In my experience, not enough people besides Europeans and expats know about the awesomeness that is a raclette grill. That makes me the self-appointed prophet who will spread the good news. These little tabletop grills are not only cheese-melting conversation pieces, but they can also be used for cooking anything from raclette to personal pizzas, crepes, or Japanese “pancakes” (okonomiyaki). If you have the "right" kind, you can even do some super-healthy hot stone cooking.
You can cook pretty much whatever you want with a raclette grill. Photo by daspunkt
A typical modern raclette grill has three main parts: a grilling surface, a heating element, and a base on which to rest your raclette trays. The metal or stone grilling surface is fixed above the heating element, which acts much like the one in an electric stove. You should also be able to adjust the temperature of the element with a dial to make sure your food cooks properly.
A round raclette. Photo by julesjulesjules m
To prepare a raclette meal, turn on the unit and let it the top grill get hot enough to cook some meat or vegetables. If the grill is made of stone, you can spray it with a little olive oil to make sure the food doesn't stick (we use a Misto). If it's cast-iron, you'll want to have seasoned it before you started cooking, then spray it with oil or cook some bacon on it before you start making anything else.
Once the meat and vegetables are cooking, you're ready to melt some cheese. Slide your raclette tray, laden with cheese and any other ingredients, onto the surface below the heating element. There your creation will cook much the same way food cooks in a broiler.
When they're done, put the meat and vegetables on your plate and scrape the melted cheese over them.
Does that sound like heaven or what?
Delicious cheese melted on the hot raclette. Photo by alextoul
These grills come in all shapes and sizes so you can get a little one just for the "two of you" or a big family-style grill that can serve eight people. (I've even seen twelve-person grills online, but I've never used one.) We regularly use an eight-person Swissmar raclette that I got for Jeremy for Christmas. A grill with a stone or marble grilling surface is sometimes called a pierrade raclette.
Check out our raclette grill on Amazon
In Europe, raclette can be served as a street food. Vendors use a raclette heater to melt the top layer of a big section of cheese and then scrape the melted cheese onto flaky baguettes, creating a sandwich like a fancy grilled cheese. I can't think of a nicer meal to have when you're outside on a cold day.
Warming a wheel of raclette under the raclette heater. Photo by kwistent
Or check our full recipe index for even more ideas!
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.