The traditional way of eating Raclette is to melt it in front of an open file (first removing part of the rind or cutting it in half/quarters to allow it to melt easier). When the fire has melted the outer layer, the melted cheese is scraped off and placed on potatoes (which are then eaten). As the heat of the fire then softens or melts the outer part of the remaining cheese, this is again scrapped off and served on potatoes. This continues until everyone has eaten their fill.
The name of the cheese "Raclette" comes from the French word "Racler", which means "to scrape off". In other words, the cheese gets its name from the repeated scrapping off of the outer melted layer described above.
The name Raclette refers not only to the name of the cheese, but also to the meal on which it is based, consisting of potatoes with melted cheese, served with sliced meats and pickles (see above recipe).
In modern times, a machine is used to melt the cheese. This is also referred to as a Raclette. The simplest version consists of a cheese holder (in which a piece of raclette cheese is placed) and a grill to melt the cheese. More sophisticated versions (which are now the most popular) have a grill under which several small dishes can be placed. Each guest will have a small dish which they can fill with cheese and place under the grill to melt. Many machines also have a stone or hot plate above the grill. The pot of potatoes can be place on this to keep them warm. Alternatively, the stone or hot plate can be used to grill meat; while this is not traditionally done as part of a raclette meal, it means that the same machine can either be used for a racletter or a grill (in other words, it can be used for two different types of meals).