Looking for a fun and delicious idea for your next event? Fondue makes for the perfect holiday party, game night, or cozy winter dinner. Whether you’re a cheese-head, a meat-lover, or have a sweet-tooth, there’s a fondue for you!
What Is Fondue?
Derived from the French word for “to melt”, fondue refers to a combination of cheese, wine, and spices. It is meant to be shared from a communal pot, and kept warm over a low flame. While Switzerland is credited for this delicious invention, similar creations date back centuries and across multiple countries.
Fondue began as a way to make use of bread and cheese that were soon to go bad. On cold nights, this warm dish was the perfect preparation to keep multiple bellies full. This waste-not-want-not attitude was not only ingeniously frugal, but also turned out to be quite delicious!
In the 1930s, the Swiss Cheese Union declared fondue as the official national dish of Switzerland. In 1963, fondue was featured as part of the New York World’s Fair, and rose to popularity in the United States throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. Nowadays, several variations on this Swiss staple exist, centering around oil, broth, and even chocolate!
What Kind of Equipment Do I Need to Make Fondue?
The coquelon is the traditional pot used to cook fondue, but any pot made of porcelain, ceramic, stoneware, or enameled cast iron will work.
Fondue is served over a sterno candle or spirit lamp so that it can be kept warm without overcooking.
Fondue requires special long-stemmed forks for dipping food directly into the pot. Do not try to use regular forks, or your bare hands, as you will run the risk of losing your grub to the bottom of the pot, or worse, burning your fingers! Each guest should have their own set of fondue forks.
If you are dipping a variety of foods, you will want your guests to have a separate fork for each item. This will help to keep things simple and sanitary.
Choosing a Fondue Cheese
In Switzerland, the most common fondue cheeses are Emmental and Gruyère, though this varies from region to region, with some places preferring Appenzeller, Sbrinz, and Vacherin. In Italy, Fontina is a fondue favorite, while French fondue often features Beaufort, Comté, and Reblochon.
If you aren’t familiar with most of those cheeses, that’s OK! You can use whatever cheese you’d like. We recommend picking a cheese that is rich and melts well. For a more complex flavor profile, you can use two, or even three different types of cheese. Consider pairing a creamy cheese with a sharp cheese for contrast. Just try to keep it under three cheeses so as not to distract from all those distinctly delicious flavors.
Choosing a Fondue Wine
When choosing a wine for your fondue, look for one that is high in acidity and on the drier side. Common wines used for fondue include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and unoaked Chardonnay.
However, do not discount your personal preference, since it will have a significant impact on taste.
Beer can also be used instead of wine. Beers that work best for cheese fondue include amber ales and stouts.
You can even opt out of using alcohol altogether and switch it for an unsalted vegetable or chicken stock.
It is also common to add a hearty splash of kirsch–a transparent brandy made from distilled cherries.
How to Make Cheese Fondue in 3 Steps
Once you have the appropriate equipment, fondue is simple to make. It consists of only three main ingredients: cheese, wine, and cornstarch.
Ensuring the correct amount of each of these ingredients is crucial to your fondue coming out correctly. The cornstarch works to keep the cheese from clumping–but too much can cause it to become thick. The wine will act as an emulsifier, giving your fondue an even texture. Using quality ingredients will go a long way.
First, grate your cheese into a bowl and set aside. Grating the cheese will allow it to melt quickly and more evenly than chopping it into large chunks. Just be careful not to cut yourself when getting down to the nub of the cheese block!
Tradition dictates rubbing the bottom and sides of your pot with a cut clove of garlic. Although this step is optional, we recommend not skipping it, as the garlic will help to reinforce the flavor.
Simmer your wine (or whatever liquid you’ve chosen), along with the cornstarch (you can substitute with flour if necessary). Then, stir in your choice of grated cheese. Do this slowly, handful by handful, to ensure that your mixture is smooth and creamy. If you find that the fondue is too thick, add more liquid. Cook over a medium heat for about five minutes. Overcooking will result in stringy cheese.
Lastly, add your favorite selection of spices. Shallots, lemon juice, and fresh herbs are always a welcomed choice, but feel free to improvise in the direction of your desired flavor profile.
What to Dip in Cheese Fondue
Cubes of French bread, focaccia, or soft pretzels are all excellent options for cheese fondue dippers. Serve alongside a selection of fresh veggies for the perfect party platter!
How to Make Oil Fondue
If you’re looking to prepare a full meal with all the same fun, oil fondue is a versatile cooking method for meats, seafood, and vegetarian proteins. Use an oil that has a high smoke point like canola oil, vegetable oil, or peanut oil (although be aware of any peanut allergies in your group).
What Kind of Meat Can I Cook with Oil Fondue?
Beef and pork work best when making oil fondue, since they are less likely to cause an issue if undercooked. Still, always use a meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked thoroughly. Stay away from cuts of meat that are pre-breaded, as these will make it more difficult to cook and result in a soggy mess at the bottom of your pot.
What Kind of Seafood Can I Cook with Oil Fondue?
Hearty seafood, like shrimp or salmon, work best for oil fondue, as opposed to fishes like haddock or cod, which are more prone to falling apart.
Vegetarian Oil Fondue
Tofu is a favorite fondue protein that tends to hold up well in oil. Use extra-firm tofu, and don’t forget to press it beforehand.
You can also cook vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, or bell peppers. Avoid vegetables that retain too much moisture, like eggplant or zucchini. Although roots like carrots and sweet potatoes can be cooked fondue-style, keep in mind that they will take longer, and be sure to slice them small, or even pre-cook them a bit.
How to Make Chocolate Fondue
Not only does fondue make for a fantastic meal, it’s also perfect for a fun dessert!
Look for chocolates that have a higher percentage of cocoa butter, as these will make for the creamiest fondues. If you’re able to, we recommend using high-quality chocolate–it will be worth it!
Instead of alcohol, bring a saucepot of heavy whipping cream and milk to a simmer before folding in your chocolate. For extra flavor, feel free to sprinkle in your favorite baking spices or extracts.
White or Dark Chocolate Fondue
Use white chocolate for a tasty twist on a classic. Or, opt for dark chocolate.
Holiday Chocolate Fondue
Nothing rings in the holiday spirit like spiking the fondue pot! This season, add some brandy or peppermint schnapps for a more adult version. Toss in some nutmeg for good measure.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Fondue
Use Mexican hot chocolate (like Abuelita or Ibarra), which is often made with cinnamon, chile, and cacao. Or, add these spices to your choice of melting chocolate.
What to Dip in Chocolate Fondue
When it comes to dippers for dessert fondue, the possibilities are truly endless. Fruits like strawberries, raspberries, or sliced apples are all fantastic options that make for a fresh and juicy treat.
But don’t feel the need to shy away from sweeter items such as rice krispies, angel cakes, and ladyfingers–all of which are soft and sweet pairings.
For something savory, go for popcorn or pretzel rods.
Fon-Dos and Don’ts
In the age of Covid, it is important to be cautious when sharing a communal meal like fondue.
A few suggestions on safety etiquette:
- Keep your group small. The fewer hands in the pot, the safer.
- Serve from the bowl but eat from your plate.
- And remember–no double-dipping!
Where Can I Find Fondue Supplies?
Kolikof Caviar and Gourmet Foods sells complete gourmet fondue sets that include a beautiful pot and accessories. Each set even comes with quality food products to get you started!
Our Gourmet Chocolate Fondue Set comes with everything you need to host a large dinner party or gathering. With over two pounds of white and dark chocolate, you can choose your own flavor for the night.
We also carry a Gourmet Cheese Fondue Set that is perfect for an elegant evening. This high quality set comes with a brand new 22 inch cast iron pot that is perfect for holding high temperatures without burning any of the precious Emmental and Gruyere Cheese that we provide you with.
Whether you’re looking for a gorgeous gift, or want to make fondue a new family tradition, Kolikof has the perfect set for you!