Smoked Cheese adds that ‘wow’ factor to pizza
Then we first started blending smoked cheeses with traditional varieties in the Pizza Today Test Kitchen, I was apprehensive. Smoking can easily overpower other flavors. But I was wrong and years later, I’ve savored several pizzas featuring a smoked cheese around the country and at the International Pizza Challenge that rival some of the best pizzas out there.
Smoke gives cheese a unique and robust flavor. Smoke often serves two purposes with cheese: flavoring and preservation. The deep, smoky flavor can enhance the overall profile of a pizza when balanced correctly.
First, how is cheese smoked? The most common way to smoke cheese is through a cold smoke method. Ice is used to help protect the cheese while the smoke is absorbed into the cheese. Cold smoking occurs with temperatures between 68 F and 86 F as to not cook the cheese but instead infuse the smoke into the outer layer of the cheese. Too hot and the cheese will melt. There are also artificially smoke-flavored cheeses, which impart liquid smoke in the making process.
Did you know you can smoke cheeses in house using the cold smoke method? It is a deep dive into a rabbit hole that may be worth it for some scratch-made pizza concepts. But, for others, there are a number of smoked cheeses on the market for you to test in your kitchens.
Let’s dive into some of the best smoked cheese for pizza.
Creative pizza chefs and makers might get way more adventurous with the variety of smoked cheeses, but here is the smoked cheese starter pack.
- Mozzarella. The mildest of these smoked cheeses. A great option to give a traditional cheese pizza a boost.
- Provolone. A semi-hard, mild and smooth cheese, smoking gives Provolone an earthy and slightly smoky flavor.
- Fontina. The semi-soft cheese is both sweet and pungent so when smoked, it gives Fontina a bolder flavor.
- Cheddar. The sharp and nutty flavor of cheddar gets earthy notes from the smoke. Go milder for a better melt and less of a punch.
- Gouda. Many smoked Goudas have a signature brown rind. This creamy, buttery cheese has caramel notes.
- Scamorza. The mild, rich and somewhat sweet cheese holds a subtle smoky flavor making it a good choice to stand alone on pizza or for blending.
Some other contenders are smoked Colby, Fontina, Swiss, and even goat cheese. It’s up to you what works for your pizza and menu choices.
A few things to remember:
- A little goes a long way, especially given current cheese prices.
- Smoked cheese are often better to use over other cheeses for baking.
- Don’t overload the flavor profile. Be careful with the ratio of smoked cheeses with other strong varieties.
- Find other uses across your menu. Think mac and cheese, sandwiches, dips, etc.
- Test smoked cheeses in your day-to-day environment to be sure you select the right melt consistency you are looking for.
Here are three recipes to test smoked cheeses in your restaurant:
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.