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How to Melt Smooth, Silky Chocolate Without a Double Boiler

Enrobed truffles. Ganache coated cookies. Chocolate drizzled pastries. Yes indeed, melted chocolate has the magical power of making dessert even more delicious.

Chocolate chunks in small bowl

If you’re melting chocolate, there’s a good chance that your recipe will suggest a double boiler. This two-part pot is comprised of two stacking vessels: a lower level, which is filled with water, and an upper level, in which you place the ingredient you want to heat (in this case, chocolate).

When heated on the stovetop, the water warms up and applies indirect heat to the upper level of the pot, allowing the chocolate to melt without scorching the bottom of the pan. 

Here, we’ll offer two easy solutions for melting chocolate without a double boiler. 

DIY double boiler on the stove

If you don’t have a double boiler, DIY it! You can configure your own double boiler by placing a shallow heatproof bowl on top of a small or medium saucepan, fitted so that the bowl can fit in the saucepan without falling in. The idea is that the bowl will hover above the water in the pan below. 

You’ll need:

  • chopped chocolate
  • a medium saucepan
  • a large, shallow bowl
  • rubber spatula
  • Oven mitts or towels

Step 1: 

Configure your DIY double boiler substitute. Place the bowl on top of the pan to get a feel for how deeply into the pan it goes. 

Step 2:

Fill the saucepan with enough water so that the level of the water is about an inch below where the bottom of the bowl rests. 

Step 3: 

Put your chopped chocolate in the bowl, and place the bowl on top of the pan.

Step 4:

Apply medium heat. The water may come to a simmer, but if it starts to boil, lower the heat slightly; the bubbling can displace the bowl above. You’ll start to see the chocolate melting; stir with the spatula (you may need an oven mitt or towel to hold the bowl in place while you do this).

Once the chocolate is mostly melted, remove from heat; the rest should melt in the residual heat. Proceed with your recipe!

Melting chocolate in the microwave

Melting chocolate in the microwave is quick and easy, and typically takes under two minutes. 

You’ll need: 

  • chopped chocolate
  • a large microwave-safe bowl 
  • rubber spatula
  • oven mitts or towels 

Step 1:

Place the chopped chocolate in the microwave-safe bowl. 

Step 2:

Heat the mixture on HIGH for 30 seconds. Open the microwave and give it a stir with your rubber spatula.

Step 3:

Continue heating in 15-second increments on HIGH, stirring each time. Once the chocolate appears to be mostly melted, remove from the microwave; once stirred, the rest of the chocolate should melt in the residual heat. Proceed with your recipe!

Note: this simple tutorial can be fine-tuned once you have a feel for how long it takes your microwave oven to melt chocolate. For instance, if you see that the initial 30-second heating does little to melt the chocolate, you can start with an initial heating of 45 seconds next time. 

Making ganache: no double boiler needed! 

Chocolate ganache in glass bowl

Ganache is a melty chocolate topping made using equal parts chocolate and cream. To make ganache, you actually heat the cream and then pour it over chocolate in a heatproof bowl to melt it; therefore, no double boiler is required.

For pastry toppings or coating cakes or cookies, this may provide a great alternative to melting chocolate on the stovetop. 

Get started with this classic ganache recipe, or try some creative ganache variations.

What’s your favorite method for melting chocolate? 

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