Fondue, an ancient Swiss dish, is easy to prepare, fun to serve, and enjoyable to eat. The fondue pots presented here are for the traditional cheese, meat and dessert dishes. Veggie fondue is a different story, though you can creatively use it as a dip.

Cheese and dessert fondue are best prepared in a ceramic or iron pan, to maintain a more gentle heat needed to prevent scorching. Use a steel (enameled or stainless) pan with care. Authentic cheese fondue uses a Swiss cheese (like Emmentaler or Gruyere), melted in Swiss wine. Since cheese contains fat, and wine is basically water, which don't normally mix well, be sure to use a natural and well-aged Swiss cheese, or a combination of cheeses, including some cheddars, that will melt smoothly for best results.

The wine should be dry. You might add a little fresh lemon juice to achieve the necessary acidity.

Crackling is normal in ceramic fondue pots, which may appear to be cracked.

Before using your new ceramic or iron pot, break it in by filling it with a mixture of half water and half milk, and boiling for 15 minutes.

Meat fondue is best prepared in a steel (enameled or stainless) or iron (enameled or raw) pot. The pot should have a notched top metal ring, in which the forks fit, to protect you from possible spurts of oil. If the pot does not have a ring, use as little oil as possible. Do not use a ceramic fondue pot for meat; they will not withstand the high temperature required for oil.

Oil can be heated in the fondue pot on the stovetop, before placing it on the fondue burners. Heat to 375&degF, just below the boiling point.

Dessert fondues basically entail melting sweet things in which to dip other things. Like strawberries in chocolate. When dipping in chocolate, towel dry what you're dipping, to keep the chocolate from seizing.

Alcohol will burn about 90 minutes with 3 oz. of fuel. Alcohol burners contain a gauze pad to absorb the alcohol and help prevent it from accidental spillage. Use only denatured alcohol, don't overfill, and don't add fuel while the burner is turned on or while still hot. When cooking is complete, extinguish the flame with the burner cover. Alcohol presumably burns hotter than paste fuels, and is preferred for cooking meat and broths in a fondue.

Paste, or gel, burners look similar to alcohol burners, but don't have the gauze pad. They take a paste or gel container, or you can just pour the paste or gel right into the unit. With less spillage potential, they're a bit safer. Like alcohol burners, don't add fuel while the burner is turned on or while still hot. When cooking is complete, extinguish the flame with the burner cover.

Candles provide a very small amount of heat, and are useful in keeping chocolate and other heat-sensitive foods warm and liquid.

Wash ceramic and iron pots by hand, in soapy water. Use a gentle brush or plastic scourer if necessary.

Vegetable fondue usually requires gently cooking the vegetable, usually in butter, until reduced to a pulp, that is, until it becomes fondue. This type of fondue is generally served in a dish by itself, in gravy, as a condiment or topping for other foods.

Our recommendations: Having sold thousands of fondue sets on the web and in our store, we recommend the enameled iron ones if you're looking for a top quality set. In trying to visualize an item, use the dimensions we give; and call us if you're not sure, so we can help you decide.