My cheese cold smoke got hot.

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Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Jun 20, 2010
Columbia, MD
Lately, I seem to be posting about things that went wrong.  This is another one.

Yesterday, the outside temperature got a bit higher to about 40F and I decided it was the day to smoke some cheese.  I had five 2-lb blocks of various cheeses.  Cut them into 8-ounce smaller blocks. Spread them out onto the right hand 3/4 of three racks in my MES30. 

Cheeses were sharp cheddar (2 blocks), pepper jack, monterey jack, and colby jack.

Loaded my A-Maze-N smoker with peach and maple dust.  Lit it at two ends and put it on the left hand side of the fourth (and bottom) rack -- the one that would be just above the water pan.  Did not use water.  I turned on the MES to monitor the internal temperature, but did not turn on the burner.  I put an aluminum foil tent over the AMNS to keep any cheese oil from dripping on it.

Opened the top vent wide, and pulled the chip loader tube out a bit for air circulation.

I cut three small slices of the cheddar with the intent of using them as samples along the way to taste how the progress was going.

Started at 1400, temp of box was 43F.  Nice thin smoke.

checked at 1500.  Temp was up to 60F, still smoking nicely.

checked at 1615.  Temp was up to 71F, AMNS had finished one row on each side.  Tasted one of my samples, and it was doing good.

checked at 1800.  Temp had soared up to 120F.  Verified using my remote probe thermometer stuck through an onion.  The AMNS was almost completely finished, just a single long glowing area in the middle row.

At this point I took the cheese out.   We've vacuum sealed up the blocks (and melted lumps) to age in the frig. 

Pictures below.

I have no idea why the temperature took off like that.  I am quite sure that the electric burner of the AMNS was not on.  The little red light was never on, the count down time was 0.  So far as I can tell, the controller box was doing nothing other than measuring temperature.   From the melt patterns, it was clear that there had been heat collecting at the top, along the back wall and rising from the AMNS.

Has this happened to anyone else?

The things I can think of for next time:

a. put the AMNS all the way to the bottom

b. don't open the vents and chip tube as much

c. put water in the water pan.

Any other suggestions???

Here are the pictures.  The first picture is the colby, most melted, some interesting shapes.


Next is the cheddar, some sagging on the two blocks that were above the edge of the AMNS.


And then the monterey jack and the pepper jack.


Well I have never smoked cheeses but I would justwrap them up and put them into the refrig and see what you get on down the road. You can still eat it even if it's ugly. I feel for you thou with this run of bad luck that your having.
That is strange, I have never had a temp increase using the AMNS in my 40" MES...

I also never do anything other than use the AMNS when smoking cheese, I use my Maverick to monitor temps...

when you use your MES40 for cheese, do you turn it on?  Or do you use *only* your Maverick for monitoring the temp?

I can only think of two possibilities -- my MES decided to turn the burner on (in my mind it should not have), or the AMNS got some cheese oil into it and started burning that (but the AMNS had a tent over it).

We're talking here about an 80 degree heat rise, not the usual 5-10 degrees the AMNS usually produces.

You picked the wrong day---Saturday would have been better---15˚ here.

I don't plug my MES in when I smoke cheese.

Next time it gets too warm, how about a jug filled about 2/3 full of water, and frozen???


I keep a bunch of them in the refrigerator/freezer that I only use for curing meat.

I keep them in that freezer, so it isn't empty---They tell me it saves on electric.

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Only the maverick, you want to keep your temps as low as possible so as not to melt the cheese...  I try keep it between 40º and 80º depending on ambient temps.
I smoked cheese with the Amaz n smoker in a GOSM.  Only saw a 10 degree differential between ambient and internal smoker temps.  GOSM has all vents open.  Also I got 6 hrs of burn with both ends burning.  Maybe because of the tent the amns dust spontaneously combusted?  Good luck to you.  My last smoke was two weeks ago with  20 F outside, cheese turned out great.
I use the AMNS in my SmokinTex all the time for cheese.  I dont turn on the smoker at all and monitor it all with my Maverick. I have never had the cheese melt on me and my outside temps run around 70 -80 most days.
Perhaps you had too much air flow when you removed the chip drawer. I would leave it in. I did some bacon a couple of weeks ago at 100 deg and my MES held right at 100 degs for the whole time. And like Bear said, try an ice bottle in your drip pan. It should help hold you temp down.
Dale, your heating element had to have came on, there is no way that the AMNS could account for an 80º rise in temperature from 40º ambient temperature...
I don't plug my MES in when I smoke cheese.

Next time it gets too warm, how about a jug filled about 2/3 full of water, and frozen???

I'm going to have to do a test.  I did not think that the burner would come on since "time to run" was at 0, but it is possible that it did.

I did use ice when I was doing cheese with outside temps at 95F this summer.  Worked ok.
Dale, your heating element had to have came on, there is no way that the AMNS could account for an 80º rise in temperature from 40º ambient temperature...

I'm going to agree that is the most logical explanation.  I'm going to have to do an experiment one day soon.  Tonight we have snow and sleet -- not too good a time to do it. 
Hey Dale,

Sorry to hear about your melted cheese!!!

I'll bet you the MES somehow got turned on.  The AMNS should realistically raise the temps about 12°+/-.  Especially with the 40° outside temps.

I smoked cheese a couple weeks ago.  It was 20° outside, and i had to tun my MES on to warm up.  The minimum setting is 100° and once I saw the cheese sweating, I immediately opened up the door to cool things off a bit.

To get more airflow inside my MES, I remove the chip loader ans also pull out the chip pan about 1 1/2".  This gives me great airflow inside my MES.  I'll post the actual air flow test I performed in another thread.  If it was windy outside, the smoldering AMNS could have been fanned by the wind, and actually jumped rows.  This would also explain the additional heat.  When I cold smoke cheese, I only light (1) side of the AMNS for light smoke and smoke for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

The outside temps got up to 40F today, so I did an experiment.  I plugged in my MES, played around with the dials the same as before (as best I could remember).  Had it set to 0 time, which should keep the burner from turning on.  I let it sit like that for two hours.  Temp stayed at 40-45F.  

In spite of that result, I am still thinking that something I did must have made the burner turn on sometime during my cheese smoke.  I cannot believe that the AMNS raised the temperature that much -- even with two rows burning.
I would suggest trying again and this time do not plug in the MES at all. That would definitely keep the element from turning on and so should clearly indicate how much heat the AMNS is generating. I recently cold smoked some cheese for the first time with the MES and AMNS and it worked fine.  I did not turn the MES on at all and I lit only one end of the AMNS leg. This provided more than enough smoke and it did not cause any noticeable melting of the cheese (it just takes longer to smoke). 
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That will be the next control experiment.


Just so you know it can happen. The example below is from a Bacon smoke I did.

Now this particular AMNS is a prototype with bigger rows, and is 5" X 11", but you can see it did a bit of heating on it's own:

Next day, preheated my MES 30 to 110˚, put the two racks of belly pieces on the top two positions for about 45 minutes to dry them off a little more. Then I pulled the plug on my MES 30, because I wanted to try to do somewhat close to a "cold-smoke". I had a Prototype A-MAZE-N-Smoker to test, so I loaded it up with Hickory dust, lit it, and stuck it in to the left of the chip drawer. This new AMNS should put out as much smoke lighting one end as my 6 X 6 puts out lighting both ends. We expected it to run about 9 hours or more. It ran nearly 3 hours on the first of three rows, but the second row burned much faster, and jumped through the wall into the third wall. I put that out & continued. End result was 6 1/2 hours of medium heavy smoke---Very very good, but not perfect. I notified Todd, with my report & a few suggestions, and he is taking it from there. He will fix this---He is the man behind that little miracle!

Back to the Bacon:
After 4 hours of smoking, the temperature of the box got up to 129˚ and the meat up to 97˚, so I put a half gallon jug of ice in my water pan to cool it down (trying to cold-smoke). This brought the box temp down to 122˚,  but then it started creeping up again. When it hit 124˚, I put another half gallon of ice in the water pan. That brought the temp of the box down to 108˚. At the end of 6 1/2 hours of smoke, the AMNS Prototype burned out. I left the Bacon in for another 1/2 hour & pulled it. When I pulled it, the box was at 100˚, and the Bacon was at 100˚.

This was on July 17, so the ambient temp was probably around 80˚.

On your bacon smoke, is there any chance that some fat drippings got onto the sawdust?

I had my AMNS tented to prevent cheese oil from dripping onto the dust -- but I did have a problem with that once before.  The cheese oil might put it out, or might ignite and make it burn super hot.
Cheesey Oil will put it out.

Either the smoker started up, or more than (1) row of the AMNS started on fire.  (1) row burning raises the temp approx. 12°, so if a larger mass of sawdust was burning, it may have spiked the temp in your smoker.  The MES is so well insulated, that it will hold heat for a while.  Close the top vent, and the heat can't escape. 

I think I posted before, that in 20° outside temps, I preheated my MES to 100° and after 2 hours, it was still around 70°, with a 6x8 burning.

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