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American Cheese

The best known processed cheese in the United States is marketed as American cheese by Kraft Foods, Borden, and other companies. It is orange, yellow, or white in color and mild in flavor, with a medium-firm consistency, and melts easily.  It is typically made from a blend of cheeses, most often Colby and Cheddar.

The common use of the marketing label "American Cheese" for "processed cheese" combined with the prevalence of processed cheese in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world has led to the term American cheese being used synonymously in place of processed cheese.  Moreover, the term "American cheese" has a legal definition as a type of pasteurized process cheese under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

The process variety of American Cheese can be sold in individually wrapped slices or in large blocks that can be sliced to order at a deli counter. It can range in color from white to orange. The taste and texture of American Cheese varies, and mostly depends on the percentage of cheese versus additives used during the emulsification process. Varieties with lower percentages of additives tend to taste more like natural unprocessed cheese, whereas varieties with large percentages of additives tend to taste "artificial" to many people. In addition, depending on the food manufacturer, the color of the cheese (orange, yellow, or white) may signify different ingredients or process. Some manufacturers reserve the white and yellow colors for their more natural (i.e. less additives) American Cheese varieties.

Despite its appearance, American Cheese in block form at a Deli is processed cheese. This is not to say that all products with the label "American Cheese" are identical. Depending on the additives and the amounts of milk fat and water added to the cheese during emulsification, the taste and texture of American Cheese can varies, with some varieties (e.g. "American Cheese" and "American Process Cheese") being very similar to non-process cheese and other varieties (e.g. "American Cheese Food" and "American Cheese Product") being more like Velveeta or Cheez Whiz. The interested consumer should pay close attention to the wording used on the label of each product and to the ingredient list. (Refer to the definitions in the Sale and labeling section of this article.)

Small (e.g., 16 to 36 slice) blocks of presliced, but not individually-wrapped, American Cheese are also marketed, often with the branding "deluxe" or "old fashioned". This variety of American Cheese is similar in ingredients and texture to that of modern block American Cheese. Although this type of American Cheese, along with block American Cheese, are both (technically speaking) processed cheeses, they are considered by many Americans to be the "real" American cheese, to which the individually-wrapped processed "cheese food" and "cheese product" so common today are just pretenders.

Despite the common usage, American Cheese also has another definition. It can also refer to a mild, pale white to yellow cheddar.

The term store cheese is sometimes informally used to describe American Cheese and similar American cheddars.

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