Mass-marketed cheese products known for their long shelf life, average flavor and a texture that's often chewy. On the plus side, such products melt smoothly and without separating, thanks only to added emulsifiers. Processed cheese is also known as pasteurized process(ed) cheese and American cheese, though the latter tag also can be used to refer to mild cheddars. It was invented by Swiss citizens Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler in 1911, and American James L. Kraft was granted a patent for it in 1916. Kraft introduced the pre-sliced form in 1950. Today processed cheeses are made by blending and heating shredded or ground pasteurized cheeses (one or more of a similar variety) with ingredients such as salt and other seasonings, water, coloring, emulsifiers and preservatives. Defective cheeses (with minor faults in rind, texture and flavor) may be used in the mix. The mixture is cooked until the cheese becomes homogenous, smooth and glossy, then molded and sometimes cut into slices or bite-size pieces. Processed cheeses don't undergo further aging, so both flavor and texture are static. By law, most processed cheeses must contain no more than 43 percent moisture and at least 47 percent fat content. Processed cheese food may have added water, whey solids, dry milk or dehydrated milkfat, which means it contains less real cheese (at least 51 percent); it must have a minimum fat content of 23 percent and maximum moisture content of 44 percent. Processed cheese spread has less milkfat (minimum of 20 percent), a higher moisture content (between 44 and 60 percent) and must be spreadable at 70°F. Processed cheese product is simply a processed cheese with lower moisture and milkfat percentages. See also cheese; cold pack cheese; imitation cheese; substitute cheese.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.