There is something meditative about melted cheese, whether it's being wrapped into cacio e pepe, sliding off a raclette onto Belgian frites, or bubbling atop a freshly baked pizza. The practice of enjoying everything from Gruyere to mozzarella in its gooiest form is as much a tradition as it is a revelation, and the height of that experience is undoubtedly fondue.
What's the Deal with Fondue
Now a delicacy at ski chalets and cozy restaurants, fondue first became popular in 17th century Switzerland as a way to stretch resources and feed large families. Peasants could use hardened cheeses and stale bread to make a full, hot meal.
By the 18th century, the dish was named after the French word for "melt" and became a staple. (It later became a symbol of Swiss unity, thanks to the Swiss Cheese Union marketing campaigns in the 1930s). As soon as the dish hit the World's Fair in 1964, New York restaurants quickly adopted it, and soon after it was popularized as an American dish.
What Cheese to Use in Fondue
Some cheeses are better at melting (without burning) than others. Gruyere is a classic choice, as is raclette and Gouda. Fontina, Emmentaler, and challerhocker are also great picks, and cheddar will work as well. Although mozzarella and American melt well as toppings, they're not quite the right texture for dipping. In fondue, the cheese is typically mixed with a dry white wine, which acts as an acid to balance both the flavor and keep the texture smooth.
The cheese must always be grated and added in by the handful to make sure it melts evenly (no one wants lumpy fondue). Tossing shredded cheese in cornstarch helps to thicken the mixture without lumps. Stumped about cheese selection? Murray's Cheese makes it easy, with their own fondue mixes that melt to the perfect consistency.
Recipe: Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue
The Best Fondue Pots
The best raclette, Gouda, and Fontina will only melt in the proper fondue vessel. Wondering what to look for in a fondue pot? We've rounded up the ideal set for every occasion, from full-flame pots for large fondue parties to tea light ones meant for tapas. Consider how much you'd like to spend, how many people you need to feed, and how dishwasher-safe you'd like the tools to be. Do you like stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic, or even glass? These are some of the best options for every fondue style.
Best Overall: Cuisinart CFO-3SS Electric Fondue Maker
Best Classic Fondue Pot: Swissmar Lugano
Best Ceramic Pot: Boska Fondue Set
Best Electric Fondue Pot: Swissmar Mont Brule
Best for Fondue Parties: Boska Mr Big Fondue
Best Small Pot: Glass and Ceramic Fondue
Best Versatile Pot: All-Clad Cast-Aluminum Fondue Pot
Best Chocolate Fondue: Nostalgia Chocolate Fondue Fountain
Best Overall: Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker
With eight fondue forks, a three-quart capacity, temperature control, and a nonstick interior, this set from Cuisinart is the one-stop-shop for making and enjoying fondue. There’s a reason it has a perfect five-star rating on Amazon and ranks as the #1 bestseller in electric fondue pots. The power cord also attaches with a magnet, so you’ll never risk yanking the hot contents onto the floor or a loved one by accident. The set works with cheese, chocolate, broth, or oil, so you’re free to choose your own fondue adventure. $70 (originally $110) at amazon.com
Best Enameled Cast Iron Pot: Swissmar Lugano
This sturdy pot is as close to classic fondue as it gets. The set includes six fondue forks, a two-quart enameled cast iron pot, and the rechaud burner stand. The pot itself can be used on any heat source, so it works just as well on the stovetop too. The pot comes in three colors: black, cherry red, and deep blue—but the enameled interior is the classic white in all versions.
Shoppers love the classic aspects, as one reviewer shared: “The reason I purchased this set is that it is almost identical to the set I remember on the table in the restaurant in Gruyere, Switzerland when I had Swiss cheese fondue for the first time, a good 40 years ago. This is the real deal, authentic, right down to the traditional wrought-iron stylings of the rechaud. This set will last a long time.” $100 at amazon.com
Best Ceramic Pot: Boska
Boska is known for its fondue sets across the board, and their ceramic pots are reliable, easy to clean, and look great on the table. For a smaller size and a budget option at just $30, the 750 mL Boska pot is easily heated with three tea lights, and the pot is microwave safe for melting the contents quickly. For a centerpiece at a dinner party (when we’re having those again), the 1-liter ceramic fondue pot also comes with four forks and a stainless steel base, but sports oak handles and an oak bottom for the base. Both pots are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
Boska 750 mL Fondue Set, $30 at amazon.com
Boska 1-liter Fondue Set, $89 at food52.com
Best Electric Fondue Pot: Swissmar Mont Brule
Another quality Swissmar product is their electric version of the classic two-quart fondue set. The flameless heat makes it heat faster while also being safer for families with small children. The adjustable thermostat control is more precise than a flame for heating either cheese or chocolate to the perfect melty consistency. The stainless steel material makes the set easier to lift and store as needed once fondue season ends. $100 at williams-sonoma.com
Best for Fondue Parties: “Mr Big” Fondue
If you’ve got a large extended family that visits often, or will be planning plenty of large gatherings once the pandemic ends, a large fondue set is for you. This Boska means business. With a full 1.5-gallon capacity, it’s meant for people who don’t mess around when it comes to cheese. The pot is fire-proof ceramic, the base is oak, and it includes 12 forks for dipping. Who says your tailgate spread can’t include fondue? $400 at food52.com
Best Small Pot: Crate & Barrel
On the other end of the spectrum, a fondue for one or two is the perfect treat to keep at home. This little glass and ceramic number from Crate & Barrel is the perfect size for just that, with a three-cup volume, two bamboo forks, and a dishwasher-safe pot and base. The pot’s borosilicate glass is designed to withstand heat, and the simple design makes it easy to operate and store away. Looking for smaller, more individual fondue pots? Boska also makes a 6-ounce size that can do even smaller batches. Waste not, want not!
Boska Tapas Fondue, $30 at amazon.com
Glass and Ceramic Fondue Set, $20 at crateandbarrel.com
Best Versatile Pot: All-Clad Fondue Set
For cheese and chocolate, most fondue pots will do the trick. But if you seek a hot oil and meat element for your fondue setup, this set from All-Clad is a great fit. The 3-5-quart size is plenty for the usual goodness of cheeses and melted chocolate, but also leaves the option to cook meat in oil by removing the insert. The cast-aluminum pot is stovetop-friendly, and it comes with eight color-coded stainless steel forks. $200 at williams-sonoma.com
Best Chocolate Fondue Fountain: Nostalgia Chocolate Fondue Fountain
Set up your dessert fondue right nearby your cheese fondue with the most popular chocolate fountain. It’s a steal at just $25, and can also work with everything from nacho cheese to barbecue sauce. The 3-tier tool has a 24-ounce capacity and is easy to assemble and store. All it requires is to melt the chocolate in the microwave, then the interior heating element will keep it flowing as long as it’s still full. $25 at amazon.com