The Must-Know Dipping Etiquette For Cheese Fondue

A fondue night is a wonderful way to liven up dinner with friends or add some creativity to family holiday festivities. This once-popular retro food trend has become a hot new tradition for Millennials, Gen Z, and even younger generations. However, with this revitalization, it's important to know and abide by the rules of fondue — secrets that are deeply ingrained in the generations of people who attended swinging ski chalet parties in the 1970s.

If the sitcom "Seinfeld" has taught the collective human consciousness anything, it's this: Never double-dip the chip. In any communal eating situation involving salsa, spinach artichoke dip, or even fondue, it is entirely verboten to scoop something out of a bowl, take a bite, and then go back for seconds using the same dipping implement.

This is the number one rule for fondue, and it goes a step further. Traditionally, each diner uses a long fork to pierce their dipping food before submerging it into the cheese. The common instinct might be to pull the bread off the fork with your teeth, but this is also a fondue faux pas. The proper method involves using the long fork solely for dipping and then transferring the food onto a small plate to be eaten with a second, normal-sized fork.

There is a correct way to stir the fondue pot

Normally, "stirring the pot" at a dinner party leads to tears and hurt feelings, but at a fondue party, it's a necessity. Proper stirring keeps the cheese at the perfect consistency for dipping. Both too much and too little stirring can spell disaster.

Switzerland, the home of fondue, has spent centuries perfecting proper stirring techniques. Each dip with a long fork should ideally also serve as a stir; the fork should be pushed all the way to the bottom of the caquelon and moved in a figure-eight shape. When removed, the fork should be twisted to allow excess cheese to drip off, preventing a mess on the table. If the cheese isn't stirred enough, the bottom will burn and an odd crust will form on the top.

However, it's possible to over-stir the cheese. Some Swiss traditionalists recommend a maximum of four diners per caquelon to maintain the cheese's consistency and release its flavor. Over-stirring thins the cheese. Additionally, if more than four forks are vying for fondue at the same time, it can lead to traffic accidents and even the occasional dropped piece of bread in the bowl — then feelings will truly be hurt.

Some drinks complement fondue better than others

To truly enjoy cheese fondue like the Swiss, it's customary to serve it with white wine. Connoisseurs say the wine's acidity helps cut the fat in the cheese and aids in digestion. It's also traditional to have a shot of kirsch, a cherry-based brandy that is often included in the fondue recipe. For non-drinkers, your favorite herbal tea works as a substitute.

To enhance the festive atmosphere that comes with fondue, the Swiss have social traditions that can vary among groups of friends. If a piece of food is dropped into the caquelon, the offender must pay a fine, usually involving buying a round of drinks. Similar light-hearted penalties may be imposed for not stirring properly or for eating directly from the long fork, which breaks one of the most sacred rules.

While all these traditions aren't necessary for your next hearty winter fondue feast, introducing them to a regular group dinner can provide excellent entertainment along with a delicious meal.