It’s got cheese in the name and it’s as American as Apple Pie. So American Cheese is clearly cheese…right?
The Short Answer
No, most American Cheese cannot legally be called cheese.
The Long Answer
This one hurt, folks. Not gonna lie.
Regular readers know that cheese is pretty much my favorite thing in this world, and the kind of cheese I eat the most has always been American cheese.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that American cheese is not cheese at all! I mean, it’s partially cheese, but not enough to legally bear the name.
The American cheese you can buy at the deli counter might make the cut, but those individually wrapped single slices you get in the dairy section?
American cheese is a “cheese food,” which is a nice way of saying heavily processed cheese. That’s why most of the packaged singles you pick up in the market have names like “Velveeta Slices” or “Kraft Singles.” Nowhere in that name does the word cheese appear.
Kraft Singles contain a number of milk-based ingredients like milk protein concentrate, whey, milkfat, whey protein concentrate, and cheese cultures. But it’s stuffed with a lot of other stuff like paprika extract, salt, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, annatto, enzymes, and calcium phosphate to name a few. Less than 51% of this product is actual cheese. That’s where the legal issue comes into play.
For something to be cheese, it has to be made up of at least more than half actual cheese. A lot of these products don’t measure up. It’s some American dairy Frankenstein monster.
Originally, American cheese was a blend of cheddar and Colby, combined to make a flavorful melty wonderful product. Once they started to add additional ingredients, things got dicey.
So, in short, American cheese is many things. It is easily melted, individually sliced and packaged, and it’s delicious. But one thing it is usually not is cheese.
What’s your favorite American Cheese recipe? Do you have a go-to grilled cheese that you love to make? What kind of bread do you use? Tell us more below!