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Why American Cheese Gets a Bad Wrap

A bad wrap(per)? No way !!
A bad wrap(per)? No way !!
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Like a labradoodle at the Westminster dog show, American cheese gets a bad rap from cheese purists. They who see themselves as educated, socially engaged, and culturally active types. They who prefer the marbling of a fine blue cheese over a blue light special in the local discount store. These are the folks who would refer to American cheese with the slang term "rattrap cheese" or "rat cheese". But the iconic image of Kraft cheese singles packed in their individual wrappers is a comfort food for many and a mom's best friend when she is catering to a finicky brood of eaters. So we ask, why the bad rap with American cheese?

American cheese is a type of processed cheese. Because its ingredients differ so much from those of "unprocessed" or natural cheeses, American cheese can not be legally sold under the name (authentic) "cheese" in the US. Instead, federal laws mandate that it be labeled as "processed cheese", "cheese product", or "cheese food". It's mass produced on an industrial scale compared to the more artisan approach of aged cheddar or fragrant alpine.

The bottom line is this: kids love American cheese! The creamy, mild, and slightly sweet taste can be replaced with a Cheddar or Swiss, but if kids won't eat it then what good is it? The low melting point makes for tasty grilled cheese sandwiches which always come out evenly cooked. There should be no bad wrap for American cheese. It works well in some dishes just as other cheeses work well in others. American cheese has been in our kitchens for over a hundred years. Lets accept it and move on. Who knows, with the same open thinking we may see a labradoodle at the dog show yet!