It's Electric, Boogy Woogie Woogie Woogie!
Jan 4, 2007 (Updated Jan 4, 2007)
Review by Alan McCluney
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Non-stick surface, good size for large parties, the almost temp-control, and the safety cord.
Cons:The size for small parties, the almost temp-control, and a short power cord.
The Bottom Line: Great for family fondue without the danger, or hassle, of a flame. But stir constantly, or you'll see how easy it is to clean more than you'd like!
First, why the title? Because the Electric Slide is played at every wedding. And at our wedding, we received the 3-qt. Cuisinart CFO-3SS electric Fondue Pot. It uses electricity from a wall outlet instead of a burner or a tea light for heat, and because of that, the temperature is adjustable.
Recommend this product?
First I'll give details of the pot, then I'll give our initial experience with it and my opinions.
The Cuisinart CFO-3SS Electric Fondue Pot is a self contained 3-qt fondue pot with an electric heating element permanently attached to the base of the pot.
The power cord is a standard 120V AC US plug, but with a magnetic contact interface on the other side. This is a safety feature, because should the pot have hot liquid in it and you trip on the cord, the cord will most likely pop off the maker rather than spill hot fondue everywhere (or on you).
It's Adjustable! (sort of)
The pot has an electric temperature control into which the magnetic power cord attaches. The control is a manual dial that can be adjusted from 0 to 10 depending on the type of fondue.
This is probably the main selling point for an electric fondue pot, but in this case, it may also be biggest drawback. I'll cover the drawback shortly...
Non-stick and dishwasher safe?? They say so!
The CFO-3SS has a non-stick surface that must be conditioned prior to use. The interesting point here however is that the manual says the pot itself is dishwasher safe. I was surprised at this because most non-stick cooking items usually aren't dishwasher safe, and hand washing is normally recommended. Not here however. With this fondue pot, the manual specifically says: 'Thoroughly wash fondue pot and fondue ring in hot, soapy water or an automatic dish washer'. That's a direct quote, but I added the italics. I personally haven't tried this as I didn't get that far in the manual the first time, but next time I will.
Another reason being dishwasher safe was surprising to me is because the electric heating element is permanently mounted on the base. But I guess as long as it's unplugged and the probe is out as they recommend, it's ok for the dishwasher. They also say 'dry thoroughly' which I'm sure is necessary before using it. (I'll update the review when we try it in the dishwasher.)
What comes with it?
-8 Fondue Forks
-A Fondue ring (a metal piece that the 8 forks can rest against to keep them separated)
-A 3 quart fondue bowl with nonstick interior.
-Brushed stainless steel housing (I think this is the heating unit attached to the bowl)
-Adjustable temperature control probe
(And the power cord)
The non-stick surface
The non-stick surface is very nice because there are no interchangeable pots, so going from course to course in a full dinner with one pot would be even more difficult if this wasn't non-stick.
The size is both a pro and a con. The pro, is that with 3 qts, you can have 1 fondue batch big enough for at least 4 or more people. (For 1 or 2 people it's too much.)
The magnetic power adapter
As discussed above, the magnetic adapter is a nice safety feature in case the cord, which is relatively short gets pulled by accident.
The temperature control (sort of)
The temperature control is easy to read and set, and the pot heats up fast. (But as alluded to earlier, this is also a con, discussed below).
The temperature control
The main problem with this pot is that the 'temperature control' is really just an on/off switch. There is no variable heat setting. The probe which inserts into the pot and connects to the control mechanism, just monitors the temperature of the pot and turns the heating element on or off. When it comes on, it's full power on, when it's off, it's all off.
While that may not sound like a big deal initially, the problem is burning. Like a flame heated fondue pot, the fire under it has just one temperature: hot. With the electric, the temperature control just regulates whether the 'hot' comes on or not. It's like lighting a flame when you need it, and putting it out when you don't. And like a flame pot, with the CFO-3SS any ingredients right over the heating element circle may be burned if not stirred. In fact, the reason I know the heating element in this pot is a circle, is because that was the pattern of burned cheese when I left the pot on low the first time with no stirring!
So constant stirring is necessary. This is ESPECIALLY true with cheese or chocolate. Oil or broth based fondues are not a major problem, but cheese or chocolate will burn in the area over the heating element regardless of the temperature setting if not stirred.
Now granted, an automatic on/off switch is much nicer than lighting and blowing out a flame, so for that fact alone this pot is very nice. But a major reason for having an electric pot would be to control the actual level of the heat. Not being able to control that seems like an oversight that would be a major advantage over a flame pot.
Because the pot is big, the size is nice for a lot of people. But for fewer people, such as 2, it's too big. In order to have a decent ingredient level for cheese, broth, or chocolate, you need a LOT of cheese, broth, and chocolate. If not, the fluid level will be too low, and ingredients may be only partially cooked or partially dipped. To compensate, you may end up wasting a lot of fondue ingredients just to have enough to cook or coat with.
Short power cord
The power cord is very short. We needed an extension cord to use it on our dining room table.
What additional features would I want?
Aside from an actual variable heat temperature control, it would be nice if it had a couple of interchangeable pots. Although the non-stick surface is great, it's still a pain to clean quickly between courses. Multiple pot inserts would be great so they could be quickly swapped out for each meal, and cleaning could be done later.
Enough of the petty details! Now for our first fondue experience using the CFO-3SS...
Our First Fondue Dinner
My wife and I love a good Fondue! But before the fondue maker, that meant spending at least $80 for a night out at a fancy fondue restaurant. You know the place; they charge you a fortune to cook your own food. But somehow at those places, although you're only dipping basic raw foods into boiling broth, it always tastes great. And of course it's a fun night out.
But why not have a fun night in? With that thought in mind, we figured after 8 months it was time to break out one of our few remaining untried wedding gifts, the Cuisinart fondue pot. We invited a friend over, and we decided to actually replicate a night out at a fancy fondue restaurant. That meant putting on a full, 3 course, fondue meal. I'll say it now: easier said than done.
To replicate a fancy fondue outing, we needed at least 3 courses: a cheese appetizer, a main course, and dessert. I went online to find fondue recipes, and then I went shopping to buy all the ingredients. The total bill came out to around $45. That was higher than I expected, but less than our typical night out (which was the goal) especially considering this was for 3 people. Also some of the ingredients were optional (I used a fancy broth recipe with wine, but fondue recipe reviews are for another website).
The Appetizer: Cheese Please
I set the temperature on the pot for cheese according to the Cuisinart manual. I put in cut up pieces of cheese, and then went to prepare the bread for dipping. I checked the pot after a minute or so, and the cheese had begun melting nicely. The pot heats up fast, so I set it to low. When I went back to the pot a second time, I noticed there was evidence of bubbling. So I stirred the cheese a little, and to my dismay I found burned cheese at the bottom of the pot, right over the heating elements. As I stirred, I was mixing the foul cheddar in with the clean cheese! That won't do. Strike 1. I unplugged the pot, cleaned it out, and started over again. Good thing I bought extra cheese!
Stirring regularly the second time, I managed a good consistent cheese fondue. I put the pot on the lowest setting, and carried it to the dining table. The cord was too short to reach the wall, so I used an extension cord and plugged it in. We then dipped our bread using the included forks. The included forks are not great to use with a loose type of bread (too much bread fishing with a spoon was required), so we reverted to little salad forks which worked great. The first course ended up being very tasty.
The Main Course
As I mentioned before, we wanted to replicate the full fondue experience. That meant for the main course I created a broth for cooking vegetables and dipping various raw meats. We had: raw chicken, steak, and shrimp. We also had raw vegetables such as mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli. I had spent about 30 minutes prior to the first course cutting the chicken and steak into strips, and shelling the shrimp. So after the cheese, I took the pot back to the kitchen and spent another 5 minutes cleaning it out. Then, adding the broth from the stove (it took 20 mins to prepare the broth base, and an hour to simmer), we set the fondue pot for broth, and took it back to the table. I then added all the vegetables and let it cook. On the broth setting, the fondue pot actually made the contents boil a bit. That was ok since we were cooking meats.
I brought out the meat plate from the refrigerator, and we began cooking. I had made enough broth for 4 people according to the broth recipe. However with the 3 qrt size of the CFO-3SS, only after all the vegetables were added was the broth level barely deep enough to fully submerge our meats. I would recommend using a 6-8 person recipe even if it's only for a few people, that will ensure that your meats are fully submerged in liquid so that all parts are cooked.
After we had taken out a few of the vegetables and had cooked a few meats, the liquid level was significantly low. Since the broth had taken an hour to prepare, we just kept turning our forks over to make sure the meats were thoroughly cooked. That probably led to some overcooking, but in general it tasted good and the main course was excellent.
Our Just Desserts
For the final course, the piece-de-la-resistance (aka: the main reason to have a fondue pot in the first place) I prepared a chocolate fondue. In our case, I prepared a white chocolate fondue. I brought the fondue pot back to the kitchen after the main course and washed it out. I then took white chocolate bars and cut them into pieces on a cutting board. I poured the chocolate into the pot, and set it for chocolate. (Actually, I set it 1 notch below chocolate given my experience with the cheese.) After ensuring the chocolate was melting, and giving it a quick stir, I set up the dessert plate. Bananas, marshmallows, strawberries, graham crackers, pineapple, and some dark chocolate 'sticks'. I went back to the fondue pot to give it a stir, and after one good turn with the spoon - oh no, not again... little dark specs. 'Darn' I said to myself (ok I didn't say darn exactly). Stirring more, I saw that now the chocolate had burned, which again I was mixing into the nice un-burned chocolate. So again, like with the cheese, I poured out the chocolate, cleaned out the pot, and started over. This time I set the temperature very low, and stirred constantly. After a good 5 minutes I brought the pot back to the dining table, and we began dipping. Hmmm, it was really good. Of course even on the low setting, and spending time dipping instead of stirring (how dare me), I noticed some brown spots appearing again. So I just turned off the pot and pretended I didn't notice. Of course the chocolate slowly thickened, but we had no problem polishing off the rest before that happened!
The Epic Conclusion
Overall, we had a very nice time, and the Cuisinart CFO-3SS was instrumental. While it was much nicer to have electricity rather than a flame to keep things moving, this dinner was still quite a bit more work than I had expected. All total, after food prep, cleaning, and my couple of 'do-overs', the entire dinner took almost 3 hours.
We had fun, but next time I would use a simpler broth and I would prepare everything ahead of time. I guess when you're at a restaurant that has done all of the prep for you, it makes it much easier. So this experience has at least helped me realize the price at a fancy restaurant isn't totally outrageous, a lot of work does go into it. But we will definitely fondue again at home using our CFO-3SS. However next time, we might just do cheese or dessert.
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