Retro? Maybe. But nothing beats a good old-fashioned fondue pot when it comes to serving this party favorite.
Published Feb. 1, 2017. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 5: Upscale Meat and Potatoes
According to Swiss fondue tradition, there are consequences for losing your bread in the bubbling cheese: a man has to buy a round of drinks, and a woman has to kiss her neighbors. But even if you forsake such tradition, there’s plenty of reason to invest in a good fondue pot. Whether you’re fonduing for two or serving a crowd, this hands-on dish is often the centerpiece of the meal, and nothing is quite as disappointing as burnt or barely warmed cheese or chocolate. While you can serve fondue in any vessel (a saucepan is a popular choice), a fondue set has a festive feel, saves the host from having to constantly rewarm the dip, and comes with a set of color-coded pronged forks so guests can keep track of their utensils.
To find the best fondue pot, we threw a fondue party of our own, rounding up five models—three electric and two powered by sterno fuel (sold separately)—priced from about $20.00 to $120.00. We prepared our recipes for cheese and chocolate fondue on the stovetop and transferred them to the fondue pots to keep warm. We also prepared a beef broth fondue (AKA “hotpot”) directly in the pots. Once the fondue was heated through, we invited a team of editors to dip a variety of foods (baguette and apple slices for cheese fondue, pound cake and strawberries for chocolate, thinly sliced beef for broth), in each case using the forks included with the product.
Testers were immediately frustrated by the two fuel-powered models, which we could never seem to get to the right temperature: at their lowest their flames still scorched cheese and chocolate fondue, and at their highest they couldn’t even bring broth fondue to a boil (after about an hour they finally got hot enough to cook the beef, but we’d be cautious with pork or chicken). Electric models, by contrast, had heating elements that cycled on and off and adjustable knobs to regulate the temperature from anywhere between a gentle warm to a rolling boil. Once set, electric models also kept the temperature remarkably consistent. We noted as much when we used temperature-tracking software to chart the temperature of the fondues over 1 hour—fuel-powered models fluctuated by more than 100 degrees, while electric models stayed within a 25-degree range. We also liked the wider crocks of electric models, which at 8 inches wide compared with the 6.5-inch diameter of fuel-powered models, allowed more room for communal dipping.
That said, some electric models had flaws. Two products had ambiguously labeled temperature controls, which left us searching for the manual whenever we wanted to adjust the temperature. One set used a double-boiler setup for cheese and chocolate fondu...
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