Published July 1, 2006. From Cook's Illustrated.
We tested nine brands to find the best to top your hamburger.
Tangy, salty cheddar is the test kitchen's favorite cheese for topping a hamburger. Beckoned by the ease and convenience of presliced cheese, we rounded up nine packages from the supermarket dairy case. Whether tasted straight up, in grilled-cheese sandwiches, or on burgers, the "sharp" cheddars carried the day over their "mild" and "medium" counterparts. Aged for at least nine months, sharp cheddar cheese has a strong, tangy flavor that tasters preferred in every application.
Mild and medium cheddars—aged for days rather than months—tasted more like mild Monterey Jack. The biggest surprise came when tasters sampled two cheeses from one manufacturer that tasted nothing like the others. Prominently labeled "sharp cheddar," these two products were actually "pasteurized process cheese" loaded with added moisture and emulsifiers to make for smoother melting--a process identical to that used to make American cheese. The label simply refers to the intended flavor, but our tasters found nothing sharp about them, ranking them lowest in every round.