Retro? Maybe. But nothing beats a good old-fashioned fondue pot when it comes to serving this party favorite.
How We Tested
According to Swiss fondue tradition, there are consequences for losing your bread in the bubbling cheese: a man has to buy a round of drinks, and a woman has to kiss her neighbors. But even if you forsake such tradition, there’s plenty of reason to invest in a good fondue pot. Whether you’re fonduing for two or serving a crowd, this hands-on dish is often the centerpiece of the meal, and nothing is quite as disappointing as burnt or barely warmed cheese or chocolate. While you can serve fondue in any vessel (a saucepan is a popular choice), a fondue set has a festive feel, saves the host from having to constantly rewarm the dip, and comes with a set of color-coded pronged forks so guests can keep track of their utensils.
To find the best fondue pot, we threw a fondue party of our own, rounding up five models—three electric and two powered by sterno fuel (sold separately)—priced from about $20.00 to $120.00. We prepared our recipes for cheese and chocolate fondue on the stovetop and transferred them to the fondue pots to keep warm. We also prepared a beef broth fondue (AKA “hotpot”) directly in the pots. Once the fondue was heated through, we invited a team of editors to dip a variety of foods (baguette and apple slices for cheese fondue, pound cake and strawberries for chocolate, thinly sliced beef for broth), in each case using the forks included with the product.
Testers were immediately frustrated by the two fuel-powered models, which we could never seem to get to the right temperature: at their lowest their flames still scorched cheese and chocolate fondue, and at their highest they couldn’t even bring broth fondue to a boil (after about an hour they finally got hot enough to cook the beef, but we’d be cautious with pork or chicken). Electric models, by contrast, had heating elements that cycled on and off and adjustable knobs to regulate the temperature from anywhere between a gentle warm to a rolling boil. Once set, electric models also kept the temperature remarkably consistent. We noted as much when we used temperature-tracking software to chart the temperature of the fondues over 1 hour—fuel-powered models fluctuated by more than 100 degrees, while electric models stayed within a 25-degree range. We also liked the wider crocks of electric models, which at 8 inches wide compared with the 6.5-inch diameter of fuel-powered models, allowed more room for communal dipping.
That said, some electric models had flaws. Two products had ambiguously labeled temperature controls, which left us searching for the manual whenever we wanted to adjust the temperature. One set used a double-boiler setup for cheese and chocolate fondue, but the water bath emitted a cloud of steam that burned testers’ hands as we tried to dip, and its exterior got dangerously hot. And while we liked that the electric models’ nonstick interiors were easy to clean, all but one pot emerged from testing scratched from both the pronged forks and excessive scrubbing.
That product, the Oster Titanium Infused DuraCeramic 3-Qt Fondue Pot was our favorite of the bunch. In addition to a nonstick ceramic coating that was impervious to scratches, this fondue pot had heat-resistant plastic handles for moving the pot while still hot and a clearly labeled temperature dial with both degrees and recommendations for type of fondue printed on the knob. Its temperature was so adjustable, in fact, that as one final test we prepared cheese fondue directly in the crock practically hands-free, saving ourselves a pan and time at the stove. And it was also the cheapest product we tested, which just might make the prospect of having to buy a round of drinks for losing your bread a little less daunting.
We tested five fondue sets priced from $20.00 to $120.00—three electric models and two that run on fuel (sold separately). We prepared cheese and chocolate fondue on the stovetop (per manufacturers’ instructions) and transferred them to the fondue pots to keep warm, tracking the temperature over 1 hour. We also cooked broth fondue from start-to-finish in each model, and cheese fondue from start-to-finish in the top two models. Testers used each product’s included forks with a variety of soft and hard foods during each test and rated the sets on their heating, ease of use, and durability and cleaning. Prices shown were paid online and products appear in order of preference.
Heating: We used probes and temperature-tracking software to determine how well the products maintained even heat over the course of an hour. Products lost points if they scorched food, required extensive adjusting, or failed to keep the fondue at an ideal serving temperature (120 to 140 degrees for chocolate, 140 to 160 degrees for cheese, and above 212 degrees for broth). Full points went to sets that heated evenly and needed minimal adjusting.
Ease of Use: Testers rated each set on how easy it was to load, adjust the temperature, move, and eat from. Our favorite products had roomy crocks with space for multiple dippers, sturdy forks, and clearly labeled temperature controls. We docked points for narrow crocks with cramped openings, ambiguous temperature controls, or products that burned testers when they touched the crock.
Durability and Cleaning: We evaluated how easy each crock was to clean. We deducted points from pots that required extra scrubbing or products that emerged scratched or discolored after cleaning.