Basics #16: Melting Chocolate

If you’ve ever needed to melt chocolate, chances are you’ve screwed it up at least once. Seized chocolate due to overheating is one of the more revolting things on Earth (I exaggerate, of course). And burning chocolate can just be heartbreaking, especially if you’ve decided to splurge on a quality bar.

Fortunately, melting chocolate is not difficult at all. The principle behind it is — low and slow. And there is a proper way of doing this. (There is also a cheaty shortcut method, but read on for the textbook way first.)

Orthodox chocolate-melting uses a double-boiler, which is simply a bowl resting over a pan off simmering water. The steam reaching the bottom of the bowl melts chocolate slowly and evenly.

So, first bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.

Melting Chocolate (1)

Then, lower the heat enough to maintain a gentle simmer. (If your chocolate is at room temperature, you can even turn off the heat entirely.) Chop or break up your chocolate into little pieces and put them in a bowl. Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water.

Melting Chocolate (2)

Obviously the bowl needs to be large enough to rest on the rim of the pot. Also, the water in the pot should not be touching the bottom of the bowl. You only want the steam to do the heating, not boiling water.

Stir your chocolate pieces occasionally as they melt. Eventually, you will get a perfectly melted batch of molten chocolate.

Melting Chocolate (3)

So what’s the cheaty method? Your trusty microwave, of course! And ironically, the site of most chocolate-melting disasters as well.

Again, the principle is low and slow, so turn down the power of your microwave or use defrost mode. Use a large microwave-safe bowl so that your chocolate pieces have more room to melt evenly.

First, microwave the chocolate (on low) for 30 to 60 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir the chocolate. Return the bowl to the microwave and continue heating in 10-second intervals, stirring in-between, until the chocolate has melted. This is a much faster method, but also a method fraught with disaster, so proceed carefully!

On a side note, if you’re melting chocolate alongside butter, you don’t have to use the double-boiler method at all. You can melt the butter and chocolate in a pot directly over low heat (or in a microwave as well) because the butter will protect the chocolate from seizing and burning.


Leave a Reply