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What is raclette and how do you eat it?

Raclette is a cheese popular in countries like Switzerland and France, but TikTokers are upping its game in the U.S. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Jay Sprogell)

Move over, fondue, there’s a new cheese in town and it comes with its own grill. Raclette, a cheese made to be melted and scraped over food, hails from countries like France and Switzerland and has a slightly pungent aroma and a salty, slightly nutty flavor. It gives a melted Swiss vibe in its appearance, and has a flavor similar to Gruyere.

As a food enthusiast, I’ve been deep in the raclette rabbit hole for months: It seems like anytime I log into TikTok, my feed is full of videos showing elaborate set-ups where foodies melt raclette using a raclette grill (an indoor grill that allows for cooking meat and vegetables on top and melting raclette on small trays underneath), then scrape it over treats like boiled potatoes and charcuterie.

On a recent trip to New Orleans, I stayed at the Eliza Jane, a boutique hotel with a restaurant, Couvant, that was boasting a raclette cheeseburger on its Instagram account as I planned my trip. All gumbo and po’ boys aside, Couvant’s raclette burger became high on my must-try NOLA food list and I couldn’t wait to find out what the melty cheese was like in person.

The raclette burger at Couvant in New Orleans, La. (Photo: Terri Peters)

The raclette burger at Couvant in New Orleans. (Photo: Terri Peters)

The burger, which is the brainchild of chef Ryan Pearson, Couvant’s executive chef, was delicious. During my lunch, the server brought a melty griddle of raclette to the table and scraped it atop the burger while I watched. When I bit into the sandwich, I was blown away by the savory, nutty flavor (and pungent smell) of the raclette. I was immediately a new convert.

“Raclette means ‘squeegee’ in French,” Pearson tells Yahoo Life, “so it’s the motion of scraping the cheese off. It’s become a sort of trendy thing lately and I think that’s a lot because it’s delicious.”

“What I like about it is it has a lot of meltability but also it’s extremely complex and tasty,” Pearson, who spent several years cooking in Paris, adds. “Usually you get that meltiness out of American cheese, which doesn’t taste like much, so it’s exciting to have that meltability in a serious cheese.”

But there’s a more traditional way to enjoy raclette, too. Preeti Gill is a TikToker who lives in Paris, France and runs a studio where she creates content for food-driven businesses. Gill has shared several TikToks about making raclette at home, and says it’s all a part of her passion for learning about new cheeses.

“Raclette is one of the simplest and yet best foods I have tried,” Gill tells Yahoo Life. “I love the aspect of each individual having their own little tiny raclette tray, a little racler (a squeegee) to scrape your cheese, how you melt the cheese on the raclette grill … I find that entire process very memorable.”

“About two years ago I actually bought an individual raclette machine that gets warm with a small single candle,” she adds. “It’s so perfect even as an individual concept to enjoy.”

Manon Lagreve, a quarter finalist on The Great British Bakeoff who shares TikTok videos about how to “host like a French,” describes herself as “a French girl living in London.” Lagreve made a TikTok sharing how to host friends for a raclette dinner.

“Raclette is a very social dish,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Everyone melts their cheese at their own time, and makes their own plates. My plate would include a cooked potato, some charcuterie, some cornichons and I like to also add Morbier or blue cheese to my raclette cheese and give it a little bit more punch.”

“I have it with a dressed salad to cut with the heaviness of all this cheese and meat,” she adds. “My family and friends love it — there is not a winter without a raclette party.”

I found my raclette cheese at my local Aldi, after searching on Instacart to see which stores near me may carry the cheese. (Photo: Terri Peters)

I found my raclette cheese at the local Aldi, after searching on Instacart to see which stores near me carried it. (Photo: Terri Peters)

Eager to have a raclette party of my own, I turned to online shopping to procure a raclette grill. While I found many brands I was unfamiliar with, I chose a Hamilton Beach model with a grill top and enough raclette-melting trays for eight people. Next, I gathered my ingredients. Thanks to TikTok, I knew to collect everything from small boiled potatoes to pickles to sliced vegetables for the spread.

Up top, we grilled miniature sausages and thinly-sliced steak, along with a combination of mushrooms and onion. All extras aside, the raclette was the true star. I found mine at Aldi in the specialty cheese section, but recommend checking Instacart to get an idea of which grocery stories near you carry the cheese. In each tiny raclette tray, we added a slice of raclette. In some, we added extras like a bit of shredded cheese or sliced sweet peppers, but for the most part, we let the raclette shine.

While we grilled miniature sausages, we melted raclette in the lower part of the grill. (Photo: Terri Peters)

While we grilled miniature sausages, we melted raclette in the lower part of the grill. (Photo: Terri Peters)

Each cheese slice melted quickly, and we made plates of potatoes, meat and vegetables then topped each mound with melted raclette. We also treated some trays like fondue, dipping a freshly-cut baguette into the delicious melted cheese.

And my TikToker friends were right: Making raclette together with my husband and two teens was a communal experience we’ll never forget. We chatted as we melted cheese, grilled meats and sliced bread. My husband and I paired a beautiful pinot noir with the cheese, which held up well against the cheese’s pungency and nuttiness. When we had cleaned up and packed the grill away, we knew we’d gladly do it all again — hopefully with some grown up friends who can sip wine with us next time.

Raclette is a labor of love: The prep work is heavy, but the experience (and how delicious it is) made it worth it.

Melted raclette atop boiled potatoes, with a slice of baguette heated on the grill. (Photo: Terri Peters)

Melted raclette atop boiled potatoes, with a slice of baguette heated on the grill. (Photo: Terri Peters)

So what should you do if you can’t find raclette near you? While Pearson says there’s no adequate substitute, Gill and Lagreve have some suggestions.

“Nothing really compares to the taste of raclette cheese,” says Gill, “but [while visiting family in the U.S.] I did end up using Asiago and some fontina which melted nicely.”

“You can also sub with Gouda, Emmental, Gruyere, Comté or cheddar,” says Lagreve.

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