Fondue Pots

From Cook's Country | December/January 2012

Overview:

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… read more

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.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Trudeau Electric 11-Piece 3-in-1 Fondue Set

    Easy to use and clean, this 3-in-1 fondue pot held our Cheese Fondue at the right temperature for well over an hour. The double boiler distributed heat evenly, preventing hot spots. Chocolate fondue also turned out well, and when we removed the stoneware insert and used just the stainless steel pot, we got excellent results for oil and broth fondues. Quibbles: We would prefer temperatures on the control dial. Cheese and chocolate fondue must be prepared in a separate pan and transferred to the double boiler.

    • Design ★★★
    • Performance ★★★

    $79.99

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  • Recommended with Reservations

    Oster Fondue Pot

    This model has the best temperature control, and its dial shows actual degrees (unlike other models). We prepared our Cheese Fondue directly in the pot, which brought wine to a boil quickly and held the fondue at the perfect temperature just as long as our winner did. Unfortunately, the nonstick interior was easy to scratch, and the heating element created a hot spot.

    • Design ★★
    • Performance ★★

    $29.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker

    The dial on this model has heat-level markings from 1 to 8, but we’d prefer temperature indication, and we’d favor stainless steel over the scratch-prone nonstick interior. The setting recommended in the manual for holding cheese fondue was far too hot: The sauce quickly broke. After a few more rounds of testing, however, we were able to make adjustments that solved the problem.

    • Design
    • Performance ★★

    $59.95

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Emile Henry Flame Top Cheese Fondue Set

    Our favorite among the fuel-burning fondue pots, this model was the largest in that group, with a 2.6-quart capacity; it’s also oven- and stovetop-safe. Its forks are sturdy, and the enamel in the pot never got a scratch. Our only complaint (but a crucial one): Even when we turned the heat down to the lowest setting, the flame was still too high, scorching the fondue.

    • Design ★★
    • Performance

    $125

  • Not Recommended

    Swissmar Sierra 11-Piece Meat Fondue Set

    Designed for meat or cheese fondue, this pot is stovetop-safe. We prepared fondue in it, but the pot was too narrow to work well, even on a small gas burner. Flames licked the sides, leaving the center cold, and the cheese took forever to melt. When we moved the pot to its own burner, we had the opposite problem: The flame from the liquid fuel was very aggressive; even with the heat at the lowest setting, it super-heated the pot, breaking and scorching the fondue.

    • Design
    • Performance

    $64.95

  • Not Recommended

    Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 1 3/4-Quart Fondue Pot

    This tall, narrow enameled cast-iron pot had all the problems of the Swissmar, with a much bigger price tag. It readily scorched the fondue, heated unevenly, and lacked a trivet, so we had to find our own heat-resistant mat to slide under the stand. All in all, we were not impressed.

    • Design
    • Performance

    $169.95

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