Best Wood to Smoke Cheese: Top 5 Options!

November 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

From my experience, apple is the best wood for smoked cheese since its taste complements that of most cheese varieties well.

Most people think of smoking meat when discussing smoked foods, but cheese is another food item you can smoke. Wood smoking can impart a unique smoke flavor to your favorite slabs of cheese.

I had issues with picking the right smoking wood for cheese years ago, but that all changed once I started culinary classes. Now, after several botched attempts, I know the best woods and cheeses to use when smoking. Read on as I discuss all I’ve learned.

best wood to smoke cheese

Best Wood for Smoking Cheese

Because different cheeses have different tastes and textures, you must consider how well the wood complements the natural flavors of the smoked cheese. For instance, fruit woods such as apple, pecan, cherry wood, etc. are the best choice for smoking mild-flavored cheese.

Fruit woods can produce a mild, tangy, and sweet flavor that complements the natural mild flavors of cold smoked cheese. More intense hardwoods like oak and hickory also complement smoked cheese of different tastes. Here are five of the very best woods for smoking cheese. Fortunately, most popular woods are readily available in stores.

1. Apple

Gotten from the apple tree, applewood is my first choice for cold-smoking cheese because of its mild, sweet taste. The smoke is light, so the chance of over-smoking your cheese is really low. Its fruity sweet flavor complements the smokiness from the smoker and the natural salty flavor of the cheese.

Apple smokes well with a wide range of cheeses. This wood particularly pairs well with Gouda, Swiss, and cheddar cheese.

2. Pecan

Now we're getting into wood chunks with bolder flavors that can transform the taste of the cheese. Pecan wood gives off a robust and intense flavor profile with delicate undertones that balance the natural flavor of the cheese. Furthermore, the savory and nutty flavor of pecan wood wonderfully complements a wide range of mild to strong-flavored hard cheeses.

Pecan smoke pairs well with Cheddar and Parmesan. You can also experiment to create your own trademark smoke flavor. For example, I use a pecan and apple wood blend when smoking cheddar cheese.

3. Maple

Maple is a flavorful hardwood derived from the maple tree. This wood has a subtly sweet flavor that complements a variety of cheeses.

Maple wood flavor complements smoked cheese because the taste is just sweet enough that it doesn’t overpower the cheese flavor. The smoking wood also gives the cheese an appealing color. The best cheeses to smoke with maple wood include Gorgonzola, Swiss, provolone, and blue cheese.

4. Hickory

Hickory can be a fantastic choice if you want a stronger cheese flavor. From experience, hickory wood chips wood is best used on hard cheese because it can withstand intense smoking.

Hickory smoke imparts a rich, savory flavor to food that is robust and intense, with notes of bacon. If you're grilling cheese and hoping for that classic southern BBQ flavor, smoking with hickory can help with that.

Smoking with hickory wood can lend just the right amount of flavor to cheeses with stronger natural flavors, like cheddar or stilton. The intense flavor of hickory smoke can soften the taste of strong cheeses. This way, you can create complex flavor profiles that elevate your eating experience.

5. Oak

Oakwood, derived from the oak tree, is one of the most popular smoking woods due to its smoky flavor. Oak smoke has a woodsy, earthy flavor, although it is not as strong as hickory.

Oak wood is best for smoking hard cheeses; it can be a bit overpowering for semi-soft cheeses. From experience, creamy Dutch cheese, asiago, and cheddar are the best cheeses to smoke using oak.

Best Cheese to Smoke

Now, let's discuss the best cheese for smoking. In my experience, most hard cheeses can be smoked as long as they don't slip through the smoker's grid. Cheddar and Parmesan are excellent choices for tasty smoked results.

I recommend hard cheeses like Gouda, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Parmesan because they hold shape when being smoked. That said, you'll need to cold smoke the cheese to avoid entirely melting the smoked cheese. This means you must keep the smoker temperature below 85 °F.

Semi-soft cheeses like Provolone and Gorgonzola are also good for smoking. But note that they melt quite quickly, so you should only smoke them for a shorter period of time.

Various Types of Chees on the Board

Conclusion

We've reached the end of today's article. Hopefully, you now know the five best woods for smoking cheese. Remember, these woods complement cheeses differently. So, you'll need to pay attention to the type of wood you use for cheese.

That said, apple wood is my recommended choice if you want to smoke cheese. The flavor of apple tastes great with several types of cheese, and you don’t have to worry about an overpowering smoky flavor.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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