The Fondue or Chafing Dish Burner provides the heat for the foods by using any of several heat sources which may include denatured alcohol, butane, gel paste, or small votive candles which are also referred to as tea lights. The characteristics of each are as follows:
Burners designed for alcohol fuel require denatured or methyl alcohol, using only 2 to 3 ounces in the burner, which provides from 1 to 1-1/2 hours of clean-burning heat. Within the burner there is non-flammable gauze-like padding known as glass wool that absorbs the alcohol so it is dispersed and not exposed as an open fluid that can be ignited all at once. Another version of this burner is built with a wick that provides the flame fueled by the alcohol solution. Alcohol can be very fluid so it is important to keep the burner from being tipped and spilling any of the solution that may pool in the burner, especially if the alcohol is ignited. Alcohol is generally used for heating cheeses, chocolates, broths, and cooking oils.
Butane fuel that is made in pressurized containers is not a common Fondue or Chafing Dish fuel but it offers some options for the burner which are not available in other burners. The butane burner is designed to allow the flame to be ignited with a spark igniter and when burning to be adjusted with a greater degree of control than burners using a flame adjuster cover that manually opens or closes small holes. This enables the amount of heat to be more effectively controlled for delicate foods or cooking meats requiring higher heat temperatures. Butane fuels are used for all types of foods whether they are to be warmed or cooked.
Gel packets or gelled fuel paste are options for fuel by either using the small, round pre-filled packet that contains 2 to 3 ounces of the gel and inserts easily into many burners or by purchasing 12 to 16 oz bottles of gelled fuel that can be poured into the burner dish. Since the gelled fuels are not highly liquid in consistency, they are considered more stable and safer to use. Some gels are made from denatured alcohol combined with water and a gelling agent while others may be use ethanol, water, and minor amounts of other chemicals to produce the fuel. The gel packets and gelled pastes are common for use in warming and cooking almost all types of foods placed in Fondue Pots or Chafing Dishes.
Candles are most often used to heat dessert chocolates, since this type of food requires only a moderate amount of heat. Candles or tea lights are best for keeping foods warm, particularly any types of foods that may be sensitive to higher temperatures, such as chocolates or dipping sauces.
It is always important to thoroughly read the instructions provided with each type of cookware so that safe operating procedures are closely followed for the Fondue Pot or Chafing Dish being used. Remember to never add fuel to any Burner that is ignited or may be hot from being ignited previously. Also, fill fuel containers with recommended levels of fuel and do not overfill or tip the containers resulting in spilling, dripping or leaking liquid fuel solutions.