10 Things to Know About Processed Cheese [Cheese Miniseries Part 2/3]

Processed Cheese Slices

This is the second of three posts in our Cheese Miniseries. In part 1, we covered  12 basic cheese facts. In part 3, we’ll look inside the label of Kraft Singles.

In today’s segment, you’ll learn why not all cheese is created equal, and why many items at the supermarket are called “cheese product” and not simply “cheese”…

1. Processed cheese is also known as “process cheese”, “prepared cheese”, and “cheese food”.

2. Yes, it’s made with regular cheese, but with the addition of one or more of the following: whey, emulsifiers, milk, salts, preservatives, and food coloring.

3. The most popular processed cheese in the US is “American Cheese” although there is no one definition for that term. In most people’s minds, the term has come to mean a smooth, mild flavored cheese.

4. Processed cheese was invented over 100 years ago in Switzerland, but it took an American, James L. Kraft, to manufacture the first commercially available sliced processed cheese, just after World War 2.

5. Kraft Singles, a product introduced in 1947, was an instant hit and went on to become an American legend.

6. One of the biggest consumer benefits of processed cheese is “the melt”.  The use of emulsifiers in processed cheese lets it melt smoothly and uniformly when heated.

7. An important factor for food manufactures is the extended shelf life of processed cheese, due to the additives used.

8. Packaging each slice separately is a major convenience factor of processed cheese. If you’d like to skip chewing altogether,  processed cheese can be found in spray cans.

9. The top uses for processed cheese are cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

10. Legally, processed cheese cannot be sold as “cheese”. It needs to be called a “cheese food”. In fact, the FDA highly regulates how products can be labeled based on their cheese ingredient, moisture content, and milkfat:

Pasteurized process cheese - contains 100% cheese
Pasteurized process cheese food - contains at least 51% cheese.
Pasteurized process cheese product - contains less than 51% cheese.

In the third and last part of this miniseries, we’ll take a closer look at one such cheese product – Kraft Singles.

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  • Judysimon1

    I really only need to know one thing about processed cheese…it is yucky!

  • http://sehacecamino.com Nancy Cavillones

    When I buy sliced american cheese from the deli, it doesn’t have that slimy, gooey texture that individually wrapped singles have. What is the difference between those cheeses (say, Boars Head or Land o Lakes versus Kraft Singles)?

    • Anonymous

       The sliced American from the deli is formed into a loaf:  singles are literally shaped inside the wrapper, extruded and wrapped in a semiliquid state and chilled until (somewhat) firm.

      • http://sehacecamino.com Nancy Cavillones

        That’s gross. Thanks for the clarification. 

        • Katiemitcho

          Boars head has no artificial color or preservatives it is one of the highest quaility meat and cheese venders in America

          • CPinSL

            For what it’s worth, ALL cheese is naturally white. Milk is not yellow or orange, so it has to be colored with something. I realize you’re talking about “artificial” vs. “natural” colors, but even foods that are “naturally colored” may contain colors that aren’t exactly food (such as titanium dioxide to whiten foods).


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  • Cyclops

    10. Legally, processed cheese cannot be sold as “cheese”.

    Not true, as stated fairly quickly after that in the story itself

    Pasteurized process cheese – contains 100% cheese

    And it can be called cheese because it is cheese. This is the real american cheese. It’s different than cheddar or colby but it melts well and is good for burgers. This is generally sold as deli deluxe or some sort of american deluxe. The key is that the packaging must say pasteurized process cheese. PERIOD. Cheese must be the last word. Cheese food, cheese product, cheese spread, “made with real cheese” are all not cheese. I don’t know what they are but they aren’t cheese.

    And, by the way, real american cheese is quite good.

    • Shane

      So when I take one single put it under a flame why doesn’t it melt. It just burns.

      • tjinjerbear

        because applying flame and applying heat are two completely different physio/chemical processes….when burning a single, the material is incinerated/charred/etc faster than it can melt….hold the flame long enough and the “cheese” stuff in the vicinity of the flame heat will indeed melt and ooze from the colder part of the slice.

        • tjinjerbear

          but i completely AGREE with all of the sentiments against the partial cheese products…..ekkkk!

        • Farah

          I totally agree. People don’t hve common sense. These cheese melt in ur soups n sauces would plastic do the same?

          • tjinjerbear

            yes….although not the same way as cheese. Compared to plastic, cheese has few components…it all kinda melts at the same temperature. Plastics have many components and as heat increases, the structure of plastic starts to break down (depending on the polymer)…. If the soup is hot enough, the plastic will melt. :0)

    • J

      No Cyclops, pasteurized processed cheese contains only 51% cheese, not 100%

  • Pee

    So right

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  • ja

    “If you’d like to skip chewing altogether, processed cheese can be found in spray cans.”

    That’s the funniest line I’ve read all week. I don’t know if it was meant to be funny, but thanks for the laugh.

  • http://obbop.wordpress.com/ obbop

    Groovy. Informative article.

  • Gail Sloan

    All cheese is white until it is colored. remember it is made with white milk.

  • Gail Sloan

    I sold cheese, wholesale from Wisc. dairies. Most branded cheeses do not have there own dairies. The difference between cheese, cheese food and cheese milk is the amount of water they contain. Cheese has to be aged at room temp. and if not long enough before cooling the cheese taste bad. In the industry it is called green before ageing and that has nothing to do with color. And to make you feel good most Mexican Rest. do not use real cheese because it does not melt.

  • johnny

    somebody please tell me why cheese slices and brandname chedder does not melt.if I put it on nachos or in macaroni , it goes to a black oily substance then burns

  • MHDRem

    I stopped purchasing all these cheese products; sliced, cream, spread & canned cheese… They are products that looks like cheese, not healthy at all