In this report
Overview
September 2009 Ratings

Be choosy with cheese

Last reviewed: September 2009
Testers with plates of cheese
Eating on the job
In blind tests conducted in our tasting booths, trained tasters evaluated each cheese for flavor and texture.
Photograph by Michael Smith

When you say cheese, does it matter what product you ask for? Yes, according to our taste tests of 12 Swiss slices. The best tasted good enough to be eaten plain; the worst had a sour, bitter taste that might not even be disguised in a sandwich.

Taste

Quality doesn't rise with cost: Lowest-rated Organic Valley is highest-priced per ounce; the next-most-expensive Finlandia cheeses are in the middle of the Ratings (available to subscribers). All of the lower-fat cheeses have texture defects (they're slightly crumbly or rubbery) and lack the full-fat impression of regular cheeses.

Nutrition

A serving of those cheeses, usually one slice, supplies from 15 to 25 percent of the Daily Value for calcium. Although their sodium levels differ widely, calories and fat are similar among the full-fat cheeses and among the lower-fat cheeses, at least per ounce. The same isn't true per slice, so the Ratings (available to subscribers) list the weight per slice. If you automatically slap two slices on a sandwich and want to limit calories and fat, try the lightweight ones. Cheese is nutritious, given its calcium content, but it's also relatively high in fat.

Melting

All slices melted when heated for 5 minutes at 375° F, but full-fat cheeses had a slightly smoother melt than those with reduced fat.

Lunch-meat options

Sliced turkey or chicken breast, extra-lean ham, and roast beef provide good nutrition: about 55 to 65 calories and 1 to 2 grams of fat per 2 ounces. Beef bologna and beef and pork salami have fair nutrition, with 175 to 190 calories and about 15 grams of fat. All of those lunch meats can have more than 500 milligrams of sodium per 2 ounces, but check labels: Sodium levels vary widely by brand.

Bottom line

Considering taste and price, Kraft Deli Fresh Extra Thin Aged Natural comes out on top. Tasty choices that cost even less include the Great Value and Market Pantry.