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Is American cheese real or fake?

April 5, 2022
Suhayma Suha

Growing up, I have always believed that American Cheese was real cheese. It was the closest I ever had (besides the ones on pizza which occasionally tasted like rubber). Bengali cuisine never involved cheese, so American cheese was my definition of cheese. It was creamy, gooey and perfect for me…until recently.

I hear people saying American cheese is not real cheese. So then, what is American Cheese? Some say that it’s real cheese. Some say it's fake, processed and just plastic. But then again all cheeses are processed. All cheeses are pressed milk curds that undergo processes like heating, curdling, pressing, inoculating with bacteria, and aging (López-Alt).

American cheese starts off as pure cheese and sometimes blended with another cheese. It can also be melted with additional whey and milk proteins. Other ingredients that are added include acidifying agents, water, salt, artificial coloring, emulsifying salts or agents to prevent separation, and spices or artificial flavors. 

Because of these added ingredients, the FDA calls it “pasteurized processed American cheese food.” In order for a food product to be considered as true “cheese,” it has to be more than half cheese. Because each American single contains less than 51% curds, it doesn't meet FDA's standard (Kumer). But even then, it does redeem itself. 

Despite it being fake, it melts quickly making it an easy cheese to depend on. Foodie influencers are using American cheese in their ramen to make it more creamy and lighter. Its light flavor allows the flavors of the meat to shine. The best part is that the added ingredients prevent the cheese from becoming greasy when melted, creating that perfect cheese pull. 

Of course there are times where I crave fancy authentic cheese. But there are also foods that taste much better with American cheese. Yes, American cheese is not real cheese, but it can be considered as one. 

Sources:

Kumer, Emma B. “What Are Kraft Singles and Velveeta Really Made Of?” Taste of Home, 1 Mar. 2022, www.tasteofhome.com/article/what-is-american-cheese-is-american-real-cheese/#:~:text=The%20FDA%20calls%20it%20%E2%80%9Cpasteurized. Accessed 2 Apr. 2022.

López-Alt, J. Kenji. “What Is American Cheese, Anyway?” Serious Eats, 7 Sept. 2018, www.seriouseats.com/whats-really-in-american-cheese.