Baking a cheesecake in your smoker with Jill of All Trades

This week, Jill Washburn, our Jill of All Trades, puts a twist on using a barbeque smoker by baking a cheesecake in it. Yep! You read that right!  

She baked a cheesecake in a smoker, and you can, too.  

Actually, Jill says, you could bake all kinds of desserts in a smoker. Anything that you think would benefit from the flavor of a little smokiness would work. Pecan desserts would be great. Cherry or apple desserts would work. Use your imagination, says Jill.

Here's how Jill did it. Her friend, Tony, preheated the smoker to 300 degrees. He used charcoal briquettes and chunks of dried maple wood. Once the smoker was up to temp, Jill placed the cheesecake inside. Then, they waited.  

It takes 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours for the cheesecake to bake. During that time, you'll have to monitor the temperature of the smoker to make sure that it stays in the temp range that you want.  

The cheesecake is done when you can tap the side of the pan and see it jiggle a little, but not see ripples (as if it's still liquid). Once you pull it from the smoker, you have to let it cool completely. It needs time to cool and let the flavors mellow. If you try to eat it right away, it won't taste as good.

Once it's cool, you can serve it with your favorite topping. Jill chose a burnt sugar cream sauce, which is basically a caramel sauce. Whipped cream would be a great addition, too. The recipes that Jill used are from The Barbecue Bible. You'll find them below.

***NOTE*** Jill says that next time, she would smoke it at a higher temp, so that it bakes faster and is slightly less smoky in flavor.

PROJECT RATING: Medium (It's a time commitment to babysit the smoker.)

To watch Jill show you how she did it, just click on the video player above.


For the crust:
12 oz. graham crackers, finely crushed
3 T. light brown sugar
6 T. melted butter (or more, if needed for a cohesive crust)

For the filling:
4 8-0z. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. light brown sugar, packed
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. butter, melted
5 large eggs

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (or set up a grill for indirect grilling and preheat to the same). Lightly oil the springform pan. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil.

Step 2: Make the crust: Break the cookies into pieces and grind to a fine powder with the 2 tablespoons light brown sugar in the food processor. Add the melted butter and pulse the processor to obtain a crumbly dough. Press it into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the crust until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Step 3: Make the filling. Wipe out the processor bowl or use a stand mixer. Add the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and process/beat until smooth. Work in the eggs one by one, beating/processing until smooth after each addition. Pour the batter into the springform pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to knock out any air bubbles.

Step 4: Meanwhile, light your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions and preheat to 300 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Step 5: Smoke the cheesecake until the top is bronzed with smoke and the filling is set, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or more. To test for doneness: gently poke the side of the pan-the filling will jiggle, not ripple. Alternatively, insert a slender metal skewer in the center: it should come out clean. Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving. (The cheesecake can be made up to 8 hours ahead.) Let the cheesecake warm slightly at room temperature before serving.

Step 6: Run a slender knife around the inside of the springform pan. Loosen and remove the ring. If serving the Burnt Sugar Cream Sauce, pour it over the cheesecake (or serve on the side). Cut into slices and dig in.


1 ½  C. sugar
½  C. water
1 C. heavy cream
1 t. vanilla extract

Step 1: Place the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan, but do not stir. Cover the pan and place over high heat for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking the sugar until dark brown and very fragrant. Swirl the pan so the sugar browns evenly, but don't stir. Take care not to get any molten sugar on your hands.

Step 2: Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream. The mixture will bubble up like Mount Vesuvius-it's supposed to. Return the pan to the heat and whisk until the cream is completely dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then pour it over the cheesecake or serve on the side.