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Jun 20, 2012 03:36 PM

Help a Canadian out..what on Earth is "American cheese"?

I see this all the time and have no idea what it is. Should I sub cheddar?

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  1. Flat very mild processed cheese. It might be known as Kraft Singles or something simimlar.
    Cheddar will have more flavor. Subs will depend on the recipe.

    1. Just be grateful you've never had a close enough encounter to find out!

      33 Replies
      1. re: mcf

        dianne0712 - In describing American Cheese, the key word is "processed". That means it's milk that's been manipulated to produce a kind of soft rather unpleasant (IMO) cheese that Canadians apparently haven't been tortured with. Oh how lucky you are.

        1. re: mcf

          Oh! Processed cheese! We have Kraft singles, etc. Here, we just don't call it American cheese. Thank you. Now I know to avoid those recipes, LOL!

          1. re: dianne0712

            Oh, for heaven's sake, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. If you find a recipe that specifies American Cheese just substitute using a jack, cheddar or colby

            1. re: todao

              Not necessarily - American cheese excels on burgers and other cases where even meltability is key

              1. re: jgg13

                That's strictly a subjective matter of taste. For me, it ruins a burger compared to real cheddar or swiss, for examples.

                1. re: mcf

                  That may (or may not) be true in a strictly epicurean sense but a Big Mac isn't a Big Mac without those Kraft singles. :-) It becomes a mutated frou-frou burger with chi-chi cheese. :-D :-P A Filet-O-Fish isnt't one without that pad of melted/resolidified American cheese to hold it together with this innocuous tasting yellow stuff. :-D

                  There is a place and time for American Cheese aka Kraft singles and equivalent products. Try them sometime.

                  1. re: huiray

                    Been there, done that, not going to do it again. :-) I worked in a McD during college... never ate a single one of their burgers, not in my 57 years on earth so far. I only ate Filet o Fish if I made it myself. We also made steamed grilled cheese from those slices in the F o F bun steamer. With pickles.

                    1. re: huiray

                      Yeah, and whatever happened to Velveeta? Used to love it as a kid. I suspect it's probably still around. Same thing as "American" cheese. Only more so. '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        You "suspect"? Gee, I guess you don't get into grocery stores much. :-)
                        I use Velveeta to this day, for certain recipes. I always have some in my fridge.

                        1. re: FitMom4Life

                          +1 on the velveeta. I have the new queso blanco in my fridge to try this week. Yum.

                      2. re: huiray

                        Thanks for bringing back the memory :o. As MacDonald's crept into France one TV news show decided to do a tasting analysis and brought in a professional (Cordon Blue I think) chef to taste test the Big Mac. He took his first bite out of it, started chewing.... turned GREEN.... and spit it out. After trying to wash out the taste with water.... he then gave a technical analysis of why it did not work :o I am not a big fan of the Big Mac myself, but have stopped to get a Sausage McMuffin.... which I find to be a guilty pleasure of mine. If I am going to eat a hamburger, I prefer my own..... which are made with mortared thai chilies (around 3 per patty) mixed into the meat.

                      3. re: mcf

                        Depends on the burger, IMO. For flat patty style burgers I think you really need the processed cheese. Its' the only thing that will nicely melt into all of those nooks and crannies. On a larger, pub style burger I'm right there with you.

                        And as huiray mentions, other items kind of require the textural nature of the processed cheese. Granted none of them tend to be haute cuisine. I'm thinking of the fried pork belly sub I had yesterday - the mayo and melted american cheese were key for my enjoyment :)

                        1. re: jgg13

                          I've found that cheddar and swiss, especially the latter, melt nicely and stay in place no prob. I use them at home, on home ground and formed patties, and with store bought.

                          We'll just have to disagree about any meal "requiring" that particular product and its texture, that's strictly a subjective taste matter, tweechisown. :-)

                          1. re: mcf

                            Me too on the cheddar and Swiss and I'll add Monterey Jack to the equation. All very melty and better-tasting than American

                            1. re: sandylc

                              And colby, too! Also like the Finlandia colby/monterey jack blended slices.

                            2. re: mcf

                              You may want to consider carefully if you wish to patronize any of these chefs who contributed to this article in the NYT today. DITTO all the folks here and elsewhere who say American cheese will never cross their lips etc etc. Or Hellman's mayo. Or commercial ketchup. :-)


                              1. re: huiray

                                It's a good article, and illustrates that the food pretensions seen so widely these days need to be popped occasionally.

                                A few years ago, in an episode of "Best Thing I Ever Ate," John Besh nominated the crabmeat au gratin at the Bon Ton in New Orleans. He sat there eating some and raving about it, and speculated what combination of cheeses they were using (several, he thought). They gave him the recipe, and it turned out to his "shock" that there is only one cheese used, and that is American.

                                Of course, I'm sure the cheese they are using is the good quality stuff that comes off a block, like that pictured in WD's walk-in box in the NYT article, not the cheap wrapped in cellophane version in the store, which many of the posters here apparently confuse with the better stuff.

                                1. re: huiray

                                  Why would I avoid those chefs? I'd just avoid any dishes with ingredients I dislike same as anywhere. I've never seen anyone say they'd never use commercial mayo or ketchup here, have you?

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Yes. Not specifically on this thread, but all over CH.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      And how would you go about "avoiding" dishes with "ingredients you dislike?" If John Besh can't do it (see my post just above), how can you do it?

                                      1. re: johnb

                                        It's actually pretty easy. Menu says things like mashed potatoes, beets, or beef liver - I don't order that dish (the big things). The other ingredients (commercial mayo vs non-commercial) you can only judge as an the end result... and you may or may never know the difference. Personally, I am not a big mayo fan (with the exception of tuna/salmon salad sandwich) - but generally only use butter for the "spread". Ketchup - also not a big fan (not sure if non-commercial would grab my fancy), but American Mustard.... love the stuff :p

                                        1. re: cacruden

                                          It may be "easy" if it's stated on the menu, or the ingredient is not fully integrated into the preparation and can, for example, be seen. Otherwise, not so easy my friend. And those who say they can, I'll just say I've got my doubts. Too many blind tastings have shown that folks think they can distinguish much much more than they actually can.

                                          1. re: johnb

                                            Sometimes you have to ask questions of the server and sometimes you get burned and have to peel something off your food. Sometimes you end up not liking it and sometimes you just deal. There's nothing pretentious about the preferences for high quality ingredients, it's a matter of priorities when it comes to origins and how they're produced or plain old personal taste. I love Hellmans, won't go near Miracle Whip. They sit next to one another on the same supermarket shelf. I like fine mustards, whole grain mustards and French's yellow. But cheeses are a whole 'nuther thang... no fakers.

                                      2. re: mcf

                                        I don't use ketchup, commercial or not.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          My FIL thought it was an abomination... and he ate EVERYTHING.

                                      3. re: huiray

                                        Awesome article! Thanks for posting it! I have no reason to avoid the chefs mentioned, in fact I am happy to know that they are honest about the foods they eat and use in their recipes. I have many such favorites, and I'm a pretty healthy gal. No pretentious nonsense for me. I eat healthy, but that does not mean I cannot include things like cheese and peanut butter - love the article!

                                        1. re: FitMom4Life

                                          ??But cheese and peanut butter are not unhealthy????

                                          1. re: FitMom4Life

                                            This topic has nothing at all to do with avoiding cheese and peanut butter, which are health foods, AFAIC.

                                2. re: dianne0712

                                  Um, Kraft singles/equivalent stuff is necessary for various kinds of burgers to "taste and eat right". Ditto MacDonald's Filet-O-Fish. :-)

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    I haven't had that on a burger in decades. My mother thought it was toxic. Nor have I ever eaten a Filet-O-Fish, though I've certainly - happily - eaten breaded fish cakes and fingers. I'm sure I've eaten plenty of other things that are just as déclassé. "Acceptable" textures and flavours in different places and milieux are funny things.

                                    I can see why that French chef would find a Big Mac literally disgusting. Not out of snobbery - I'm sure there are very downmarket foods he has eaten and enjoyed, but I think the particular mix could be very counter to the French culinary canon, high or low. The same would apply to a traditional American chef or many others.

                                    Some years ago, Gourmet (if I recall) did such an experience with a French and a Chinese kitchen brigade.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Oh good grief. I probably eat one slice of American cheese every day of my life. It's good stuff, and is perfect for many dishes.

                                    1. re: wyogal

                                      No, we have it here in abundance (my husband insists on having it for grilled cheese), it's just that we call it processed cheese or cheese slices, not American cheese. Different name, same product. It's often that way, for instance I have yet to see a grocery store offer flank steak or skirt steak here.

                                      1. re: dianne0712

                                        I was merely pointing out that one could make it, not saying YOU should make it. I thought it was interesting, and it shows just exactly what it is, even interesting for those that already know what it is.

                                        1. re: dianne0712

                                          If it has the required amount of dairy, they're allowed to call it American cheese, and I know you can get this sliced at a deli counter. It's drier and more cheese like than the shiny, icky sticky stuff in the single's wrapper.

                                          1. re: dianne0712

                                            Here in Québec, you'd find a "bavette" which is roughly equivalent to those.

                                          2. re: wyogal

                                            It's cheese (any - though Cheddar is common) melted with milk or whey and some emulsifier (from your Molecular Gastronomy kit). Done right it can still be tasty, but softer and have better melting qualities. Many cheeses, when melted, separate. Processed cheese does not.

                                            Note that many chefs still prefer processed cheese (e.g. Kraft singles) for cheese burgers and grilled cheese - because of these melting qualities.

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Yes, I know. We will be using a white American cheese sliced at the deli (thick) for our grilled burgers tonight.

                                            2. re: wyogal

                                              is a chow video making a processed cheese. He uses a custom mix of cheese, wine, sodium citrate (an emulsifying salt), carrageenan, salt.


                                              I've not been a fan of 'processed cheese', but recipes like this move the concept out of the industrial non-food category into the world of home cooking.

                                            3. The best one is "Land O' Lakes" American cheese, far superior to Kraft

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: redfish62

                                                No Land'o'lakes here, but thanks for the tip. I live near the border but I don't buy milk products in the States because of the hormones you use which are not in Canadian milk.

                                                1. re: dianne0712

                                                  Horizon organic makes cheese slices, they are pretty decent and don't have rGBH.

                                                  1. re: redfish62

                                                    I just found Bordens sharp single slices. Pretty darn good. Give it a try and i will try land o lakes.

                                                  2. Uh, guys. Only food SNOBS would say that "American Cheese" has no redeeming features. Shame on you.

                                                    Nothing spells comfort food for me than a grilled cheese sandwich, particularly when made with good old Land O Lakes yellow American. It's also a major ingredient from my old Girl Scout camping days in a one-pot dish called "Glop". Awful name, but delicious & comforting in its own right.

                                                    American Cheese is not disgusting or sub-human - it's simply a processed food product; like Velveeta (which also has a LOT of great recipe uses to commend it).

                                                    No one says you need to consume or even enjoy "American Cheese" if you don't want to. But don't diss it because you personally don't like it.

                                                    29 Replies
                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                      Absolutely right. Nothing else will do in Grilled Cheese, and nothing but Velveeta will do for Mac & Cheese.

                                                      I use really expensive snobby foodie designer cheeses all the time for eating straight up, but as an ingredient, these are unparalleled.

                                                      1. re: acgold7

                                                        I can't stand Velveeta in mac and cheese or in a sandwich. I love grilled cheese with havarti, muenster, or Swiss and sliced tomato, though. On low carb bread, of course. :-) I know they call them "processed cheese foods" but they're neither cheese nor food, IMO. There's just no accounting for tastes, I guess.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          Same. I cannot tolerate Velveeta in anything and I have tried. It is one of those few things that I can honestly say I loathe. But, it is a good thing we all do not like the same things!

                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                            I think folks who grew up with those products as their comfort foods might be more likely to enjoy them now, too. To me, they just taste like salty, slimy greasy stuff... though I think I loved American cheese in grits when I was very young and visited my older sister and she introduced me to cheesy grits with American cheese... I'd never had either, til then.

                                                            I didn't intend to insult folks who like them, just offered my unvarnished reaction.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              Oh, for sure. I did not grow up with Velveeta nor have I had American cheese.

                                                              My reaction is the same and I do not intend to insult, either. Just my opinion, of course. There is no way I would begrudge others for their tastes. :-)

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              It's more a feat of engineering than culinary or nutritious product. IMO.

                                                            2. re: mcf

                                                              Can't stand Velveeta. As a kid, the rest of the family loved it, but I wouldn't touch it.

                                                            3. re: acgold7

                                                              My Philadelphia friends insist that American Cheese---and I don;t mean Velveeta---is essential to a cheesesteak. Just offering a view...They'd die before putting brie or boursin on one.

                                                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                American is great, but what really makes them authentic is Cheez Whiz.

                                                                "Whiz Wit" is the definitive order.

                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                  Provolone usually wins opinion polls and I've usually had it since I was a kid (#2 is American). Wiz is acceptable, but calling it the definitive order is something Philadelphians sell to tourists.

                                                                  1. re: pgm123

                                                                    Sorry, definitive was the wrong word, and so was "authentic." I should have said most popular. According to this article:


                                                                    Whiz (which didn't even exist at the time the original sandwich -- which contained no cheese at all, according to the article -- was invented) outsells the #2 cheese, American, by up to ten to one at Pat's, and probably is similar at Geno's, but I know local aficionados sneer at both places. But Tony Luke says it's his favorite too. Provolone comes in third if I'm reading the article correctly. Each has its fans. The only places Whiz isn't at least tied for #1 is where it isn't offered. Geno's notes this is true of both locals and tourists. The poll conducted with the article does not reflect these findings because polls of this type are not scientific and are not accurate.

                                                                    But I know this is one of those things, like BBQ, that brings people to blows over their personal preferences, so I'll stay out of it. Being a mere tourist, I get Whiz when I'm in town or order the closest facsimiles I can get here at home, but use American when I make them myself.

                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                      The reason Whiz became the standard, so I'm told, is that during the 50s a significant portion of the customers were eating kosher, which forbids meat and dairy sharing the same grill. When the option of cheese was added, processed cheese could be kept warm on the side and ladled on afterward for those who wanted it without touching the flat top. I think this was before the name Cheese Whiz was coined, and certainly before anyone ever put it in an aerosol, but canned processed cheese was available- and at the time it probably tasted just like the more solid processed cheese. I think folks who remember getting American cheese in the early days likely were getting the liquid rather than the slices and simply didn't draw any distinction between the two.

                                                                      Myself, I like mozzarella for its mildness and stringy melt; for me it lets the steak flavor shine through. Provolone has more flavor though, there's no doubt, and sometimes I want that on a cheesesteak. Or even a toasted provolone hero. Mmmm. Yet when I'm really craving the comforting flavors from my youth I want my cheesesteak with American or the Wiz. With grilled onion and mayo please. That's just my own taste speaking.

                                                                      As for what's definitive, well, I'm staying out of it too. I've heard people argue that it isn't "authentic" unless it has a little tomato sauce on it, something I personally can't abide on a cheesesteak. But to each their own.

                                                                    2. re: pgm123

                                                                      Back in the 1960's, Old Guard Philadelphians..and their colleagues in Delaware who might have been even MORE Philly than the Main Line...were horrified by Whiz. Provelone is good but it is not what those 100% Americans in Drexel Hill (who are Greek) put on their superlative cheeseteaks. Pat's and Geno's leave me cold. Gimme something from Ardmore or, even, out in Della-wure.

                                                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                        Jim's is where it's at. Don't bother with Pat's or Geno's.

                                                                        However, my husband and I have found that even in Philly, no one holds a candle to Philadelphia Steak and Hoagie out of Camp Hill, PA.

                                                                  2. re: hazelhurst

                                                                    I thought Cheez Wiz was popular on those? (Just writing that makes me throw up a little into my mouth)

                                                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                      Errr, boursin is practically "processed cheese" and La Vache qui rit is utterly so. Neither of those cheeses would work in that application, but why not a mild, semi-soft cheese such as Havarti, or the very American Monterey Jack?

                                                                  3. re: Bacardi1

                                                                    Oh, I'm not above it is certain situations! Trust me. The aforementioned cheeseburgers is one. When I was in public school we used to make this thing called poppy seed buns which were hamburger buns spread with a mixture of Velveeta, butter, poppyseeds and something else I can't remember. I still crave those sometimes. What I was referring to was recipes that seem otherwise quite upscale, with expensive ingredients, and then suddenly American cheese.

                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                      I am going to research glop recipes, but if i cannot find will you tell me what it is an how it is made. If it is kid palate friendly it is right up my alley. Thanks

                                                                      1. re: suzigirl

                                                                        Definitely kid-friendly, but I honestly can't give you a specific recipe. That was over 40 years ago over a Girl Scout campfire - lol!!

                                                                        I can tell you that it involved ground beef, canned tomatoes, rice, & American Cheese. And it was delicious - especially after a hard Girl-Scout camp day & made by ourselves over a campfire!

                                                                        Many years later when I was first starting out on my own, I used to make a "Tuna Glop" version of this sometimes during "leaner" times. I'd cook up some rice (regular or instant), & gently fold in a can of drained tuna & a can of undrained stewed tomatoes. Put all in a baking dish & topped it completely with slices of American Cheese. Stuck in the oven until the cheese melted & everything was heated through, & then gently stirred the cheese in. With a little salad on the side, definitely comfort food back in those days.

                                                                        1. re: suzigirl

                                                                          There was another version of glop, this one from the 60s, that as I remember involved rice, peas and Spam. Pretty darn good after a long day in the woods or on the lakes. Followed by smores, of course. Then a few years later there was the advent of gorp, for energy on the trail. (And eventually after a few more years, we became privy to the more adult wintertime pleasures of glug.)

                                                                          1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                                            No Spam in ours - definitely ground beef. But I'm sure the Spam version was equally delicious for hungry Scouts. : )

                                                                            (Oh - & I remember "glug" as well. My uncle used to make it, using the traditional recipe using 100% grain alcohol that he had to go out of state to buy. Talk about potent!!!! You could fall asleep just breathing in the fumes.)

                                                                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                                              Oh man, I had a very tragic experience with gorp a couple of years ago. We took a huge bag of custom/homemade gorp on a kayak trip, but the water-tight bag wasn't closed properly, and the gorp got wet :( After several hours of paddling, it was quite the let down to find soggy gorp.

                                                                              1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                                                Could your "glug" be related to "glogg"?

                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                  Yah, same stuff. What the Germans call Glühwein, "glow wine." Like mulled cider but made from red wine; sometimes it had liquor added for extra kick.

                                                                            2. re: Bacardi1

                                                                              If you want to call me a snob, go right ahead. But I can't stand processed cheese grilled cheese sandwiches. Processed cheese makes my mouth feel slimy. I do not like the flavor. When I was a kid and in situations where it was all I could get, I would load it up with mustard. But that was a poor substitute for a grilled cheese made with cheddar, which is how mom made it for me.

                                                                              When I became a teen, I found that a mix of sharp cheddar and motz was perfect and FUN because the sharp cheddar was aged and so creamy, but the motz was young and stretchy. I still liked mustard on it, but just a bit. And what made it total heaven was to use seeded rye bread.

                                                                              At diners where they didn't have REAL cheese, and legally that stuff cannot be called cheese, I liked mustard and slices of tomato to help it along.

                                                                              1. re: Pipenta

                                                                                Why does it matter whether something can be called cheese or not? Is there something sacred about being cheese? :)

                                                                                Melting a slice of cheese between two pieces of bread turns it into something that is no longer cheese. Melting cheese in a cream sauce also dilutes that cheese, turning it into something can no longer be called cheese. Cooks can transform cheese, why can't Kraft?

                                                                              2. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                I love a grilled cheese sandwich, but have never made it with sliced cheese. I have always used cheddar (sharp or mild - it all becomes mild when melted). Mmmmm grilled cheese sandwich with a dill pickle on the side.

                                                                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                  I think it tastes like orange school paste, and i was a girl scout ( "blushing bunny" with cheddar, please) who occasionally had " gov'ment" cheese in the fridge growing up.