Many home cooks get nervous about melting chocolate, but the good news is that it’s not difficult to do!
With a little know-how, it really is easy to get that smooth, glossy, satin finish on fancy desserts and cakes, cookies, and fruits.
What is Tempered Chocolate?
Tempered chocolate creates the shiny, glossy, thin-coating you see on cookies, truffles, hot chocolate bombs, and especially Candy and fruits. The most common use for tempered chocolate is on chocolate-covered strawberries or desserts seen in upscale restaurants.
Tempering is simply heating/cooling chocolate to the right temperature which stabilizes it so it’s smooth and shiny (and it doesn’t melt on your fingers as easily).
Why Temper Chocolate?
- it produces a glossy smooth chocolate
- it ensures the chocolate sets properly and has a nice crack/snap as you break into it
- it doesn’t melt on your fingers as you touch it
How to Melt Chocolate
The arch-enemy of melting chocolate is called “seizing.” Once chocolate has seized it’s hard to recover. For instance, if you wet a spoon and dip it into sugar (say, adding sugar to your coffee), the sugar crystals absorb the liquid and become grainy.
Until the sugar is exposed to more liquid, it won’t dissolve. But melted chocolate needs to stay creamy so it can perform properly in a recipe. Adding more fat to it will eventually smooth it out, but it may not harden or taste as it should. Cocoa butter is the best stabilizer for chocolate.
PRO TIP: When you are melting chocolate, make sure your bowls, spoons, and spatulas are dry.
How to Melt Chocolate Chips
Melted chocolate chips cannot be melted and used again, unlike tempered chocolate. This is why chocolate chips retain their shape when used in baking recipes. Melted chocolate chips also won’t have the glossy appearance that tempered chocolate produces.
- Melt chocolate chips by heating in the microwave at 10-30 second intervals, stirring thoroughly with a dry spatula or spoon after every interval.
- Stir for long enough at each interval to allow any remaining lumps will melt into the chocolate mixture. The less time in the microwave the better for the chocolate!
The secret when melting any chocolate is in the temperature of the chocolate. Heat the chocolate until most of it has melted but some pieces aren’t quite melted. The residual heat will melt the chocolate without overheating it.
How to Melt Chocolate in a Double Boiler
Many home cooks swear by using a double boiler as the best method to melt chocolate! While the risk of getting water in the melting chocolate causing it to seize is pretty high, it does produce a smooth result and there is a lower chance of overheating the chocolate.
- If you don’t have a double boiler, simply place the chocolate chips (or pieces) in a bowl and then fit that bowl over the lip of a saucepan filled halfway with boiling water.
- Choose a bowl that will fit snugly into the saucepan so the steam from the boiling water can gently melt the chocolate.
- Stir continually until the chocolate is melted.
If you overheat the chocolate, you can add additional chocolate to it to quickly bring the temperature down. Stir it until the new chocolate is melted and the temperature reaches 88-90 degrees.
Melting Chocolate in the Microwave
- Add chocolate to a medium bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir.
- Microwave at 15-second intervals, stirring with a spatula between each interval until the chocolate is ALMOST melted.
- Continue to stir to melt the remaining bits of chocolate.
Check the temperature to make sure that the chocolate reads between 88-90°F. If it goes over 90 degrees, stir in an additional ounce of chocolate until melted to bring it back down to 88 to 90 degrees. If you do not temper the chocolate with a thermometer and this process, the chocolate can turn out chalky or discolored instead of shiny.
Melted Chocolate Shortcuts
- Melting wafers, buttons, or discs are a combination of chocolate and fat, are pre-portioned, and made expressly for melting and dipping.
- White and chocolate flavors can often be found in supermarkets, but your local cake decorating shop or bulk distributor should have them too.
- White chocolate melting wafers are fun to use because they can be tinted to any color you like with a few drops of food coloring or gel.
Can You Save Seized Chocolate?
While it takes some effort to salvage seized chocolate, all is not lost! Add small amounts of boiling water a teaspoon at a time, while stirring vigorously.
Extra fat may help, but the seized chocolate won’t harden properly if too much fat is added. Cocoa butter is the best option for this and works best if a double boiler is being used. Vegetable oil is the next option. If the chocolate can’t be used for dipping, use it as ice cream or dessert topping.
Can You Save Overheated Chocolate?
Mix in new chocolate and stir until it’s smooth again or add a small amount of melted shortening or fat and mix in a high-speed blender.
Our Favorite Chocolate Dipped Recipes
Here is the shortlist of our fave chocolate-dipped recipes! Perfect for parties, gift-giving, or just a fun activity in the kitchen!
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries
- Caramel Chocolate Covered Pretzels
- Chocolate Cashew Clusters
- Peppermint Bark Chocolate Pretzel Bites