Here’s one good reason to learn how to melt chocolate: Homemade chocolate-covered strawberries.
Here’s another one: Once you master the art of chocolate melting, you’ll be empowered to create all kinds of chocolatey goodies, from souffles to truffles, brownies, and pretty much any other baking project that requires dipping or decorating with chocolate.
If you want to use more chocolate in the kitchen but have been intimidated by learning how to melt it, let the following tips and tricks serve as your beginner’s guide to melting chocolate successfully.
Tips for Melting Chocolate
Choose the right chocolate.
Keep the following guidelines in mind when selecting the right chocolate for your culinary project:
- For best results, choose high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate with a percentage in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 percent. Why high-quality? Because brands, like TCHO (wink wink nudge nudge), are made with cocoa butter (rather than a vegetable oil) , which produces a better texture and sheen when the chocolate melts.
- If you really want to up the ante, consider purchasing couverture chocolate. This grade of chocolate is expressly designed for tempering, so it’s fairly easy to work with during the melting stage. Fun fact: all TCHO chocolates are couverture!
- Be aware that white chocolate tends to be the most difficult to work with, so you may want to avoid it until you’ve mastered chocolate melting with darker chocolate.
Chop the chocolate first.
If you purchased chocolate discs or wafers, go ahead and skip this step. Otherwise, chopping the chocolate into small pieces will increase the odds that it melts evenly into a consistent texture. A serrated knife works best for this process; use one to chop the chocolate into small pieces that are approximately the same size. Rough cuts are totally fine, so there’s no need to worry about perfection here.
Choose between the microwave or a hot-water bath.
Most sources advocate for using a hot-water bath to melt chocolate most effectively. This process involves placing the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, setting that bowl into a saucepan filled with about 1-2 inches of simmering water, and gently stirring the chocolate with a spatula as it melts. (You can also use a double boiler if you have one on hand.)
If that seems intimidating, you can ease into things by using the microwave instead. This process involves placing the chopped chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and gradually microwaving the chocolate (with frequent breaks for stirring).
High heat can destroy the texture of melted chocolate by making it grainy or lumpy or even scorching it. For that reason, it’s essential to take your time (we can’t stress this enough!).
If using the hot-water bath method, simmer the pan (or double-boiler) over low heat. If using the microwave method, use a low-power setting and run the microwave for increments of only 20 to 30 seconds, stirring with a spatula in between each session.
In both cases, remove the chocolate from heat when there are still a few unmelted chunks; then stir the mixture continuously so the residual heat completes the melting process. Continuing to expose the chocolate to heat until every single chunk is melted is likely to warp its texture, which is why it’s important to monitor the chocolate’s progress and remove it from heat before it’s fully melted.
Avoid water at all costs.
When it comes to successful chocolate melting, water is the enemy. That’s because even just a few drops of water can cause the chocolate to seize up, which will likely test your patience, and have you starting from the beginning. For this reason, it’s important to keep your workstation and equipment (e.g. bowls and spatulas) bone dry. And if you’re using the hot-water bath method, make sure the water doesn’t splash into the chocolate. It can be tricky, but there is a way to “fix” seized chocolate, though note that it should no longer be used for baking!
Hopefully, these guidelines help chocolate melting feel a little less intimidating. With a beginner’s mindset and a willingness to engage in trial and error, you’ll find yourself quickly getting comfortable with the chocolate melting process.