Battle: Is Cheez Whiz Still the Best Processed Cheese Spread Around?February 28, 2017
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and your stomach’s rumbling. You raid the fridge and find a bright orange jar calling out your name. Chances are, you’ve got some form of processed cheese spreads at home—the well-loved, fromage-marsquerading franken-food that is unmatched on pan de sal, in a Philly cheese steak, or—for the true enthusiast—mixed with other franken-food friends (Minute Rice! Canned mushroom soup!) to form this cheesy casserole. Cheez Whiz has been around since the 1950’s, originally as a pre-melted form of processed cheese in Britain for making Welsh Rarebit. It was only a year after that Cheez Whiz would be introduced in the US, to which the spread is more commonly associated today. Made with a mix of ingredients that include emulsifiers, salts, and artificial coloring (like its other processed cheese predecessors), the product could last almost indefinitely—which proved to be helpful given the advent of the second World War at the time.
Like many American products, Cheez Whiz would make its way to the Philippines in 1967, changing the merienda scene ever since. Oddly enough it is marketed here for its “health benefits” in spite of its notoriously unhealthy reputation elsewhere, especially as Kraft decreased its actual cheese content in 2013. No matter; we’d be lying if we didn’t say it’s absolutely delicious, and to this day it remains as popular in the Philippines as it’s always been.
With time, however, came new players touting the same deadly combination of processed cheese goodness with a spreadable consistency and long shelf life. But can they take the place of the original? How do they compare?
Cheez Whiz is the original, and likely the most ubiquitous in Filipino households. One dip in and we get why. Yes this stuff is salty (as it is meant to be), but the saltiness is underscored by the right amount of tanginess and milkiness to soften the blow. The consistency is spot on, too: just thick enough that it holds its shape on a spoon, but still smooth that spreads on bread with little effort and glides like silk on the tongue.
Cheezee appears very similar to Cheez Whiz with a similar orange hue and thick-ish consistency (though just a touch more runny). But it differs in flavor, with a more pronounced saltiness followed by an odd, plastic-y milkiness that reminds us of margarine. Still, it concludes with a certain depth not present in the other spreads—a rich, lingering umami-ness close to what you get in fish sauce—that feels too strong when the spread is eaten plain, but allows it to stand up when used in a sandwich.
Danes Cheese Spread
Danes differs from its predecessors, appearing lighter and more matte in color. It takes on a much stiffer consistency and an odd texture, with what appears to be undissolved starch particles that leave a powdery feeling in the mouth. The starchiness at least cuts through the saltiness so you get the illusion of it tasting milder. But this also makes for a more one-dimensional flavor, with little to no progression as compared to the first two.
Similar as they seem, there are clear differences between the three spreads. Familiarity aside, Cheez Whiz delivers the most balanced flavor and ultra-smooth texture that’s great plain or in between two pieces of bread. If you must go for an alternative, Cheezee comes the closest; and if you’re just after some form of creamy saltiness to spread on bread then Danes will do in a pinch. But for the full sensation, nothing beats the original cheese spread.