You may have already seen many types of cheese at the store that are sold as smoked cheese. Not only are they expensive, but it also doesn’t always have a flavor that you enjoy. When it comes to mozzarella cheese, you might prefer select dishes that call for a smoky taste. Here is everything that you should know beforehand about smoking mozzarella cheese at home and methods that make it easier.
Mozzarella cheese is wonderfully soft and can be used for a variety of dishes from pizza to pasta. It has found its niche in salads, casseroles, and snacks including fried mozzarella sticks. It can be melted into sauces, creates amazing texture in mashed potatoes, and is a favorite for Mac and Cheese. Adding a new layer of flavor with smoked mozzarella not only enhances this appeal but also makes ordinary recipes explode with smoky, gooey goodness.
Advantages of Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Long before refrigeration could extend the life of certain cheeses, smoking was a standard method that helped to preserve cheese for longer periods. It also helps to mature and enhance cheese flavors. Smoking mozzarella cheese further adds absorbed flavors by using smoke, depending on the type of wood used. This isn’t limited to including a liquid smoke when traditional smoking isn’t possible.
What you need to make Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Every website that mentions how to smoke mozzarella cheese will purposely leave out one of the most important items you need for smoking cheese.
This is typically the chamber that is used to smoke your mozzarella and anything, in general, that is used for smoking.
Sure, they’ll tell you that you use a smoker, but that doesn’t give enough info on what a smoker is made from. Here are some better tips.
Using an ordinary BBQ grill
Any type of barbecue grill that is covered is excellent for smoking. It can be a classic Weber dome-shaped grill or any of the standard BBQ grills with a cover.
As long as you have vent control for allowing airflow, you’re in business. Often, one side of the grill is used for offset grilling and this is where you can place your wood used for smoking.
This offset method also reduces the level of heat for smoking and can allow for either hot or cold smoking methods.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using pellet grill, charcoal grill, gas grill or whatever; they will all work fine!
Using a smoker tube or smoker box
Smoker tubes or smoker boxes are handy devices that are metal containers with holes in them. You add wood chips, pellets, or aromatic wood strips that give off just enough smoke used for smoking cheese.
If you don’t have a smoker tube, you can use industrial aluminum foil (the thick stuff) and fill it with wood pieces. Poke a few holes in it so there’s airflow and ignite part of the wood so it starts to burn, giving off smoke as it smolders.
Placing the Wood Chips into Hot Coals
If you decide to go the old-fashioned route, you can start to burn some charcoal briquettes to have a heating source. Place some wood pieces on top and let the wood start to burn from its heat. The wood will emit smoke as it heats up from the coals without completely catching fire. This is better when you place the wood inside aluminum foil to limit the airflow.
Adjust the grill vents
Any decently covered barbecue has air vents to control heat distribution. Your grill needs to have good airflow so you don’t melt your mozzarella. So always pay attention to the temperature and have a temperature gauge on hand to monitor your smoking temp. Open the vent on the bottom and on the top to get the best airflow possible. This will allow the wood to continue smoking using a controlled burn instead.
Choose the Right Wood Chips
There are many types of wood that are great for smoking, but some are better for using on your mozzarella cheese. These include an assortment of fruitwoods but may also include hickory, alder, and maple. Fruitwood typically includes pecan, walnut, apple, pear, and cherry. If you can find sugar maple, this is great for sweeter dessert cheese. These can be made from chunks, pellets, or splintered kindle.
How to Smoke Mozzarella Cheese
First, preheat the smoker to around 125-160 Fahrenheit. Too high a temperature, and the mozzarella will melt. As you’re preheating, place the wood chips in the coal, smoker box, or wood tray, depending on what type of smoker you’re using. Brush the grates with oil and then place the mozzarella on the rack. Let it smoke for around 2-4 hours.
The process is simple but needs to be done correctly so you get the best results. Your wood doesn’t need to be soaked, as this is a huge myth that has been passed down from poor BBQ husbandry for more than 150 years. It produces more steam than anything and will raise the temperature in your BBQ, causing the mozzarella to melt! Always use dry wood so you get immediate results so you don’t lose any time while you’re smoking the mozzarella.
Tips for Smoking Mozzarella Cheese
1. Brush your BBQ grates with oil
Make sure that your BBQ grill grates and nice and clean and coat them with a brush coating of vegetable or olive oil. Other oils work too but can impact flavor depending on the type of oil that you’re using. This keeps mozzarella from sticking while it smokes. You’ll also need to flip your cheese to get even smoked results on both sides.
3. Keep the temperature constant
It takes between 2-4 hours for the mozzarella to be smoked but also depends on how smoky you like your cheese. The darker the outside becomes, the smokier it will be.
The cold smoke methods call for the internal BBQ temp to be raised no higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot smoking is no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and will take less time with no more than 2 hours. It’s better to use the cold smoke method so your cheese doesn’t melt.
You need to watch the hot method more often so you don’t melt your mozzarella through the BBQ grates. Place these chunks of cheese on a baking sheet if needed. Don’t let your temperature drop either, so add more coals and wood as needed to keep the smoke flow going all through the smoking process.
4. Always stick to the offset method
Keep the heat source from being underneath mozzarella cheese at all times, this type of cheese is sensitive to heat and you only need to dry out the outside to get the best smoke penetration. The inside will remain nice and soft while the outside will be slightly golden brown and leathery. Place your coals, wood tube, or wood chip pack off to the opposite side where your cheese is being smoked.
5. Keep track of smoking times
If you are totally new to smoking mozzarella cheese, you’ll need to experiment with the level of smokiness. Try making one batch that you continue to flip after one hour and then remove one or two pieces every half hour after that. This way, you can best determine which one you like best based on the results. Always label which ones were taken out at what time they were smoked.
6. Let the Smoked Mozzarella Settle Overnight
Just like opening a good wine and letting it breathe, packing your cheese in a Ziplock bag and putting it into the fridge will help that smoky flavor develop. If you’ve ever burned anything in your kitchen, you’ll notice that that smell lingers for days afterward… The smoke penetrates into mozzarella deeper and lets you taste fine hints of earthy and tangy flavors better. Your wood that’s used will also add more hints of flavor based on the type that’s used.
How long does smoked Mozzarella last?
You can store your finished smoked mozzarella in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It must be placed inside plastic bags or Tupperware. Keep in mind that smoked cheese that’s uncovered will start to leech into other food in your fridge, which isn’t so appealing for potato salad or random veggies in your crisper. We recommend using some simple Ziplock bags to seal in the freshness and won’t take up so much space on your fridge’s shelves. Good luck!