Raclette grill purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What you need to know
  • Raclette grills allow you to prepare raclette with ease and to share the experience with family and friends.
  • A difference is made between traditional raclette ovens, classic raclette grills, and raclette grill and fondue sets.
  • Having a larger grill allows you to either invite more guests or have a feast for a smaller number.
  • The grill plate is made from metal, lava stone, or a combination of the two. Models which can be easily cleaned have a big advantage.

From swiss delicacy to party food

Being able to cook with your family and friends without any of the hassle — doesn’t that sound like a dream? A raclette grill brings this dream to life. It allows the conversation to flow seamlessly while cheese melts, and meat and vegetables sizzle on the hotplate.

The raclette grill originally hails from the Valais canton of Switzerland. Shepherds would melt slices of cheese on the fire and then use their knives to spread it on bread. Records show that this early form of raclette was already widespread in the 19th century. The ‘fromage rôti’ the melted cheese used for raclette – can traditionally be found at all celebrations in Val d’Anniviers in Valais.

filled raclette dishes
You can make a variety of different dishes.

The jump from melting cheese to raclette was a simple one. At an exposition at the beginning of the 20th century, the wines that were served were accompanied by warm cheese. The invention needed a name. Thus, the term ‘raclette’ was born, stemming from the French term ‘racler’, meaning ‘to scrape’. Early raclette grills had a very simple design. A device which resembled the modern day raclette oven was used to hold the cheese in place as it melted.

A personalised experience

Although raclette was traditionally served with side dishes like potatoes and mixed pickles, the raclette as we know it today was really invented with the advent of individual raclette dishes. From this moment on, users had the option to tailor their dish exactly to their own taste. This also signalled the end of the simple cheese, bread, and potato combination of days gone by. The new design of the grill plate allowed for anything, from meat to pizza, to be prepared on its hot surface.

For many people, the best thing about a raclette grill is the speed of preparation. The cook doesn’t need to be absent from the table while cooking as everything is already right there in front of them. Raclette evenings usually extend out over several hours as diners take a leisurely approach to eating and chatting. Raclette grills are also useful for preparing quick snacks like toast, pancakes, or even certain packaged goods from the freezer.

Some ingredients for raclette can be kept in the store cupboard in case hungry, unexpected guests arrive at your door. This can easily turn into a little celebratory dinner or spontaneous party.

Different types of raclette grill

The world of raclette is dominated by three main types of grill:

  • The traditional raclette grill
  • The classic raclette grill
  • The raclette grill and fondue set

Each type has its own particular charm. The choice of the right grill comes down to individual preference.

Preparing raclette the traditional way: the raclette oven

The raclette oven is the original way to enjoy melted cheese. In this method, the cheese is secured in place while a hot lamp is used to melt the cheese evenly. Cheese can even be browned. Some models allow you to heat side dishes over a heating element.

The raclette oven is the ideal choice for cheese purists. It is, however, less suitable for making grilled sandwiches or frying vegetables. Using a raclette oven also requires a little bit of patience, as it is only capable of serving a few people at a time.

  • Traditional preparation method
  • Perfect for cheese purists
  • Easy to clean
  • Suitable for cheese blocks
  • Can’t be used to prepare other dishes
  • Not suitable for a large number of guests

A classic option: the raclette grill

A raclette grill with little pans is one of the most popular ways to enjoy melted cheese. Upon its inception, the small pans were only used to ensure that everyone melted their cheese to their own preference. People were, however, quick to realise that the dishes could be filled with any number of things. Instead of the traditional sides of mixed pickles, potatoes, and bread, people began to cook different things on the raclette grill.

This expanded the functionality of the raclette grill from a niche product to an all rounder. Vegetables, vegan cheese, ham, salami, fruit, or scrambled eggs– all of it could be prepared on the grill. The uses of a raclette grill do not end there. Grill plates or lava stones offer the ability to cook or fry fish, meat, or vegetables. Some models even have a secondary platform on which unused dishes can be left to cool down.

  • Can be used for different types of cooking
  • Suitable for up to eight people
  • Specialist accessories
  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Hidden extra costs
  • Stone plates are liable to breakage

Cheese heaven: raclette grill and fondue sets

For those who can’t decide which of the Swiss delicacies– raclette or fondue– they prefer, there is a third option: a raclette-fondue combination. With this model, a fondue pot comes as an accessory which can be placed on top of the raclette grill to heat up. Some models allow you to swap out the fondue pot for an iron grill plate or a lava stone. This gives you the option to make whatever your heart desires. Sometimes the fondue pot can even be used on a normal gas hob as an extra cooking pot or as a casserole dish in the oven.

Cheese isn’t the only thing that can go into the fondue pot. To make Chinese hotpot, simply replace the cheese with stock. For meat fondue, replace the cheese with oil. Once cooked, your meat or vegetable chunks can be dipped into a sauce of your choosing. People with a sweet tooth understand the benefit of having a second fondue pot to hand. Pears, pineapples, and bananas don’t go so well with cheese. They do, however, pair perfectly with liquid chocolate to provide the ideal dessert.

  • Variety of cooking methods
  • Two devices in one
  • Fondue pot can be used separately
  • Expensive to purchase
  • Accessories like fondue spoons are necessary
  • Danger of burning
  • More space required

What to look out for

Raclette grills range in price from around £20 to £250, depending on the brand, functions, and accessories. To make sure that you get your money’s worth from whichever raclette grill you buy, there are a few important things to consider. Price obviously plays a role, but any decision to purchase should be taken primarily in view of your cooking habits and your expectations for the grill. These considerations may include:

  • How many people do you normally invite?
  • What would you like to prepare other than raclette?
  • What sort of expectations do you have for the grill?
  • What details do you need to pay attention to?

Often too small but rarely too large

People who are interested in a raclette grill but don’t really know if it’s going to live up to their expectations often make the same mistake – they buy the cheapest option available. Oftentimes, only two individual raclette pans are included upon purchase. Most of these beginner models have a surface for grilling, although one thing is for sure: they are never large enough for more than two people. All the same, these raclette grills still take up space in the cupboard.

An exception to this is a type of raclette grill powered by tealights, which can be used without electricity in the garden or while camping. However, it is not really possible to grill with these grills, but rather to just warm up the cheese.

Small dinner parties

Having four individual raclette pans gives you a little more room to manoeuvre. This can also be a good option for two dinners. Depending on what you are cooking on the grill, it can take a while before your food is ready. This is ideal for two people using two pans each. The next dish can begin cooking before the last one is finished, meaning that nobody has to wait long for their dish to finish cooking.

people using the grill
The raclette grill is perfekt for get-togethers.
A feature piece for parties

Having eight pans allows you to enjoy raclette with a wider circle of friends. It should of course be noted that not every pan has to be used, even if you have such a large set. For those who like to eat dessert, it makes a lot of sense to keep a few pans clean. This reduces the need to wash up in the middle of dinner, allowing everyone to stay at the table. If this sounds like an attractive proposition, raclette pans are usually available to purchase separately as well.

In an ideal world, each guest would have more than one dish at their disposal. This proves to be extremely helpful if your raclette grill has a secondary platform. On this level, food that’s not yet ready to be eaten can be kept warm. Meanwhile, the next portion of cheese melts tantalisingly before your eyes.

Different types of grill plate

Larger, more modern raclette grills come with a grill plate included. Some come with a moulded plate which is smooth on one side and grooved on the other. This allows you to prepare different kinds of ingredients. The grooved side is perfect for grilling, while the smooth side is ideal for baking or steaming. The smooth side can also be used for preparing pizza, vegetables, fruits, or omelettes.

Other models use lava stone as the chosen material. This is a good material for anything that doesn’t need to be crispy, such as crêpes, mini pizzas, or vegetables. Heat spreads evenly across lava stone and it remains warm for a long time.

The differences between metal and lava stone grills are described below:

  • Higher temperatures thanks to heating coil
  • Heats up quickly
  • Cools down quickly
Lava stone
  • Warms up evenly
  • Retains heat
  • Easy to clean

Larger models employ both types of material, often with a split grill. One side is made from metal, and the other is made from lava stone.

Size and weight

A heavier weight helps to make sure that the grill is more stable. However, a grill shouldn’t be so heavy that it becomes difficult to transport. Heavy models weigh in at around five to six kilograms. It is also worth considering your storage space and checking the dimensions of the grill before you make a purchase.

The dimensions of the grill are similarly important, in particular for people who wish to grill steaks and other foods while their raclette is melting. The best way to get an idea of the dimensions prior to purchase is to compare the area to that of a piece of paper.

Heat and temperature

Here, two aspects need to be considered: energy consumption and heating duration. If the power is too low, then the grill will need to be kept in use for longer. Thus, buying a model which does not require a lot of energy might result in a higher consumption in the long run, as it takes longer to heat up.

cheese melts under the grill
Different raclette grill varieties allow for different dishes.

A much more effective way to save energy is to correctly regulate the temperature. This way, users can set the heating power to match the ingredients they are cooking. This can be done best with models where the grill plate and oven can be switched on and off independently of one another. If the cheese has already melted, then the grill doesn’t need to be set any higher. Temperature regulation is also useful as the dinner begins to wind down, giving the host the opportunity to dial down the grill temperature. If the model allows, this is the perfect moment to turn the grill plate off entirely.

As with all electrical products, the length of the cable is also worth considering. It should be at least long enough to reach from the table to power outlets on the wall. Extension cables are, of course, also an option, although they can pose a tripping hazard. Safety is of utmost importance when using a raclette grill. For this reason, models with health and safety certification are particularly recommended.

Off-the-shelf accessories

Almost all raclette grills come with everything that you need for a successful raclette evening. This includes the correct number of pans and a scraper. With these two bits of equipment, users can transport their cheese from grill to plate without damaging the outer surface of the grill.

This is particularly important for non-stick surfaces. Although a non-stick surface ensures that food doesn’t get stuck as easily, their coating is particularly sensitive to scratches, especially when compared to stainless steel or aluminium. As soon as the first scratches appear in a non-stick pan, it quickly begins to lose its non-stick properties.

Practical extras

Rubber feet are a practical extra which helps keep the grill’s heat from damaging the table underneath, as well as providing stability and protection against scratches. Any handles on a raclette grill should, without question, be heat insulated. Some models come with a function which prevents fat droplets from vaporising, helping to prevent smoke.

Having a fondue pot can help you to prepare ingredients in different ways. There is also a new player in the raclette world – the Tatar’s hat. A Tatar’s hat is a heatable metal cone which stands on the grill, on which vegetables and thin pieces of meat can be steamed.

Grilling meat and eggs in a raclette dish

Having the option to buy specifically shaped raclette dishes can be the difference between keeping your raclette grill for a long time or throwing it away after only a few uses. A raclette grill often comes with specific kinds of plates. An example of this is the extremely practical fondue plate. Fondue plates have individual sections, in which each guest is free to choose what to eat. This helps to minimise the often clumsy passing around of side dishes and sauces.

meat and egg in pan
It lends itself particularly for fast frying or grilling.

The right maintenance

Before you begin cleaning the grill, it’s always advisable to first unplug the device from the power outlet. Gentle cleaning cloths and washing up liquid usually suffice to clean off any spills or leftovers.

As with any kind of kitchen equipment, the correct maintenance is essential for ensuring that the product has a long lifespan. Cleaning the raclette dishes is rarely a problem. If, despite the layer of non-stick coating, certain food leftovers remain stubbornly attached, then soak them overnight before washing them off with a sponge.

Removable grill plates are particularly practical, but please pay attention to the user manual before attempting to clean them. Strong cleaning products and coarse sponges are not suitable for this.

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