Form and Function: An Evolution of Fondue Pots

Originally a simple clay vessel, the shape, material, and in some cases, the function of the fondue pot have changed over the years.

The traditional container for holding fondue, called a caquelon, is a glazed ceramic pot with a thick handle. The squat, broad shape, as in this example from the Swiss company Landert, is designed so that the bottom and sides heat evenly, which helps prevent the cheese from scorching.
The fondue fad that swept the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s spawned styles of cookware that reflected the tastes of the era. Most designs were some version of a cheerfully colored pot made of enamel-coated steel, perched on a stand over a Sterno can or a burner fueled with denatured alcohol, and equipped with a set of color-coded forks.
The design-foward American company Dansk made a pot with a teak handle, part of its Kobenstyle line, created by Danish designer Jens Quistgaard.
Catherineholm of Norway manufactured another emblematic pot, which stood out for its distinctive lotus pattern.
As mechanical appliances continued to populate the American kitchen in the 1950s, so the fondue pot went electric- this contemporary example from Cuisinart has a dial for adjusting heat.
The craze also inspired an assortment of fondues, and different containers for cooking them. Chocolate fondues and fondue bourguignonne, raw beef dunked in hot oil, are said to have been created in the late 1950s by Konrad Egli, chef-owner of Swiss Chalet restaurant in New York City. The recommended pot for keeping chocolate molten without burning it employs the gentle flame of a tea candle.
A metal pot with a porcelain insert works equally well for chocolate or cheese. Remove the insert, and the pot is ideal for meat fondue, since copper can withstand the heat of the boiling oil.
Since the early 1990s, the interest in fondue has revived. The French cookware line Le Creuset currently sells high-end models, made of porcelain-enamelled cast iron, which encourages even distribution of heat.

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