it stay down. Honest.
Also, even if you have a soldering iron, you want to buy a new, clean one to use with the food. THE SOURCE has them.