Published December 1, 2011. From Cook's Country.
These specialty pots make it easier to keep fondue warm and at the right consistency.
A fondue pot is not a chef’s knife—it’s far from being a kitchen essential. In fact, you can make our Cheese Fondue in any saucepan. But keeping it warm and at the right consistency is certainly easier in the pot that bears its name; if you’re a big fondue fan (or looking for a present for the cook who has everything), it might be worth getting one. We gathered six pots priced from $30 to $170, including three electric and three traditional fuel-burning models (two enameled cast iron, one ceramic). All come with six fondue forks; fuel must be purchased separately. We prepared a batch of our Cheese Fondue in each, following manufacturer directions, and compared the results.
At first, we had a strong preference for the look of the traditional models. With the pot as the dinnertime centerpiece, it shouldn’t be an eyesore. We changed our minds, however, once we started to cook. Fondue fuel can be messy to handle, and while the simple metal burners are adjustable, we could never get the fire low enough to prevent the sauce from scorching and breaking. The charm of the flickering flames wore off quickly.
Electric pots have dials to control the heat, but even these aren’t all that effective. The heating elements attached beneath two of the electric pots created hot spots. The third worked better: Constructed like a double boiler with a stainless steel outer bowl to hold water and a ceramic insert for the fondue, it regulated heat well and kept the fondue creamy. We also disliked the nonstick interiors of those first two electric pots; this coating was too easy to scratch with metal dipping forks. (All three have “breakaway” electric cords, which detach instantly without tipping the pot.)
Cleanup presented its own problems: The two electric pots with attached elements can be immersed in water and are dishwasher-safe (as long as the dial and cord are detached), but scorched-on cheese did not come off in the dishwasher, and washing all the nooks and crannies by hand was a pain. We preferred the third, double boiler–style pot, which can be removed from the heating element, making it easier to clean.
We ended up with only one pot we thought worth recommending highly. Our mid-priced winner ($79.99) may not have the romance of flame, but otherwise it has it all: finely adjustable electric heat control that doesn’t scorch, a double-boiler warming system that prevents hot spots, and a fully removable ceramic pot for easy cleanup. It works equally well for chocolate and meat fondue.