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Raclette - Tips, Recipes, Serving

Pronounced [rah-KLEHT] - The tern raclette refers both to the famous cheese from Switzerland as well as the dish. The word raclette is derived from the French word racler which means to scrape.

Article by: Barbara Bowman


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History

This warm cheese dish originated in the Valais canton of Switzerland where farmers and herdsman would make a meal of cheese melted by campfire or hearth, potatoes and pickles. Historians conjecture that at some point the cheese got too close to the fire and the melted cheese dish was born. The cheese and the dish have been documented back as far as the year 1291 and at that time was called Bratchäs.

There has been much evolution of the dish since those early days. Today besides the requisite potatoes and pickles any number of foods are eaten with the cheese including fish, poultry, vegetables and sometimes even wild game.

The Cheese

Raclette cheeses are typically round weighing 13 to 17 lbs and are about 11" in diameter and 3" thick. The cheeses are all cow's milk have in common a creamy consistency which easily melts but does not get too runny. The semi-firm cheese is normally aged about 3 or 4 months.

The different cheeses are named after the villages from which they are produced. The three premier villages are Gomser, Conches, Bagnes, and Orsieres on Raclette. Look for these names for the best cheeses.

Selecting Cheese - the cheese should have a dark beige rind with no cracks or reddening. The texture should be creamy and dry or granular.

The Swiss Tradition

In the Swiss tradition raclette cheese is melted over an open fire and melted slowly. As the cheese melts it is scraped off the wheel and served with boiled potatoes, bread, cornishons (pickles) and other pickled vegetables.

Today you can purchase raclette machines that have an arm with a heating element that points down on the cheese and melts it or raclette grills have become very popular. Each style machine is described below.

The Traditional Raclette Machine

The traditional raclette machine (shown below) holds either a quarter or a half round of cheese. The cheese is secured onto a small platform and an arm with a heating element is cantilevered over the cheese. The heat softens and melts the cheese which is scraped onto plates using a raclette knife.

Traditional Raclette Machine
raclette machine, traditional style

The Raclette Grill

The raclette grill has overtaken popularity of the traditional raclette equipment. The new grills are multi-tasking machines that have evolved along with the meal itself allowing you to melt cheese in individual serving trays while grilling meats, fish, poultry and vegetables on the upper grill level. Some units feature reversible grills with a smooth side with a raised grill on the reverse side. Stone grill tops may be available as well.

Basic Raclette Recipe

Adapted from recipe by Tori Ritchie.

Makes: about 6 servings

1 large wedge raclette preferably Gomser, Conches or Bagnes if you can find it. (about 1 pound)
1 dozen cooked small new potatoes, unpeeled
Assorted pickled garnishes: cornishons, pickled onions, caper berries
1/2 pound sliced Bundnerfleisch (air dried beef)

Traditional Raclette Machine
If you have a traditional raclette machine (with heat coils) prepare as directed by the manufacture.  Heat the cheese and scrape onto warmed plates. Serve with accompaniments.

Raclette Grill
If you have raclette grill slice the cheese and place on the warmer trays.  Heat according to manufacturer's instructions. Serve with accompaniments.


No Special Equipment?
Not a problem. Slice a 4oz portion of cheese for each serving.  Remove the rind from the cheese and place on an ovenproof plate.  Place plates in a preheated 450degree oven until melted and almost liquid.  Serve with accompaniments.

Raclette Serving Tools

Little is needed in the way of special tools for preparing and serving raclette.

fondue plates, set of 4
Sectioned Plates -  Plates made for fondue also work well with raclette.

Raclette Knife

Raclette Knife - a spatula shaped knife used for scraping the melted cheese onto plates.

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More Raclette Recipes

The Raclette Meal

Here are some suggestions for rounding out your raclette meal.

The Bread
While the traditional European bread would be dense and dark the US prefers a crusty French or Italian style bread.

Beverages With Raclette
It would be unusual to drink wine with raclette in Switzerland. More commonly you would drink beer or Kirsch, herb schnapps or herb tea. If you would like wine try a dry Riesling or even a big red wine.

Finish With Salad
A fresh green salad makes a nice final course after a raclette meal.

Perfect Endings
The common raclette meal is pretty heavy in fats and starch so a light dessert is desirable. Try a lemon or lime sorbet served in a frozen citrus shell or simply chilled fresh fruit.

Left Over Cheese
Left over raclette cheese can be refrigerated and served with fruit as part of your cheese board. Or if you can't use the cheese within a few days it can be frozen.

Recipe Suggestions

Raclette with onions - Halve shallots and sauté them gently in butter and white wine until soft. At the table place onions in each pan, top with Raclette cheese, sprinkle with caraway seed and finish off under the grill.

Week Night Raclette - From FoodTV Canada features sirloin steak, chipotles, potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms.

Sources and Credits

  • Culinaria, European Specialties, 1995, 2000, Konemann
  • Gourmet International Fondue, Arthur Barrett, Doubleday
  • Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkens
  • Article by: B.Bowman: November 13, 2006

Buy Raclette Books & Equipment

Need a good book or a new raclette grill?  Take a look at our GourmetSleuth.com selection.