Or should we say “pasteurized process American cheese?"
EC: WTF Is American Cheese?
Credit: Photo and video by Alex TEpper

So WTF is American cheese? Sure, we know it's the bright yellow, melty, mystery topping of our dreams. We know that American cheese is the quintessential burger topping that hugs ground beef like no other substance known to man. Some may even say that American cheese is perfect. But what is it made of, exactly? To paraphrase the FDA’s definition, American cheese is a combination of at least two different types of cheese, generally cheddar and Colby, combined with yet another cheese variety and brought together through emulsification. If you do not add the other cheese variety, it must be called “pasteurized process American cheese.”

To find out more, Extra Crispy met up with Max Weigel, cheesemonger and grocery buyer for Stinky Bklyn. Weigel said that the name "American cheese" actually means two different things in the cheese world. It references both the classic stuff we put on our hamburgers, school lunch nachos, and garbage plates, as well as any cheeses that are made here in America. But how did "Pasteurized Process American cheese" come to be the thing we think of when he hear the name “American cheese?”

Watch as we go through 20th century American (cheese) history to find out.