The ultimate dinner party food is also perfect for intimate romantic meals. Here's what you need to know about making and enjoying fondue.

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Fondue goes in and out of style, but at heart it's an ancient form of one-pot-cooking. And right now it's hot, hot, hot.

First things first, though. Fondue isn't always cheese based. It can be one of three things: a pot of melted cheese, liquefied chocolate, or boiling-hot oil for cooking meats. The fun part is skewering nibbles on long forks and dipping into the communal pot. What better way to gather your best pals and truly share a meal.

What Is the Best Cheese for Fondue

Hard and semi-hard cheeses—such as Gruyère, Emmental, fontina, and Cheddar—tend to work best. (If there's a mountain range or a man in suspenders on the label, it's a good sign.) Combining two or three cheeses makes for a more interesting flavor, allows you to balance strong-flavored cheeses (like Gruyère) with milder ones (like fontina), and makes more-expensive cheeses stretch further.

Cheese fondue served with bread, potatoes, and vegetables
Credit: Meredith

How to Heat Cheese for Fondue

It's tough to wait, but cheese needs to be heated slowly to avoid scorching. Shred or chop it into tiny pieces to speed melting, and add a bit at a time until the mixture is the consistency of a creamy sauce.

How to Fix Fondue That's Too Thick or Too Thin

If your fondue gets too thick, increase heat slightly, add a splash of white wine or lemon juice, and stir. If it gets too thin, decrease the heat and add more cheese. If it begins separating, raise the heat and whisk it back together, or add a little cornstarch (it and flour act as binders, keeping fondue from separating back into liquid and semisolids).

Cheese Fondue Without Wine

Most cheese fondue recipes include wine, whose acidity helps make the cheese smooth by preventing the proteins from clumping together. A splash of Gewurztraminer wine adds a hint of sweet to the mix, which pairs well with apple slices. If you want an alcohol-free option, look for recipes that substitute lemon juice.

What Foods Are Good for Fondue?

There's a deep pleasure that comes from dunking various bits of food into molten cheese. The traditional partner is chunks of crusty French bread. But that's just for starters. And really, if you can dunk it, it's fair game. Here's a short list of some good candidates to be bathed in glorious, gooey cheese: Apples, bread, broccoli or cauliflower florets, grapes, chunks of steamed or roasted potatoes, meatballs, sausages, fennel, French fries, Tater Tots, cubes of ham, pickles, pretzels, jalapeno poppers, jumbo pasta shells, Cheddar crackers, naan, sweet bell peppers, jicama. Check out our ideas for chocolate fondue below.

See How to Make Chef John's Classic Cheese Fondue

Here's Chef John's easy, simple, and foolproof method for making the ultimate cheese lover's dish! "The combination of acidic wine with the rich, buttery cheeses is a wonder to behold," says Chef John. "Besides the amazing taste and texture, there's just something fun about eating things off the end of a really long fork!" Chef John recipe features white wine, cherry brandy, spices, and Gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses. See how it's done.

Get the recipe for Chef John's Classic Cheese Fondue.

Fondue Quick Tips

Best food size for fondue: Aim for 1-inch cubes, just enough for one or two bites.

Best fondue pot: Ceramics work best for showcasing dessert fondue; metal pots work best for cooking meats and vegetables in oil, wine, or broth.

Best temperature for fondue: A tea light candle or low flame (a warm 120 degrees) keeps cheese or dessert fondues at perfect melting temperatures. If you're cooking meats in a pot of hot oil, the oil needs to be kept at 375 degrees to cook food quickly and evenly.

Best oil for fondue: peanut oil. A low smoke point makes it best for high frying temperatures.

Best wine for cheese fondue: Something acidic (like Sauvignon Blanc) helps keep cheese fondue smooth.

Best fast fix: Cheese mixture clumping? Add a few drops of lemon juice. Chocolate or butterscotch mixture separating? Whisk in a little more cream.

Best fondue fork stand-in: Long wooden skewers. Find them at the supermarket along with other supplies for outdoor grilling.

Cheese Fondue
Cheese Fondue | Photo by Denise Sakaki

Fun Fondue Party Ideas

Girls Night In: chocolate fondue! Get your besties together in front of the widescreen, tune in to a fun flick, and pull out all the forbidden goodies: brownie bites, Oreos, marshmallows, angel food cake, and strawberries. Now get dippin'.

Little Dippers: cheese fondue. Let the kids pick and prepare the dippers (sliced sausage, mini hot dogs, pretzels, veggie bites) because sometimes everything is better with melted cheese. Make it nacho cheese fondue by adding bottled salsa. Make it a total dip experience by serving it at your kid's next pool party.

Double Dip: cheese fondue for dinner; chocolate fondue for dessert. Turn this into a romantic dinner for two with candlelight, music, wine, and lots of nibbles to feed each other.

All Dips, All the Time: entertain buffet style by setting up several fondue stations. Let guests wander and cook their own meats, vegetables, and desserts.

Dessert Fondue: Pull out all the stops for dessert by taking a basic recipe and embellishing it with added liqueurs and inventive dippers. Try these delicious dessert fondue recipes:

Chocolate Orange Fondue
Chocolate Orange Fondue | Photo by Nanby

Fun Fondue Facts

In Swiss tradition, if a man loses a piece of bread in the fondue pot, he must buy the table a bottle of wine. If a woman does it, she must kiss the man next to her. (Maybe this accounts for fondue's popularity in the '70s.)

Chocolate fondue was invented not in Switzerland but in New York in the mid-1960s. To be fair, it was a Swiss restaurateur (Konrad Egli) at his Chalet Suisse restaurant as part of a promotion for Swiss chocolate (Toblerone).

The crust left at the bottom of the cheese fondue pot— known as the religieuse in honor of nuns who wore several layers of clothing, called "crusts"—is considered a delicacy. Scrape it out with a fork after you've turned off the heat and divide it among your guests.

Don't miss our complete collection of Cheese Fondue Recipes.

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