Cooking for friends can be a complex situation. Deciding what to eat, then trying to keep your dining costs low, can be a difficult juggling act. This is where these fondue party ideas can save the day.
I don’t think party planners often think of fondue as a viable dinner party option. Guests tend to expect multiple courses and dishes at dinner parties, while a fondue tends to focus on a single cooking pot.
And yet this simplicity of fondue can make the dining experience an entertaining one. Guests get the chance to interact with their meal in an unexpected way and share in the experience of the cooking. In essence, you’re all creating the dinner together.
Growing up in London, my family and I used to have Chinese fondue parties at least once a month as well as for Chinese New Year and Christmas. We’d invite family friends over, and by the end of 4 hours of eating, we couldn’t wait for the next one.
Fondue party ideas can save you time when it comes to food prep, shopping for ingredients and clean-up. I also think they’re the perfect idea for last-minute dinners and cash-strapped friends.
Before we jump into planning what you need for a fondue party, you first need to decide whether to throw a cheese, meat or chocolate fondue.
Deciding your fondue type
There are many different types of fondue dinner, each requiring its own fondue set.
A cheese fondue is the most common type of fondue, where guests dip pieces of bread into melted cheese. A cheese fondue uses an earthenware pot as this allows the heat to be spread out more evenly during the heating process. Earthenware pots also reduce the chance your fondue will burn and stop any cheese getting stuck to the sides. Cheese fondue sets can also be used for chocolate fondues.
Chocolate fondue sets tend to be small and compact in size and are used with a dessert party. Guests get to dip fruits, pastries and sweets into a melting chocolate. The dipping chocolate can also be flavoured with rum, honey, caramel or coconut.
Meat fondues are where small pieces of meat are dipped into hot oil. Dippers must wait for the meat to cook through before retrieving it to eat. A typical meat fondue set is made of stainless steel or cast iron, as these materials help retain the heat.
If you plan to host different fondue party ideas in the future, consider buying a stainless steel set with a non-stick coating. This coating is perfect for a cheese or chocolate fondue.
Broth fondues are those where meat and vegetables are cooked together in a shared pot of broth. The pot should be as large as possible, like an electric rice cooker, to accommodate multiple diners. Items are left to boil in the broth before being scooped out and eaten with sauce and rice. A Chinese fondue is essentially the same as broth fondues but with a greate variety of ingredients including seafood, noodles, fish, duck and unusual vegetables.
Check your equipment
If you already own fondue equipment, make sure everything still works. Make sure your pots are crack-free and you have enough fondue forks for everyone. You may need to buy a new set if there’s anything damaged or missing.
Decide who you’re inviting
To throw a happy fondue party, you need to know in advance how many people you’re inviting. Each person will need their own fondue fork to enjoy the experience. You also need a headcount to help you decide the amount of ingredients to buy.
As this will be a dinner party, you would need to serve other dishes in addition to the fondue itself. You will also need to provide drinks and dessert.
Seating plan at a fondue
Setting the table is not easy when it comes to any fondue parties. You want to make sure everyone can reach the fondue pot, and that ravenous guests are not all seated together. You also want to arrange all your dipping foods in a way so they’re evenly spread around the table and everyone can reach them, i.e. all the dipping food isn’t set up in one area.
If you have a circular table, then that’s perfect for a seating plan. I don’t have this, so in the past I have used a Lazy Susan, a type of turntable used to distribute food. I put the fondue and dipping ingredients on the Lazy Susan and this is rotated towards a guest taking their turn. Guests sit in pairs around a square table and can stand up to reach into the fondue when they need to.
How you eat at a fondue
Eating fondue can be an art in itself and applies to all the fondue party ideas in this post. Before your dinner can begin, you should explain to your friends the rules for eating fondue.
A cheese fondue is typically eaten by the guest spearing a piece of bread on their fondue fork, and swirling it around the melted cheese before eventually eating it. Each guest gets a plate and cutlery for other dinner items, and also for resting the heated bread, if it’s too hot to initially eat.
A chocolate fondue is eaten in the same way as the cheese.
Chopsticks are more appropriate tools for Chinese fondue parties. Guests will need their own bowls and plates, plus a small ladle to share, for any items and broth they scoop from the pot.
Fondue is all about sharing and everyone being generous with the food that’s available. Make sure everyone knows not to hog the cheese/chocolate/broth/pot or keep all the bread/fruit/meat for themselves.
What to eat with fondue
Depending on your fondue choice, you want to think about additional items to make it a filling meal.
Alongside the cheese, bread and meat, you should definitely serve up some vegetables to help guests cope with all the carbohydrates. These dishes can include salads as well as lightly steamed green vegetables such as spinach and asparagus.
Boiled potatoes or fresh bread can help balance out a meat fondue.
If you’re eating with alcohol, you need to choose wine to balance out the flavours. While a red or white can balance out meat, it gets more tricky with cheese. Vinepair has an excellent illustrated guide for pairing wine and cheese you should check out.
All about chocolate fondue
Chocolate fondue party ideas are a whole world of their own. You can experiment with different types of chocolate, from milk to ultra-dark, as well as add in different flavours.
Fresh fruit is definitely the way to go with chocolate fondue. Berries, orange pieces, banana slices and grapes work well. You can also set aside marshmallows and pieces of cake and biscuits.
If you love chocolate, you make also want to make this fondue the centrepiece of a chocolate-themed party.
Fondue party games
Can there be specific party games just for fondue? You bet. For some fondue addicts, losing a piece of bread in a cheese fondue can be a qualify as a “punishment.” Punishments can range from singing a song to doing a quick dance or some other crazy dares to perform in front of guests.
Dinner games are perfect to play at various stages of a fondue, especially during periods where a fondue takes time to cook; but also when bellies are stuffed. Here’s a list of games to play at the table of your fondue party.
Organising any dinner event can be a logistical nightmare. You’re constantly having to worry about the cooking. Fondue party ideas remove all the stress of that and get to the heart of your event quickly: good food with friends (without breaking the bank too).