Say (American) Cheese!
July 25, 2016 3:23 PM   Subscribe

"Don't get me wrong. Not every burger or grilled cheese I eat is made with American cheese, and there are times when I'm happy with a slab of sharp cheddar, a slice of Comté, or a crumble of Roquefort on top. But if I had to pick one cheese to stock in my burger joint, you're damn right it's gonna be American." -- J. Kenji López-Alt, What Is American Cheese, Anyway?
posted by Room 641-A (161 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here's the crux of his argument, " No other cheese in the world can touch its meltability or goo factor, and that's really what it's there for: texture. If I've taken the time to select and grind some great beef, I want that beef flavor to shine, not get covered up by a powerful cheese that would fare better on a cheese plate."

And he's right.

I love blue cheese. Blue cheese on a burger never works.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:33 PM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


Or as I like to call it: Burger Spackle.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Stop calling it cheese. The proper name is Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.
posted by Talez at 3:36 PM on July 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm not even going to try to convince you that if you don't like American cheese, you probably just haven't had a great cheeseburger or grilled cheese

That's a good damn thing, because I most certainly ha--

(though you probably haven't).

*splutter* *fume*

No other cheese in the world can touch its meltability or goo factor, and that's really what it's there for: texture.

Euurgh, one of the things people I've talked to like least about American cheese is the texture (they certainly can't complain about the flavor, since it doesn't have any). Once again I find myself viscerally disagreeing with some "expert" advice Mr. Lopez-Alt has proclaimed.

(I know, cue the Metafilter pile-on, but:) I do not get people's adoration for this guy.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:38 PM on July 25, 2016 [19 favorites]


One time, I was out at breakfast with my 3yo daughter, and I ordered something that turned out to have American cheese in it, rather than the cheddar that had been advertised.

When I bit into it, my disgust at the unexpected Americanity was so visceral and obvious that my daughter did something she'd never done before and has never done since: she really believed me about whether a food is good to eat or not. She hasn't been able to stand the stuff since.
posted by gurple at 3:42 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


> Blue cheese on a burger never works.

Sure it does, for those of us who like it on burgers. Ditto for cheddar and gruyere.

Me, I think American cheese is too plasticky in its melted state, and that's not a texture I like. But for a lot of people it clearly works. So the world turns.
posted by rtha at 3:42 PM on July 25, 2016 [27 favorites]


Toast two slices of bread (Wonder Bread classic white). Add one or two slices of American cheese and a few dill pickle slices. Nuke for 22 seconds. Enjoy a non-greasy grilled cheese, preferably with oven-roasted fries.
You're welcome.
posted by TrishaU at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Stop calling it cheese. The proper name is Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.

Looks like someone didn't RTFA.

Anyway, one of the things that's fun to do with sodium citrate is making your own melty cheese out of whatever base cheese(s) you like.
posted by slkinsey at 3:45 PM on July 25, 2016 [27 favorites]


I read elsewhere that, in food science, "to American" is sometimes used as a verb for a process of increasing the viscosity of a solid foodstuff. Is this actually so?
posted by acb at 3:47 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Life is really too short to eat American cheese, sorry.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:49 PM on July 25, 2016 [18 favorites]


I like how Cheez Whiz isn't at the bottom of the chart.
There are worse cheezes.

I like a blend of blue and cheddar, but I'm OK with American on a burger.
posted by MtDewd at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2016


Thanks...when I lived in the US and American Cheese was an option for something on the menu I was always asking "What's american cheese?" and nobody ever had an answer.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:53 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I personally have little fondness for American cheese, and will almost always choose something else. But one area where I do agree with the article is that American cheese is de rigueur for a cheeseburger. Other cheeses either have poor melting characteristics, or they have a flavor that overwhelms the beef. I like blue cheese as much as the next guy, for example, but to my palate it completely dominates a burger. And I don't particularly want to eat something that tastes like "blue cheese with a hint of burger flavor." Cheddar is the same way to me.
posted by slkinsey at 3:53 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Blue cheese on a burger never works."

Blue cheese on a burger has never not worked.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2016 [36 favorites]


I have complicated feelings about this. On the one hand, I agree that American cheese wins out on texture in the case of a burger, though cheap provolone mostly melts the same way and, for being just as bland but less sweet, is the better alternative in my book. Cheddar gets weirdly sweaty and blue cheese is a little overwhelming in the context. On the other hand, I don't understand the foodie fuss about letting the taste of the burger itself shine through, since beer is the most boring possible meat. I've learned to avoid the burger places that chefs and chef-adjacents tend to recommend, since they're always super-minimalist offerings with giant patties, a slice of cheese, and nothing else, and I do. not. get it.
posted by invitapriore at 4:04 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


beer is the most boring possible meat.

It's difficult to get a good sear on beer, though you can get pretty close with Guinness.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2016 [29 favorites]


I've had American Cheese I've tried to scrape off my burger and feed to the dogs and I've had American Cheese that was as good as any Farm House Cheddar. That said thin sliced Edam always made me happy when I ate beef.
posted by ridgerunner at 4:11 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The rule of thumb is if it comes in individually wrapped slices it is glop. But real American Process is quite good for any use and especially for melting. It's what they have at the deli counter but Kraft Deli Deluxe in packages is widely distributed in many groceries. My analogy is that straight cheese is like a varietal wine whereas process cheese is like a blend. And any fan of Italian wines knows that blends can be quite, quite delicious...
posted by jim in austin at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Cheddar all the way. I'd rather have no cheese than American cheese.

"No other cheese in the world can touch its meltability or goo factor..." Just like melted plastic.
posted by shoesietart at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


In fairness, American Cheese is versatile to the extent that it has several uses beyond merely eating it.
posted by Wordshore at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I dunno, I think cheddar sets off the flavor of a burger nicely. I don't turn down a cheeseburger if American is my only option, though.

But there is something about cheddar...it's like a bass note. You don't necessarily think to ask for it, but when it's not there you notice something is missing. (A pub near me features "cheeseburger spring rolls" on its bar snack menu, and the first time I tried them, it took me about annhourmto figure out why I felt something was "missing" until I realized "wait, they used American cheese.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


If Donald Trump wanted to build a wall between me and the "it's not really cheese!" snobs, I'd buy a yard just so I could put a sign in it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2016 [24 favorites]


I've had American Cheese I've tried to scrape off my burger and feed to the dogs

And I've had the dog look at me in disgust and walk away.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:26 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I find the term "process cheese" very odd. In the UK we call it "processed cheese", which makes more sense to me because "processed" is an adjective.
posted by w0mbat at 4:27 PM on July 25, 2016 [20 favorites]


You're all missing out on the pinnacle of Southern Illinois trash sandwiches: two slices of Kraft American cheese, Miracle Whip (fuck you, Hellman's), on Wonder Bread with a Coke. No substitutions on brands. Your cardiologist will appreciate your business. Bacon is a an allowed substitution for the American cheese, but that makes it a BM sandwich. Also amazing.

Stop judging me.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:27 PM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


Can someone explain what they're on about with the melting, though? I mean I'm no cheese expert, since I barely eat the stuff, except on pizza or eggplant parmigiana, but mozzarella and other pizza and eggplant parmigiana cheeses seem to melt just fine. I've never seen the cheese on a pizza crack.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:28 PM on July 25, 2016


American cheese is a perfectly acceptable cheese that works well in some situations but not so well in others. It is one of several good options for putting on burgers. Some American cheeses are better than others, just like with other types of cheese and indeed most things in general.

Nobody is going to pay me to write a thousand words about such an uncontroversial and obviously true statement however, and I'm certainly not going to get famous for it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:28 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


In fairness, American Cheese is versatile to the extent that it has several uses beyond merely eating it.

Yes; not eating it is especially useful.
posted by jamjam at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, some people like it and other people don't like it. Some people like it in certain situations but not others, and not all of those people agree on which situations it is good in and which ones it is not so good in.

The man with the interesting name is just trying to stir some shit.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:32 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


the cheese is plastic? our language is plastic!

/derrida the cashier pipes up to mumble something about paper or plastic...
posted by idiopath at 4:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


american + white bread grilled cheese is a truly great comfort food and sometimes a fancier version just won't do
posted by burgerrr at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2016 [16 favorites]


It's fine on a burger, though in a perfect world I might opt for gruyere. Blue cheese is disgusting in any context and worst on a burger, though I recognize that I have a minority voice on this.

I love sharp cheddar in other contexts but it can overpower a burger unless there are a lot of strong flavors going on.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


> american + white bread grilled cheese is a truly great comfort food and sometimes a fancier version just won't do

I hate to put on airs, but I like this with some garlic powder sprinkled on the buttered bread, and some ranch to dip it in.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


There is a burger chef in the UK who has created a cheese blend called Freddar (after the chef, Fred Smith, currently employed by the Byron burger chain.)

"Freddar has all the melting goodness of classic American cheese, but with a serious flavour punch thanks to Fred's unique blend of Grana Padano, mature Cheddar and Red Leicester. "

It's one of the best burger cheeses I've tried.
With the meltiness and goopiness that American cheese does so well, but it also tastes good.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


Keith Talent: "Here's the crux of his argument, " No other cheese in the world can touch its meltability or goo factor, and that's really what it's there for: texture. If I've taken the time to select and grind some great beef, I want that beef flavor to shine, not get covered up by a powerful cheese that would fare better on a cheese plate."

And he's right.

I love blue cheese. Blue cheese on a burger never works.
"

Never had a burger stuffed with blue cheese? Your loss.
posted by Splunge at 4:40 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I hate to put on airs, but I like this with some garlic powder sprinkled on the buttered bread, and some ranch to dip it in.

garlic powder makes anything 1000x better so i fully support this
posted by burgerrr at 4:40 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've learned to avoid the burger places that chefs and chef-adjacents tend to recommend, since they're always super-minimalist offerings with giant patties, a slice of cheese, and nothing else, and I do. not. get it.

My mom always made our burgers thick, with onion mix, and rare. If they're made like that, just put on a bit of mustard on the bun and I'm good to go.

With your a more typical burger patty, I'll get all of the fixings. Or sometimes cheddar and bacon. Something to keep my mouth from drying out between sips of beer.

They're two different dishes, really.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:42 PM on July 25, 2016


I hate to put on airs, but I like this with some garlic powder sprinkled on the buttered bread, and some ranch to dip it in.

Well, la-de-da! Doesn't the ranch drip onto your silk vest and watch-chain?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:46 PM on July 25, 2016 [43 favorites]


I don't care what you all say. Cheese dip made with a block of American and a can of Ro-Tel is damn delicious, and I only feel a little ashamed every time I make it for a party.

BUT IT GETS EATEN. OH, IT GETS EATEN.
posted by offalark at 4:50 PM on July 25, 2016 [23 favorites]


I find the term "process cheese" very odd. In the UK we call it "processed cheese", which makes more sense to me because "processed" is an adjective.

Process is a noun, not an adjective in this instance.

And here is the FDA definition of American process cheese if you are interested...
posted by jim in austin at 4:51 PM on July 25, 2016


I'll eat the whole damn thing myself, offalark, no shame. Ideally with he ridiculous scoop tortilla chips, for maximum cheesiness.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:54 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's good with apples, too.

If I have leftovers (I never have leftovers), I mix it with elbow macaroni for ersatz mac n' cheese.
posted by offalark at 4:56 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


First of all: The very first recipe I ever followed to success was "Toasted Cheese Muffins" from the Winnie the Pooh Cookbook and it specifically noted American cheese for the most excellent burny melty qualities. If you want to argue with Winnie the Pooh, a British citizen clearly and unabashedly advocating for the efficacy of American cheese in particular culinary contexts, that's your business.

Second of all: Yo, Metafiltarians who turn your snooty snoots up at American cheese, Imma really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but my childhood favorite of American cheese, Peter Pan chunky peanut butter, and hamburger dill pickles on rye bread is one of the best sandwiches of all time! One of the best sandwiches of all time!
posted by jammy at 4:59 PM on July 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


I do not get people's adoration for this guy.

I like and dislike his stuff the way I like and dislike the Wirecutter: I often disagree with the final opinion expressed but I greatly appreciate the fact he (and they) show the precise steps taken to get to the final result. So it's usually pretty easy to say "aha, this is the point where we disagree" without discounting the rest. That said, I couldn't tell without seeing his book whether I'd love it or it would drive me crazy. (Crazy, it turns out, but the bookseller said I wasn't alone).

I like both cheddar and blue on burgers, but not at the same time.
posted by fedward at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Process is a noun, not an adjective in this instance.

Right, but that doesn't make any sense. Why are you trying to use a noun to modify a noun? I mean the word process is telling you what kid of cheese, right? Is it supposed to be the name of the cheese, like cheddar? So you have cheddar, process, and mozzarella? It seems unlikely because you would never say it that way. You can't really say process without the cheese part, which suggests the word process is supposed to be modifying cheese.

Count me among the people who thinks this is an abomination on par with the "can vegetables" sign hanging above a supermarket aisle.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:04 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Go with something like a cambozola or a bresse bleu and you get a milder blue flavour that won't overwhelm the beef plus it's already gooey even unmelted.
posted by juv3nal at 5:08 PM on July 25, 2016


[eating a slice of American cheese sandwiched between two slices of Swiss cheese]

WHAT?!
posted by dbiedny at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't turn my nose up at American on a typical grilled burger at a backyard cookout. That works just fine and is perfectly satisfying. But at home, or at the sort of place where you know where the beef came from, I want bleu on my burger.
posted by desuetude at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Beef and blue cheese are an amazing combination, get outta here with that. Anyways, if we're talking about flavours overpowering the meat, isn't it considered pretty normal to put things like pickles, mustard, onion, bacon, and any number of other things on there already? They're not exactly delicate flavors
posted by Hoopo at 5:20 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm totally happy with American cheese, unless it's a cheese steak, in which case it should be cheez wiz.
posted by teponaztli at 5:21 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


American cheese on burgers is objectively good. That is fact. As is American cheese on grilled cheese sandwiches, as is cheese whiz on cheese steaks, as is that fake melty yellow shit on movie theater nachos.

People who declare otherwise were obviously deprived of objectively good-tasting things growing up so they just don't know what objectively good things taste like. It's okay, guys! It wasn't your fault.

It gets embarrassing though when their insecurities around that causes them to overcompensate for their lack of taste by trashing American cheese and opting for some artisan garbage on their burger like..."cheddar", whatever that is. No need for this! Just preface everything you say with, "I don't actually have a lot of experience eating good things, but personally, I like cheddar on my burger."

That said, I'm sorry you had a bad childhood. I'm sorry you can't enjoy actual burgers/actual good food.
posted by windbox at 5:23 PM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


IMHO the only cheese worse than American is the crap they make on pizza in St. Louis: Provel.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Blue cheese on a burger never works."
Blue cheese on a burger has never not worked.
and
Second of all: Yo, Metafiltarians who turn your snooty snoots up at American cheese, Imma really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but my childhood favorite of American cheese, Peter Pan chunky peanut butter, and hamburger dill pickles on rye bread is one of the best sandwiches of all time! One of the best sandwiches of all time!
I grew up with American Cheese and all of the quick / cheap meals that go with it. As an adult, I find that nearly any fancy cheese improves almost anything you put it on. Blue on a burger? Hell yeah! Blue on chicken strips (fine, they are fancy chicken nuggets. I'm lazy), yum! Random fancy cheeses + nice crackers brought to a friend's party? nearly always appreciated.

Maybe if I grew up with Proper Cheese Culture I'd be horrified at the cheese combinations I make as an adult, but I didn't. Maybe the real gift that American Cheese Product gives is the ability to really enjoy real cheese in nearly any situation. So, uh, Thanks American Cheese Product!
posted by b1tr0t at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've yet to meet anything remotely close to cheese that I didn't enjoy. From the sublime subtelty of American to the taste bud punching stinky cheeses and the not quite dead blue, they are all excellent. Even that vegan crap is good. And I really enjoyed the sciency parts of his explanation for why American cheese is good at its job.
posted by mattamatic at 5:32 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is this stuff actually sold as 'American cheese', or is that just a generic description? In Canada it's just sold as processed cheese slices - I'm pretty sure it doesn't say American cheese on the package.

Whenever I think about processed cheese (not too often, mind) I think of a night long ago around a campfire at Cypress Lake provincial park. Tom had brought this thing called a Pie Iron, kind of a mini waffle iron with long handles in which you'd put two pieces of Wonder bread with a cheese slice in the middle, then close it up and hold it in the fire for a few minutes until the bread got toasted and the cheese turned to goo. Ok maybe all the weed oil bottle tokes had something to do with it, but those toasted sandwiches tasted like heaven.
posted by Flashman at 5:34 PM on July 25, 2016


Blue cheese is disgusting in any context and worst on a burger

You are the wrongiest wrong person that ever wronged. WRONG.
posted by asockpuppet at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


You can actually answer the question in this post pretty well with the question in the next post on the front page. What is American Cheese? "What if it is food for microbes?"
posted by koeselitz at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would like to have a beef burger at a burger restaurant, but since you can't modify a noun with another noun, I have no idea what those things are.
posted by moonmilk at 5:37 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]



IMHO the only cheese worse than American is the crap they make on pizza in St. Louis: Provel.


And you are the second wrongiest wrong person.
posted by asockpuppet at 5:39 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would like to have a beef burger at a burger restaurant, but since you can't modify a noun with another noun, I have no idea what those things are.

Huh...interesting point. But "process cheese" and "can vegetables" are still wrong.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:41 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


w0mbat: “I find the term ‘process cheese’ very odd. In the UK we call it ‘processed cheese’, which makes more sense to me because ‘processed’ is an adjective.”

I've lived in the United States my whole life – in Colorado, in New Mexico, in California, and in Massachusetts – and I have never once heard it called, or seen it referred to as, "process cheese." Everyone I have ever known has called it "processed cheese."

So I guess probably "process cheese" is a colloquialism – probably of the South, since I've never been there? – which is in ascendancy. "Processed cheese" is the standard form in the United States, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changed in the next few decades.
posted by koeselitz at 5:47 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I try not to eat much beef. But when burgers with bleu cheese are on the menu, my resolve tends to melt into tangy, delicious blue-flecked crumbles.
posted by zompist at 5:47 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm about a half hour from eating a burger with bacon and blue cheese and some cajun seasoning. I am unreasonably pleased about this, because every component of this burger is excellent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:49 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Flashman, it's labeled as American pasteurized processed cheese product.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:50 PM on July 25, 2016


I got really curious about it, so I started digging in to the term "process cheese". "Pasteurized process cheese" is an official legal term in the US, and it always seems to occur with the word "pasteurized". But I haven't figured out yet why it's not "pasteurized processed cheese". Maybe it evolved from 'Pasteurization-process cheese"?

Also I learned the term "comminution" which my fingers insist on typing as "communition".

TITLE 21--FOOD AND DRUGS
CHAPTER I--FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SUBCHAPTER B--FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION
PART 133 -- CHEESES AND RELATED CHEESE PRODUCTS

Subpart B--Requirements for Specific Standardized Cheese and Related Products

Sec. 133.173 Pasteurized process cheese food.
(a)(1) A pasteurized process cheese food is the food prepared by comminuting and mixing, with the aid of heat, one or more of the optional cheese ingredients prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section, with one or more of the optional dairy ingredients prescribed in paragraph (d) of this section, into a homogeneous plastic mass. One or more of the optional ingredients specified in paragraph (e) of this section may be used.
posted by moonmilk at 5:51 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


at the bottom of the chart

Great, now I'm not going to be able to think of the word "chart" as anything other than cheese-caused flatulence.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:52 PM on July 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Swiss cheese! Swiss cheese on a burger, with grilled mushrooms and onions!
posted by tzikeh at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Or – I was completely wrong, and "pasteurized process cheese" is the technical name of the thing used by the FDA, as confirmed by this footnoted link from the article. This is interesting, because "processed cheese" seems like it is one of those emendations by well-meaning proper-speakers who imagine (as I tend to!) that "process cheese" can't possibly be correct.

Score one more for descriptivism against prescriptivism, I guess.
posted by koeselitz at 5:54 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hopefully it's just flatulence.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:58 PM on July 25, 2016


Chatulence.
posted by moonmilk at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hold the phone -- American cheese was invented by an immigrant? From Canada -- ?

1) HRM Elizabeth II must never find out. She'll revoke Canada's cheese license!

2) Being snobbish about American cheese has got to be just about the lamest snobbishness ever invented. You're seriously so desperate to seem cultured that you'll dis a noble and hallowed folk food? Folk you! Every knows there's a time and a place for American cheese, and anyone who says otherwise is posturing.

3) Only inferior beef requires a strong-flavoured coating when burgering it up. Yes, fine cheese are fine, but if you think they are a required element of a decent burger than I weep for the quality of beef you've been exposed to. I haven't been to England, but friends who have travelled there agree that the cow-derived meat product they enjoy there is not beef (at least not as it is understood in Canada).

4) Never eat American cheese on a tuna sandwich. That's gross.
posted by Construction Concern at 6:02 PM on July 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


"It is a well known fact that cheese of the Cheddar genus cannot be heated to a temperature much above its melting point with out disintegrating and permanently losing its true cheesy character." - James Lewis Kraft, 1916
posted by moonmilk at 6:09 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read elsewhere that, in food science, "to American" is sometimes used as a verb for a process of increasing the viscosity of a solid foodstuff. Is this actually so?

Absolutely, yes, of course, one hundred percent true fact.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:11 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fact: the way to do a blue cheese burger is to stuff the blue cheese inside the burger patty. And cook it medium rare.

American cheese is great on a cheeseburger. Also, Swiss.

Can't get behind muenster. But whatevs.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:15 PM on July 25, 2016


Of course nouns can modify other nouns as adjectives. They're called noun adjuncts, and they're quite common. E.g. rose garden, police force, etc. Process cheese sounds inelegant, but it's grammatical.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the other examples...what I see in common is that the second word is something composed of the first...A beef burger is a burger composed of beef. A rose garden is a garden composed of roses. A police force is a force of police officers. But "process cheese" is not cheese composed of processes. I declare it still wrong.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2016


Process Server?
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:29 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fallout shelter!
posted by moonmilk at 6:29 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


American cheese is tasty.

Blue cheese is tasty.

Fancy cheese is tasty.

Supermarket cheddar is tasty.

Even EZ-Cheese is tasty.

Cheez Whiz can be tasty, but if you're getting a cheesesteak, spring for the provolone.

Though I draw the line at the artificial vegetable oil fake cheese crap.

Now I want some cheese.
posted by SansPoint at 6:31 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


You should definitely not serve me cheese in a fallout shelter.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:31 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


But "process cheese" is not cheese composed of processes.

I'm quite willing to believe that's all it's composed of.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:32 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Back to the processquest: In American Creamery Magazine in 1915 someone wrote a letter to the editor: "There is no question but what better cheese can be made from poor milk by the pasteurized process." Which is weird, because "pasteurization process" sounds better to me. But anyway, I bet the term "pasteurized process cheese" derived from this phrasing.

Oh, and who wrote that letter to the editor? Our friend James Lewis Kraft!
posted by moonmilk at 6:33 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


More from the above letter: "(4) the fact that gassy, off-flavored and weedy milk can be taken into the factory and a first class cheese produced therefrom" really makes me crave some nice Kraft pasteurized process cheese.
posted by moonmilk at 6:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


what I see in common is that the second word is something composed of the first.

Not a requirement: "The invasion plans were a closely-guarded secret."

Everybody's so hoity-toity with their sliced process cheese. Like you were too good to eat government cheese from a giant block.
posted by praemunire at 6:37 PM on July 25, 2016


Pasteurization process sounds like ATM machine to me. But I'm in grant editing mode and may be a bit choppy.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


At the Shady Glen in Manchester, CT, only American cheese will do for their wonderful, unique cheeseburgers.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:42 PM on July 25, 2016


This is my first comment on the blue, so be gentle, please. I have been reading for years but finally plunked down the money to speak.

I have no issues, per se, with American cheese on a burger. To each, their own.

I find it... interesting... that the author praises American Cheese as a mere binding ingredient which should stay out of the way of the flavor of the meat, while having linked to another story of his that glorifies a burger where the beef should get out of the way and allow all other ingredients to shine.

Pickles, onions, tomato, shredded lettuce, smoked jerk mayonnaise, and french fries (cooked in real beef tallow!) tossed in jerk seasoning piled on top of the patty.

My wife cannot stand blue cheese crumbles or blue cheese dressing. Yet, she agrees that melted blue cheese on a burger with a portabella cap, mini portabellas or just a portabella and not beef is divine. Melted blue cheese is just so much more mellow, flavor profile wise.

My personal distaste for American cheese comes mostly from the fact that it seems pretty flavorless to me, and also so many restaurants throw it on as an after-thought at the last moment, so you end up with a (hopefully) nice warm juicy burger and then a cold piece of cheese on top of it, which invalidates the author's position, IMO.

There are many ways to keep a burger patty together that do not require (American) cheese and have the side effect of having a really tasty burger.

If one is going to go to the extent of grinding their own meat for burgers, I would hope they would let the confluence of flavors stand out, versus saying American cheese is the best and only way to make sure ground beef sticks together.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:47 PM on July 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


their wonderful, unique cheeseburgers.

You mean, beef patties with extra cheese on them? Radical concept.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:48 PM on July 25, 2016


It's cheese of the American process variety. Not American "process cheese" but "American process" cheese, right?

At any rate, it's good on a fried egg sandwich, but I don't really prefer it on burgers. It'll do in a grilled cheese, but I really prefer almost any other cheese in those. And oh my, yes, a non mouse, a cow heard, when it's barely warmed and not at all melted, it's just gross.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I purchase Kraft Singles processed cheese slices specifically for grilled cheese and cheeseburgers. I also buy other cheeses for eating and will occasionally put them in a burger or grilled cheese, but I agree that processed cheese is great for burgers and grilled cheese.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:30 PM on July 25, 2016


There should be no room to put cheese inside a burger patty because a thick burger patty is a sin in the eyes of the Lord.
posted by komara at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Welcome to commenting on MetaFilter, a non mouse, a cow herd.

Count me on the side of "American cheese and its relatives are good for things", with a particular emphasis on Velveeta for melty dipping substances and what I think of as the canonical grilled cheese sandwich. I haven't bought the stuff in, quite probably, years, but I believe a trip to the store may be in order.
posted by brennen at 7:40 PM on July 25, 2016


The American cheese goes in the patty because that's how you make a Jucy Lucy. If you get it at Matt's Bar, where it was created, it won't be too thick.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:41 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you used some cold thick American cheese instead of a bun, would it be paleo?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:49 PM on July 25, 2016


a thick burger patty is a sin in the eyes of the Lord.

Nobody's perfect.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:51 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


We call it performance cheese at my house. Because it is not about flavor, per se, but the absolute reliability of its meltiness on burgers, grill cheese and other menu items. Another thing is that it is the cheese that does not trigger heartburn in the lactose intolerant side of the family. I know, I know it is not real dairy by some standards.

Here is a cool trick to get good cheese to melt besides using citrate. Grate a decent cheese like Gruyere and toss it with flour and some dribble of heavy cream before placing in on your bread slices for grill cheese. This is a way to short cut a bechamel. And another secret, use mayonnaise instead of butter to grill the sandwich.
posted by jadepearl at 8:05 PM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Can someone explain what they're on about with the melting, though?
The best explanation I've seen is another article by the same author, How To Make Any Cheese Melt Like American (Almost)

I can't agree with his conclusions in this case, though. On a real burger (rather than in a heat treatment carefully designed to trigger the maximum failure of emulsification), non-American cheeses lose only a little texture and IMHO not enough to make up for their superior flavor.

The only real use I've seen for American cheese is as an ingredient in spicy queso dips - if you're turning cheese into a liquid then you absolutely need it to stay stable, and if you're filling it up with green chile or some such for flavor then it's okay to pick a bland cheese as a base.
posted by roystgnr at 8:18 PM on July 25, 2016


Quite a reasonable discussion of cheese facts given the provocative lead in. I certainly would not choose American cheese as #1 in my burger joint, but he's not denying obvious truths like the limited role for American style cheese or the superb nature of other cheeses from America like Humboldt Fog.

On the cheese related front, a shout out to the superb Science of Cheese. Having read it I feel fully qualified to judge the accuracy of cheese related statements.
posted by mark k at 8:22 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The DNC ends, Cheese-gate 2016 begins!
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2016


I would like to have a beef burger at a burger restaurant, but since you can't modify a noun with another noun, I have no idea what those things are.

Touché. When you say enough of those noun-noun combos, foot bath, voice mail, picture show, army brat, car lot, etc., process cheese starts to feel self-explanatory. I think that "processed" cheese would be just any old cheese which has undergone some kind of process, but "process cheese" is a specific type of food which has undergone a specific type of process to become a specific type of cheese. Think "iced cream" (which sounds like it would be cream coated or mixed with ice) vs "ice cream" (which is a specific kind of creamy delight.)
posted by xigxag at 9:06 PM on July 25, 2016


OK, time for a stupid question. Is blue cheese as used in this context in the US a particular type of cheese? Or is it a generic term which encompasses Stilton, Harborne Blue, Gorgonzola, and all the other different types of cheeses with blueish veining and varying degrees of punch? And what about 'bleu cheese'? Why use the French word - or is it a specific type of blue?

Basically, if I go to America and ask for blue cheese on my burger, what will I get?

(I never would, of course, because I like Leicester Red on my burgers though I'll take American cheese in a pinch)

/veteran of composing many a cheese plate but never in the US.
posted by tavegyl at 9:33 PM on July 25, 2016


Is blue cheese as used in this context in the US a particular type of cheese? Or is it a generic term which encompasses Stilton, Harborne Blue, Gorgonzola, and all the other different types of cheeses with blueish veining and varying degrees of punch?

It's a generic name. You could get any of those, or something not quite any of those with the right penicillium mold to give it the color and taste.

ETA: How can you rattle off some iconic blues and not include Roquefort? Is that even legal?
posted by mark k at 10:08 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Enjoy a non-greasy grilled cheese

I think you misunderstand my reasons for eating grilled cheese sandwiches.
posted by ryanrs at 10:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't really see that it has good melting qualities: it just goes limp. Granted, some cheeses don't melt properly or even at all, but cheddar seems far better at bubbling, browning, and transforming into new states of chewy or crunchy. I think the real reason you got processed cheese on your burger is just because of the shelf life; all the other arguments and the astonishingly cynical "patriotic" branding seem secondary.
posted by Segundus at 10:38 PM on July 25, 2016


is it a generic term which encompasses Stilton, Harborne Blue, Gorgonzola, and all the other different types of cheeses with blueish veining and varying degrees of punch

I don't think most US-Americans would expect Gorgonzola if they ordered a salad or sandwich with "blue cheese" on the menu; it usually refers to a relatively mild, (and less expensive) domestic product, and I'm pretty sure a restaurant that goes through the expense of using better cheeses will name it specifically. /former Whole Foods cheese buyer, at a time and place where people hadn't heard of white cheddar.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:53 PM on July 25, 2016


I'm also so disappointed when I order a cheeseburger at a diner-y place and then say they have Americam. What the heck?
posted by Room 641-A at 11:00 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok here's a question for all the non-US based MeFites: What color is your local Kraft Singles Process(ed) Cheese?

Here in Italy they're white.
posted by romakimmy at 11:19 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Same colour as Trump.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:27 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Of course nouns can modify other nouns as adjectives. They're called noun adjuncts, and they're quite common.

This is true, but I need to mention how much I hate it when people say "brie cheese." There's really no need to clarify that you're referring to the cheese.

Sorry, just needed to get that off my chest.
posted by teponaztli at 12:19 AM on July 26, 2016


I prefer my dairy products to not be spoilt TYVM
posted by koolkat at 12:49 AM on July 26, 2016


Ok here's a question for all the non-US based MeFites: What color is your local Kraft Singles Process(ed) Cheese?


(Pakistan) Usually very pale yellow. Though I have occasionally seen the orange variety as well, possibly imported from a different part of the world.
posted by tavegyl at 1:22 AM on July 26, 2016


American Cheese is not a single thing but exists on some sort of weird and horrifying spectrum.

Kraft singles (or similar) < Velveeta (yes, that's right, you heathens. also, the Queso Blanco version is not bad, possibly to having more milk content.) < having the deli slice Land O' Lakes for you (now that stuff is quite close to actual-cheese)

I'm not quite sure how to classify Kraft Old English Spread, but it's awesome. processed, sure, but the first (and basically nearly-only) ingredient is: Cheddar Cheese. although, I've never tried to make a grilled cheese with it, but I feel like it would end badly.

I'll just leave this here.
posted by dorian at 1:26 AM on July 26, 2016


I managed to convince my nephew (who will only eat non-pre-sliced white american from the deli slicers) to eat Muenster. which wasn't easy. but he finally tried some and declared that it was "good! but why is there yellow?" and then refused to eat any more (hey, he's 3.) - the next time, I cut off all the yellow edges without his knowledge, and he absolutely loved it. oh, the evil, the evil.

/cheese-derail
posted by dorian at 1:40 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


So now we've sorted out process(ed) cheese, what's the deal with skim(med) milk, eh?
posted by comealongpole at 1:55 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ok here's a question for all the non-US based MeFites: What color is your local Kraft Singles Process(ed) Cheese?

I'm not sure that's on offer here in the Low Lands. But we have something called 'smeltkaas' (melting cheese), which is process(ed) cheese and the slices are individually wrapped in plastic, and it's yellow and I don't think people consider it to be real cheese here. After all, we have Gouda, Leerdammer, Maasdammer, Maaslander, Edammer, Cantenaer, Beemster, Kernhem, Friese, Leidse and whatnot. Personally I like boerenkaas, made with raw milk. Graskaas is nice too: the extra-creamy young cheese that's made when the cows go outside to eat the fresh grass in spring.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:11 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mmm. Cheese.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:12 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have always found it interesting that the US produces more cheese than the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place producers put together (Germany, France Italy) and yet it's cheese exports amount to about 5% of the global total.

That's in dollar value, I don't have modern figures easily to hand for volume, but in 1996 US exported 32000 MT of cheese. Germany exported 405000 MT.
That would seem to imply that American cheese is very well suited to American tastes.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:59 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Velveeta is the only true road to Ro-tel dip. (Also magic for getting dogs to eat pills.)
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:07 AM on July 26, 2016


That's in dollar value, I don't have modern figures easily to hand for volume, but in 1996 US exported 32000 MT of cheese. Germany exported 405000 MT.
That would seem to imply that American cheese is very well suited to American tastes.


I wonder if it's also simply that more cheese is eaten in the US than in other places? Certainly I've found the food in the States to be generally far cheesier than elsewhere, though I might not be comparing like for like here.
posted by tavegyl at 3:07 AM on July 26, 2016


Also - I would guess that a lot of American processed cheese available outside the US is not actually produced in the US.
posted by tavegyl at 3:09 AM on July 26, 2016


Oh, here's some nice graphs and numbers.

2015 The year in cheese! (US only)
(measurements in 1000 MT)

Cheese added to the system:
Import, 159, Production 5299 (Total 5420)
Cheese removed from the system:
Export: 315, Consumption 5105 (total 5458)
Cheese stored for later: 38

Looks like over the last 50 years Production and Consumption have increased fairly linearly, imports have remained the same, exports have gone up sharply in the last decade, peaking in 2014.
The linear increase of cheese production is paired with a very slight decrease in dairy cattle. Which raises some questions. Hmm, there is an increase in milk production over that period, so presumably dairy farms are getting more milk per cow, but the cheese increase is more rapid than the milk increase.
Less milk per cheese, or something more sinister?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:13 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


the US population is ~100m more than the combined population of those three countries, so that probably helps. and there could well be massive clandestine cheese smuggling operations across borders to Canada and Mexico, which data would not show up on the export tallies...

also, my earlier comment inspired me to put Old English Spread and Branston Pickle on a flour tortilla, roll it up, and promptly inhale it.
posted by dorian at 3:15 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


in 1996 Germany imported as much cheese as it exported.
Actually ever so slightly more. So German cheese consumption is about 50/50 domestic vs imported, and their cheese industry exports about 50% of that produced.

In terms of consumption, again I only have 1996 numbers so it's 3360 kMT vs 977kMT (and a population figure of 269m vs 82m) giving broadly similar cheese consumption figures per head (Germany eats 95% as much cheese per person).
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:21 AM on July 26, 2016


Why are you guys measuring cheese in megatons?
posted by sfenders at 3:22 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, yeah, to correct for population:
Germany (1996) exports 42.6% of it's cheese,
The US(1996) exported 1%
That has gone up to 5.6% this year though, so the international appreciation of US cheeses is definitely improving. (again, no numbers for anywhere else after 1996, buuut. There are EU numbers for later. I can look at those )
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:30 AM on July 26, 2016


in my fridge right now:

- Cougar Gold

- Natural Viking

- Chechil Panir

- Provel (shut up! don't judge!)

- the aforementioned pub-style cheese.

damn your scaly hide Too-Ticky, I would kill for some Leidsekaas right now. that is one of my most favoritest things in the world. I put it in grilled cheese, on pizzas, Welsh Rabbit, ... often just slice it and eat it by itself (well ok, not quite by itself - with pickled hot peppers or pickled cauliflower or dill pickles or ...)

(the WSU cheeses are all superb, but eventually develop ridiculous amounts of tiny crunchy amino crystals, which sometimes is a Really Good Thing, but other times you Just Don't Want That.)
posted by dorian at 3:35 AM on July 26, 2016


I should do real work instead of looking at cheese.
But, it's of some interest that the EU produces LOOOOADS of cheese, and imports almost none (Because of course, we now don't get all that good Germany, France, Italy inernational cheese trade, it's all internal market now)

So in fact it's a fairly similar picture to the US.
Lot's of cheese made for mainly internal consumption.
I honestly don't know if this has much to do with "American Cheese" as opposed to American Cheese.
huh, especially as "American Cheese" may not be able to be sold as simply "Cheese" in the US, so might not be included in these stats at all.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:39 AM on July 26, 2016


But, it's of some interest that the EU produces LOOOOADS of cheese, and imports almost none (Because of course, we now don't get all that good Germany, France, Italy inernational cheese trade, it's all internal market now)

That sentence in this thread made me realize that Brexit might affect my requests to friends arriving from the UK to mule in Cheddar for me. Fuck.
posted by romakimmy at 4:40 AM on July 26, 2016


Cheddar for most burgers. Sharp at least. American cheese is the cheap smooshy crap I buy to wrap around a pill when one of my cats needs medicine.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 4:41 AM on July 26, 2016


I'm looking forward to raclette tomorrow--my candidate in this rigged election.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:16 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


"You are quite right to look into cheese. [...] In fact, the government should spend its entire national budget on the problem of figuring out what the deal is with cheese. If you are just beginning to look into cheese, I suggest first looking into Swiss, because it's got holes that make that easy."
-- Kibo, in 1999
posted by moonmilk at 5:22 AM on July 26, 2016


So now we've sorted out process(ed) cheese, what's the deal with skim(med) milk, eh?

It's short for "skim process milk."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 5:42 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Its so odd for me that someone would suggest its about the "texture" of an almost textureless cheese.

We used to eat Kraft singles as a kid in Australia. But I haven't had one in years. After years in the UK eating Vintage Cheddar as my "standard" go-to cheese I just don't think I could go back. Rich full flavour that goes with almost everything. I even like the oily factor when its grilled. a few onions and Worcestershire sauce mmm.

Also Blue Cheese and Steak is an awesome combination even when not on a burger.
posted by mary8nne at 5:43 AM on July 26, 2016


Why are you guys measuring cheese in megatons?

I also briefly thought that 1000 MT = 1 GT = possibly too much cheese. But I was someone who wondered why my current employer's intake brochures reminded me that the faculty at UB aren't ionized.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 AM on July 26, 2016


My favorite American Cheese story is when Kraft had to recall their cheese slices in 2015 because the plastic wrapping was a choking hazard. Apparently, the wrapping was indistinguishable from the cheese and people were eating it.
posted by srboisvert at 6:01 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't believe I'm about to write a treatise on American cheese, but here goes...

As others have pointed out, not all "American cheese" is equal. If you're thinking of a cheese that gets plasticky when it melts, then you're probably thinking of the individually wrapped slices – and, yeah, I agree that those are vile. But it'd be a mistake to judge any food by its worst exemplar.

People like to say "but it's not even real cheese!" – and even if that's true for some definitions of "cheese", who cares? White chocolate doesn't actually contain chocolate, and most of what people buy as "cinnamon" is actually cassia. That doesn't invalidate them as foodstuffs. American cheese is just another variety of dairy product.

People also like to say "but it's processed!" – but unless you're eating raw beef directly from the flank of a live cow, and undomesticated vegetables directly from the dirt, then all of your food has been processed in one way or another.

The processes used for American cheese are (1) pasteurization (which I know has its detractors, but I don't see nearly as many people making the same noises about other pasteurized foods), and (2) emulsifiers (which have been used in food for centuries – they hold vinaigrette and mayonnaise together). Mozzarella contains sodium citrate; it's what gives it that stringy texture. Salt, vinegar, and smoke are chemical preservatives. It's fair to criticize specific food production techniques on any number of grounds, but a blanket dismissal of "processed = bad" doesn't add up.

It's a matter of taste – and if you don't like it, then you don't like it, and that's fine. But don't pretend that there are high-minded reasons for disliking it. Those are just after-the-fact rationalizations to justify the disdain. Like people who sneer at iceberg lettuce because "it has fewer vitamins" than other lettuces. Which is true – and iceberg is rarely my first choice of lettuce – but unless you reject all nutritionally deficient foods on principle, the argument doesn't hold up.

I'm sure part of my soft spot for American cheese is a nostalgia / comfort food thing. To be honest, I never buy the stuff at the grocery store – but it's perfect for burgers on the grill, or carnival food, or on the occasional sandwich an old-fashioned deli or diner. It's not haute cuisine – it has its time and place.

(Please take all of this in good fun. We're just talking about cheese, after all.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:17 AM on July 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


I used to tell a joke. (And for those who don't remember, the set-up of this joke actually happened.)

When the U.S. Congress decided that France had somehow betrayed them by not getting into the Iraq war, Congress changed the name of the French fries in its cafeteria to Freedom Fries. The French retaliated by calling American cheese, "American cheese."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:24 AM on July 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


American cheese is nice for long shelf-life, but it's watery-bland when melted.

I use shredded mild cheddar for burger toppings and grilled cheese. The pre-packaged stuff if I'm lazy, or with the barest dusting of cornstarch mixed in if shredding my own (NOT Cracker Barrel.)

Melts in a nice, thick, gooey layer, without separating, and does not taste like cellophane wrappers crinkling.

Shredded mozza-asiago mix piled onna toppa after it's in the bun for a steak bomb, as we don't have cheesesteaks hereabouts because we don't like ruining good meat with Cheeze-wiz. Also we're likely to add stuff like pastrami or hot cappicola or frilled peppers and onions and mushrooms, which is a further affront to the chopped steak sandwich purists. Gruyere melted with some beer and a little cornstarch into a fondue sauce works really well here, too, but it's usually too much to bother with.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:18 AM on July 26, 2016


"what I see in common is that the second word is something composed of the first"

Sorry to keep hijacking this thread back to grammar (especially since cheese is my favorite food), but...

You're on the right track, but not quite there. There are other examples you could use (e.g., basketball court, fan blade, power outlet) where the second word is not composed of the first. Courts are not composed of basketballs. The common thread is that the first word gives more specificity to the second word. A rose garden is one of many possible types of gardens. Which type? A fan blade is one of many possible types of blades. So, in the example that started all this, process cheese is one of many types of cheese. "Process", in this usage, modifies "cheese" to distinguish the type of cheese you're talking about from other types of cheese. Make sense?
posted by kevinbelt at 7:59 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I like yellow plastic American cheese. I also dig all the fancy funky stinky cheeses. It's a big beautiful cheesy world out there. And blue cheese does so work on a burger especially with bacon.
posted by jonmc at 8:16 AM on July 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't that just another way of saying it modifies cheese which is where we started in the first place? Also "process" is not a type. That's the point. "Processed" is a type.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:22 AM on July 26, 2016


Aged cheddar melts just fine and tastes way better than that orange stuff.
posted by piyushnz at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2016


Isn't that just another way of saying it modifies cheese which is where we started in the first place? Also "process" is not a type. That's the point. "Processed" is a type. posted by If only I had a penguin...

Penguin Pedantry.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2016


Pedentry composed of penguins. Makes perfect sense.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:35 AM on July 26, 2016


Also "process" is not a type. That's the point. "Processed" is a type.
I figure this works like "patent leather", which we don't call "patented leather". Per Wikipedia, "patent leather" was originally "Hand's patent leather", and I suspect that "process cheese" was originally "Kraft's process cheese" after Kraft patented the process.

That is, there's a specific process that's implied by "process cheese", whereas "processed cheese" could have had anything done to it, so it makes sense.
posted by pulposus at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I was a child, and well into young adulthood, I loved, loved, loved processed cheeses. They were delicious, and also triggers of wonderful memories (slices on rye in a chalet while skiing, Laughing Cow on a cracker at gran's, you get the drift). Then, while I was at university, a friend told be he had worked at a processed cheese factory, and that seeing how the stuff was made triggered his severe bi-polar disease. He didn't go into detail with what he saw, but the hints he gave were absolutely believable, I'd go crazy too. So I didn't eat processed cheese, or serve it, for decades.
Now I often have a package of Laughing Cow plastic "cheddar" slices on hand for burgers or tuna melt sandwiches and for small kids who don't appreciate the aged cheeses in my fridge. I have resolved that I can't save the world through my choice of cheese.
posted by mumimor at 8:51 AM on July 26, 2016


The mention somewhere above of adding sodium citrate to other cheeses to make them melty raised my interest. So I googled, and here is Modernist Cuisine's recipe for how to do it. The recipe is specifically for a queso style dip, using pepper jack cheese, but the method seems basic: dissolve 11g sodium citrate in 265g water (or beer), bring to a simmer and slowly add 285g grated cheese bits at a time, using whisk or immersion blender to combine.

Sounds like a great template for all kinds of interesting cheese dips!
posted by dnash at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2016


"Isn't that just another way of saying it modifies cheese which is where we started in the first place?"

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. But I was responding to your "y is composed of x" comment. There are other ways to modify.

Also "process" is not a type. That's the point. "Processed" is a type.

Empirically, that does not seem to be the case.

The fact that the noun "process" does not seem to have otherwise been used as a modifier does not invalidate the concept of noun adjuncts, or the ability of "process" to be used as a noun adjunct. Grammatically, it's correct. As is "calendar chicken". WTF is a calendar chicken? No idea, but it's a grammatically correct phrase. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. That's what seems to have happened here. Someone took a noun ("process") and used it as a modifier, even though there were other, less awkward, more mellifluous modifiers available. I agree with you that "process cheese" sounds pretty stupid, but stupid and ungrammatical are different things.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:33 AM on July 26, 2016


Metafilter: Overthinking a plate of processed cheese food.
posted by SansPoint at 9:58 AM on July 26, 2016


"And another secret, use mayonnaise instead of butter to grill the sandwich."

RIP me
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:10 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


"And another secret, use mayonnaise instead of butter to grill the sandwich."

Tried that once. Did not actually like it.
posted by dnash at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


And another secret, use mayonnaise instead of butter to grill the sandwich."

No objections to it, but this has got to be the worst kept secret on MetaFilter. I'm never telling you guys anything. *checks posting history* Dammit.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2016


The grammar (linguistics?) sideline is reminding me that "to cheddar" is also a verb. So "cheddar cheese" might be a parallel case even though "Cheddar cheese" isn't.
posted by clew at 10:37 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like American cheese on burgers, for all the reasons already outlined. But in my experience you can get a nice melt from many semi-hard cheeses too, by simply grating the cheese finely before putting it on the patty. (Stay away from pre-packaged shredded cheese though, that's horrible stuff, no flavor and the texture of sawdust. Do what I did and invest in an electric cheese grater. So worth it.)

Also, a shoutout to Gouda. Comes in flavors ranging from very mild to very pungent and has excellent melting qualities.
posted by monospace at 10:48 AM on July 26, 2016


I'd like to point out that my cryptic comment around the idea that language is plastic in the proper sense that process cheese is plastic preceeded the linguistic derail in this thread without being engaged as such. This feels significant somehow.
posted by idiopath at 11:03 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Velveeta is the only true road to Ro-tel dip. (Also magic for getting dogs to eat pills.)

Not my dog, nor cheddar, but mozzarella or Jack at room temperature works every time. If I make a wheel out of Queso blanco, every time I go to the kitchen she'll make a beeline for the press, hoping for some whey.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2016


"processed cheese" seems like it is one of those emendations by well-meaning proper-speakers who imagine (as I tend to!) that "process cheese" can't possibly be correct

It may be correct grammatically but it remains incorrect as a cheese
posted by Hoopo at 4:03 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


More melty goodness: Queso Quesadilla

Stay away from pre-packaged shredded cheese though, that's horrible stuff, no flavor and the texture of sawdust.

Literally. For easier shredding of softer cheeses, stick it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2016


Wow. I always assumed "patent leather" meant shiny leather, per Latin "patens".

And about can vegetables: well, it depends. Can they?
posted by tangerine at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2016


> Ok here's a question for all the non-US based MeFites: What color is your local Kraft Singles Process(ed) Cheese? Here in Italy they're white.

Here in Philadelphia, the typical metal street-vendor carts (where you can get a cheesesteak, Italian sausage sandwich, breakfast egg sandwich, etc.) use white American cheese.
posted by desuetude at 5:48 PM on July 26, 2016


In L.A. all the brands of wrapped singles are yellow buy you can find white American at a lot of supermarket delis now. I didn't know white Kraft singles existed until I got into a LDR with a guy in Lancaster, PA.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:25 PM on July 26, 2016


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