What makes processed cheese so different from the cheese family is its extended shelf life which it owes to the amount of emulsifiers and stabilizing agents it contains. Available in many flavours and textures, processed cheese is what is widely used in cooking due to its resistance to separation when cooked. Being both smooth and medium-firm in texture, processed cheese, melts easily when baked, or grilled.
Made either from a single cheese or a blend of many, pasteurised processed cheese also contains varying amounts of cream, milk fat, water, salt, artificial colour, and spices.
Grated processed cheese
This requires grating the cheese slabs in a hand held grater. This grated cheese is fine in texture and is used for making baked dishes like au gratin or casseroles.
Processed cheese cubes
Turn the block of processed cheese on its side and make a series of slices. Lay the cheese slices on top of each other and make a series of lengthwise slices, (½ inch slices for smaller cubes, 1 inch slices for larger cubes). Make a series of ½ inch or 1 inch crosswise cuts through the cheese and it will fall away into cubes.
Processed cheese sticks
Processed cheese strips
Cut the cheese block into thin or thick strips as per the recipe requirement.
Shredded processed cheese
Pass the cheese through a shredder and separate the thin slices into shreds with your fingers. Alternatively, you may buy packaged shredded cheese.
Sliced processed cheese
You may place the cheese in a slicer or slice the cheese in thin or thick slices with a sharp knife, as per the recipe requirement.
How to select
• Processed cheese is sometimes sold in blocks, or spray cans, but more often sold packed in individual slices, sometimes with plastic wrappers or wax paper separating them.
• Processed cheese should not be too crumbly or dry with the colour being relatively uniform.
• Check the expiry date and look out for any discoloration or moldy spots. Opt for varieties that provide no more than five grams of fat per ounce.
• Apart from being had on its own, topped on a cracker with a slice of apple or a topping of your choice makes it a choice comfort snack.
• As with all recipes that require cheese like mashed potatoes, shepherd's pie, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, etc., substitute the recipe requirement for cheese with any of your choice.
• Cheese releases a wholesome flavour when paired with cucumber or tomato slices and grilled in between bread.
• Processed cheese can be added to omelettes, pizza, soufflés, au gratins, fondues, etc.
• Cheese makes a delightful pairing with fruits such as apples, pears and melons as it cuts through the fruit flavour with notes of mildly tangy dairy, this in turn refreshes the palate.
How to store
• All cheeses, regardless of variety, should be well wrapped and kept in the warmest section of the refrigerator (The refrigerator door is often one of the warmest spots).
• As storage life is related to the moisture content of the cheese, the softer the cheese, the shorter amount of time it will keep fresh.
• Regardless of the type of milk used to create it, processed cheese is a concentrated source of the nutrients naturally found in milk, including calcium.
• Inclusion of artificial additives in processed cheeses and the higher levels of salt are a little daunting when purchasing this type of cheese.
• Processed Cheese also contains a large amount of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.
• It is a dense source of high quality protein.