Smoking fresh cheeses adds a depth of flavor to things like mozzarella. While cold smoking, or smoking over little to no heat, is ideal for cheese, you can hot smoke it with great results, too. Be sure to keep the steaming bath above the fire full.
Special equipment: You’ll need a charcoal grill to turn it into a smoker (or better yet, if you have a smoker, use it). You will also need a pastry brush, twine or string, long heatproof tongs, matches or a lighter, newspaper, 2 oven mitts, 2 buckets of water (one to soak the wood chips and the other to refill the aluminum loaf pan), 1 disposable aluminum 5-inch round pan (like a pot pie pan), 2 disposable aluminum 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, and an oven thermometer.
You will also need a large piece of ultrafine woven cheesecloth. It can be purchased at cooking supply stores or online.
A chimney starter, which looks like a large beer stein, is handy for lighting charcoal. They can be purchased at hardware stores or online.
Lump charcoal is preferred because the charred pieces of wood burn hotter and cleaner than briquettes, the uniform black pillows made from carbonized wood and a starchy binder. If you do buy briquettes, avoid the self-lighting ones, which are laden with chemicals.
Buy pure, resin-free, bark-free wood chips. Choose your wood chips based on the origin of the ingredient you are smoking. For example, use cedar chips for Pacific salmon and hickory chips for Southern catfish. For this recipe, we recommend hickory chips, but any wood will do. Wood chips can be purchased at most hardware stores and grocery stores during the summer months, or online.
This recipe was featured as part of our smoking project.
Prepare the grill: Remove the cooking grate and set it aside. Fill a chimney starter halfway with charcoal, then pour the unlit charcoal onto one side of the charcoal grate. Using tongs, stack the charcoal in a slight slope against the side of the grill bowl. Remove 1 cup of the wood chips from the water, shaking off any excess, and lay the damp chips in the middle of the unlit charcoal. Fill the chimney again halfway with charcoal. Place the chimney on the charcoal grate next to the unlit coals. Twist two or three sheets of newspaper, form the twisted paper into rings, and place them under and inside the chimney starter. Light the newspaper through the holes at the bottom of the chimney. After about 5 minutes, the charcoal should be red and flames should have appeared toward the top of the chimney.