A New American Cheese Is on the Market

New School American cheese skips the processed ingredients but retains the nostalgia of this extra-melty cheese.

<p>Frederick Hardy II, Food Styling by Chelesa Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen</p>

Frederick Hardy II, Food Styling by Chelesa Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Chef Eric Greenspan’s favorite food of all time is American cheese. “I’ve used American cheese my entire career,” he says. “But most cheese is really more about texture than taste, and we thought it could be more than that.”

When Greenspan was writing The Great Grilled Cheese Book in 2017, he started wondering why American cheese didn’t get more attention from chefs. “They make burger buns from scratch, and they grind their own meat ... I feel like there should be a way to close that circle of quality,” he says. He mentioned the idea of an artisanal American cheese to his friend Alan Leavitt, a consumer packaged goods investor. Leavitt was immediately intrigued. In 2022, after five years of research and development, Greenspan and Leavitt launched New School American cheese, initially selling exclusively to restaurants.

Related: Don't Be a Snob About American Cheese

New School celebrates the best things about American cheese — its saltiness, its creaminess, and the way it perfectly melts and stretches — but dials up the flavor by using a base of artisanal aged cheddar. Greenspan’s proprietary recipe includes a mix of barrel-aged cheddar cheese, butter, cream, a touch of paprika and turmeric (to hit that essential orange color), and sodium citrate—the key to achieving that signature texture created by Kraft in the 1910s. “You have to add sodium citrate because it’s the magic that keeps [the cheese] emulsified, but we use less than anyone else,” says Greenspan. Using less sodium citrate allows them to include more regular salt, resulting in an even more flavor-forward slice.

In 2024, New School began selling cheese blocks, slices, and shreds at retail, putting artisanal American cheese on shelves around the country. “Everybody wants an emotional reaction to the food that they eat,” Greenspan says. “There’s nothing more nostalgic than a slice of American cheese.”

5 ways chefs are cooking with New School American Cheese

Hot Cod Sando, Daybird (Los Angeles)

At Daybird, chef Mei Lin melts slices of New School on her Szechuan-spiced fried fish — the cheddar in the New School blend brings out the saltiness of the sandwich’s caviar tartar sauce.

Pizzaz Pie, Liberty Kitchen (Philadelphia)

Chef Beau Neidhardt uses New School on his updated take on pizzaz, a South Philly specialty in which thick, focaccia-style pizza is topped with American cheese, sliced tomatoes, and banana peppers.

Sooner Smash, Chi Spacca (Los Angeles)

New School is what Nancy Silverton uses for the Melrose Smash burger as a Monday and Tuesday special at Chi Spacca’s chef's counter. The orange cheese tops two smashed beef patties, along with shredded iceburg lettuce, tomato, pickles, Calabrian aïoli, and a pile of griddled onions.

Grilled Cheese, Papi Queso (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Here, New School gives sandwiches, mac and cheese, and cheese fries a photogenic cheese pull without sacrificing flavor.

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