To have a “raclette grill” may mean many things to different people. It could refer to a griddle that is heated on the table top. It can also mean as a kind of a social meal or communal sit down meal with a group of people.
For most people, a raclette grill is a table top griddle that has small pans called coupelles. This is where cheeses are placed in for heating. Aside from the cheese, plates of processed meats and vegetable are also included. Bacon, ham, sausages, and similar meat loaves are known collectively as the charcuterie. Potatoes are the usual mainstays but other vegetables can also be included.
The modern raclette grill is conveniently powered by electricity so that it can be placed conveniently on a table. Traditionally, typical raclette grills are the stones surrounding a roaring fire where cheese can be melted and scraped off.
The modern raclette grill usually has a non-stick and washable metal surfaces for easy removal of melted cheeses. Other designs have two layers of grills – the one at the top is for heating food while the one below is for melting cheeses. Those who go for the more bucolic effect have grills that come with treated stones. These are placed on top of the grill and where cheese is allowed to melt. There are those that have grills that have a smooth side and a raised one on the other.
In fact, the term “raclette” is derived from the French word “racler” which alludes to scrape off, often the melted cheese onto something edible like bread. In other countries, a raclette is the same as “bratchas”. Local peasants and cowherds carry food like cheese and bread with them to eat during evening campfires. The cheese is often placed in front of the fire and allowed to melt. They would then scrape off the melted part and spread it on the bread or potatoes. Although the dish originated in Switzerland, it is not surprising that the French and Germans love using it as often as the fondue pot.
Compared to the fondue’s caquelon and rechaud tandem, the raclette grill enjoys more advantages. For those who prefer Swiss-style dining with less hassle, there’s the raclette. It can grill anything edible, cooked to your preference. A fondue offers variety with a long stemmed fork but it can only coat as much food as it can hold. With coupelles, you cut cooking time as you cook food you can consume in one sitting leaving you more time to socialize.
To cook in a raclette grill, you can either put the vegetables and meat on a coupelle or put some grated cheese on top or cheese can be melted on the coupelle and poured on the waiting plates of charcuterie and vegetables instead. The key to good raclette is to grill the cheese well. Make sure that the grill is heated for about 10 minutes before cooking anything on it.
Most of the cheeses that work well on a raclette grill are those that are round. About 11 inches in diameter and three inches thick and weighs about 15 pounds average will do. These cheeses are semi-hard that they will melt with heat but not become too runny. These are aged for about four months and should have a dark beige tinge. Its texture should be buttery and dry.
Either way you use your raclette grill when entertaining guests, the key here is to keep the party atmosphere relaxed. Make sure that warm beverages like tea or an alternative white wine as other beverages might cause indigestion.