Why American Cheese in Burger Patties Doesn’t Melt at Fast-Food Restaurants and Diners

When it comes to the classic American burger, one of the key ingredients that make it so iconic is the slice of American cheese. However, have you ever wondered why the cheese in your fast-food or diner burger doesn’t seem to melt like regular cheese? The answer lies in the type of cheese used and the way it’s processed. Let’s delve into the science behind this culinary curiosity.

What is American Cheese?

American cheese, despite its name, is not technically cheese in the traditional sense. It’s a processed cheese product made from cheese (usually cheddar, colby, or similar cheeses), milk, whey, milk fat, milk protein concentrate, salt, and food coloring. It was originally created to have a longer shelf life and to be easy to melt for use in a variety of dishes.

Why Doesn’t American Cheese Melt in Burgers?

The reason American cheese doesn’t melt in your burger at fast-food restaurants and diners is due to the way it’s heated. When the cheese is placed on the hot patty, it warms up but doesn’t have enough time or heat to fully melt before the burger is served. This is especially true in fast-food restaurants where speed is of the essence.

The Science Behind Melting Cheese

For cheese to melt, it needs to be heated to the point where the fat and protein molecules break down. This temperature varies depending on the type of cheese. For American cheese, this is around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the surface temperature of a cooked burger patty is usually only around 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not hot enough to fully melt the cheese.

Why is American Cheese Still Used?

Despite not fully melting, American cheese is still widely used in burgers for several reasons. Firstly, its mild flavor complements the beef without overpowering it. Secondly, its creaminess adds a nice texture contrast to the other ingredients. Lastly, its high salt content enhances the overall flavor of the burger.


So, while your fast-food or diner burger may not have fully melted cheese, it’s not due to any fault in the cooking process or the quality of the cheese. It’s simply a result of the unique properties of American cheese and the fast-paced nature of these establishments. And let’s be honest, would a classic American burger be the same without that iconic slice of semi-melted cheese?