Provel is a white processed cheese that is popular in St. Louis, Missouri. Provel is produced with cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. It is soft at room temperature, with a gooey and almost buttery texture, and thus has a low melting point. It is the traditional topping for St. Louis-style pizza, including for example Imo's Pizza. It is also often served on salads, chicken and the Gerber sandwich. Some restaurants go a step further and use Provel for their pasta dishes with white sauce instead of the customary fresh Italian cheese and cream. Although popular in the St. Louis area, Provel is rarely used elsewhere.
According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Joe Bonwich, Provel was invented specifically for St. Louis-style pizza more than a half-century ago by the downtown firm Costa Grocery (now Roma Grocery on the Hill, a primarily Italian St. Louis neighborhood), in collaboration with the Hoffman dairy company of Wisconsin (now part of Kraft Foods). Bonwich states that Provel was developed to meet perceived demand for a pizza cheese with a "clean bite": one that melts well but breaks off nicely when bitten. Neither of Bonwich's sources at Kraft and Roma had a definitive answer for the origin of the name although one popular theory is that it is a combination of the words provolone and mozzarella, two of the cheeses for which it is substituted.
Provel, like American processed cheese, is not legally labeled as simply cheese because it does not meet the moisture content requirements that the FDA holds for a food to be considered cheese. Provel is instead a Pasteurized process cheese.
Critics argue its processed method of production and flavor make its relation to other cheeses analogous to Chipped beef's relation to steak. Fans consider Provel a delicious mildly smoked flavor that is softer than mozzarella, but that still maintains a cohesive consistency that doesn't form messy strings when it is cut.