Fondue is thought to have originated in the mountainous French region of Savoie, where it was a delicious means of keeping farmers well-fed during the cold winter months. It gained popularity across the border in Switzerland, where it’s still considered a dish of national pride.
In the US fondue reached peak popularity in the 1970s after being promoted at the Swiss Alpine Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. But as Americans became more health-conscious (or fat-phobic, depending on your POV), fondue fell out of favor. The strict fondue rules laid out by cookbooks and food magazines (only add kirsch and never drink cold water unless you want the cheese to solidify in your stomach!) didn’t help the cause. But now, thanks to the wider availability of top-shelf ingredients and the constantly swinging pendulum of trends, fondue is back, baby. To do it at home, all you need is a good fondue pot, high-quality cheese, and a few other essentials. Here’s a full rundown. C’est l’heure de la fondue!
A nonnegotiable for fondue? The pot. In Switzerland an earthenware caquelon made from either porcelain or clay is the pot of choice. I usually buy a new fondue pot each season to match my mood (this year: a cute cow design), but my current favorite pot is this Emile Henry fondue pot. It has a 2.5 liter capacity, is highly durable, and can be heated up in the oven or over a burner before being placed over a small fondue flame. The pot heats evenly and keeps the cheese warm for a long time—hallmarks of a good fondue pot. Six forks and a stand are included.
If you’re in the market for something smaller, another solid choice is this white ceramic fondue pot from Dutch brand Boska. It has a 1.3-liter capacity and, like the Emile Henry pot, comes with a stand and forks (four instead of six).
Slightly dry and day-old bread is an essential fondue ingredient (fresh bread absorbs far too much liquid and instantly disintegrates in the bubbly cheese). If you’re making your own, this bread cloche creates an excellent crusty white loaf.
Most fondue sets come with forks and a stand to keep your cheese warm for hours, but if you’re using a regular cast iron pot, you’ll need to buy your fondue forks separately.
If you buy a fondue set, it will likely come with a stand and burner, which you may need to fill with denatured alcohol or a burning gel. But if you’re DIYing your own set-up with a pot and a makeshift stand, don’t just reach for a votive candle: You need a stronger flame to produce the religieuse, aka the crust formed at the bottom of the pan after most of the cheese has been eaten. It’s a delicacy you don’t want to miss.
Liven up your fondue by adding in your favorite seasoning to the cheese. Garlic, paprika, and nutmeg are widely enjoyed in Switzerland, but to me a good quality salt is key. This hand-harvested salt from Iceland may not be from the Swiss Alps, but the giant crystals add new dimensions of flavor and texture.
Classic recipes for fondue always include Gruyère, but blends are common in different regions of Switzerland. In Fribourg, locals use a combination of both Gruyère and Vacherin (known as moitie-moitie, half-and-half), which is both silky and punchy in taste. Murray’s fondue mix adds fontina cheese—and the mix comes pre-grated, so that’s a bonus.
If you’re not going the pre-grated route, investing in a good cheese grater is a no-brainer for regular fondue parties. Rather than throwing in bricks of cubed cheese into a fondue mix, the Swiss grate their cheese for a much smoother and quicker melt.
To keep your fondue ingredients separate, use a divided plate like this one, which prevents cubed bread from rolling into pickle juice (a must).