How Do You Melt Chocolate? | CoachSweetTooth

How Do You Melt Chocolate?  

Anyone who has ever purchased a bag of Hershey Kisses during the summer, has probably experienced the panic when discovering the 130 ° car heat has melted the chocolate. Anxious to remedy the problem, we often rush into the house and place the chocolate in the freezer or fridge in hopes of saving our chocolate. Obviously, when intending to melt chocolate, it is best to have things a bit more under control. Melted chocolate is widely used as an ingredient in baking cakes and cookies as well as for dipping, coating, sculpting, and decorating.

Melting chocolate is fairly easy. The tricky part is getting it hot enough to melt, but not overheating it so that it seizes, burns, or blooms. The most common methods for melting chocolate are using the microwave, setting up a stovetop double boiler, or using a low temperature chocolate melting pot. White chocolate melts and burns at a lower temperature than a dark chocolate, but with a few tips, anyone can successfully melt any type of chocolate.

Depending on your resources, experiences, and purpose for melting chocolate, you can develop a foolproof method for getting the desired consistency and temperature needed for your cooking project. There are subtle pros and cons for choosing each of the melting methods. They will be discussed along with any cautionary tips.

Although I have taken classes from renowned chocolatiers and have taught hundreds of classes myself, I have my share of chocolate melting mishaps to confess. One time a class participant stirred the melting chocolate with a spoon and then continued heating the chocolate in the microwave with the metal spoon still in the bowl! Another time someone pushed 30 minutes on the microwave instead of 30 seconds. Luckily, with this guide, you can avoid those rare mistakes and successfully melt your chocolate.

Table of contents


How Do I Melt My Chocolate on the Stovetop?  

Whether you own a microwave or not, you may choose to melt your chocolate on the stovetop. This is a little misleading as in general, you do not put your chocolate in a pan as if you were heating up a can of soup, rather it is recommended that you use a double boiler.  A true double boiler is a pot that “sits” in another pot over simmering water. The steam from the bottom pot actually warms the top pot and melts the chocolate. Since most people do not own one, it is easy to create one by using a pan and an accompanying bowl that sits in the pan. The pan is then filled with a few inches of water and the bowl holding the chopped chocolate is placed on the pan such that it does not touch the water.

There are several advantages to using this method. First, most people have the equipment already. Second, it is a gentle way to not only melt your chocolate, but to keep it warm for a project that may span over time. This method is especially suited for larger amounts of chocolate (1/2 pound or more). Chocolate can be added to the bowl as more is needed. To prevent steam from erupting up the sides of the bowl, it is important to let the water simmer, rather than boil. Also, a cautionary tip is to be on the lookout for water dripping (condensation) from the bottom of your bowl if you work with it away from the stove. Use a kitchen towel to dry the bowl lest some water drips into the chocolate and causes it to seize.

How Do I Melt Chocolate in My Microwave?

The microwave is a great piece of equipment to use to melt chocolate. However, along with the speed and convenience, come possible caveats. The microwave is best suited for melting small amounts of chocolate (under 1lb). Chocolate should be chopped before placing it in the microwave (chocolate chips are small enough on their own). Chocolate melts inconsistently and generally from the inside out so it is imperative to frequently stir it while it is melting. Because microwaves vary in size, power, and function, it is difficult to judge how long is needed to melt the chocolate. The general rule is to use half power (50%) and melt in spurts of 20-30 seconds, stirring between each session.

The chocolate holds some residual heat so it continues to melt when out of the microwave. Generally your goal is to melt the chocolate with as little heat as possible.

How Hot Should My Melted Chocolate Be?

If you melt enough chocolate, you will notice that some melts easier than others. This is partly due to the % of cocoa in the chocolate. For instance, white chocolate has a lower melting point than dark chocolate and so it is easier to “scorch” it. It’s not a bad idea to use a thermometer to check your melting chocolate. Chocolate begins to melt at 86°-90° (cooler than body temperature). Although there is a wide variance of brands and types of cocoa beans, it is generally believed that chocolate should not be heated over 130°F. If you overheat your chocolate, you can try to save it by cooling it down by adding a little unmelted chocolate to your dish.

For those who work with chocolate on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in a chocolate melting pot or a tempering pot. A melting pot is designed to melt your chocolate at a low temperature and to keep it melted as you work with it. They are inexpensive and look like a small crockpot, but are significantly cooler in temperature. A tempering pot is more precise and helps not only to melt chocolate, but to temper it, to the exact temperature required for your particular chocolate. They can be rather expensive but there are some on the market that cater to the home chocolatier.

Lastly, even when we melt chocolate correctly, we may find that it is too thick for our particular project. Assuming it is not overheated, or seized from water droplets, you may need to thin the chocolate. (See article on thinning on how to thin chocolate.)

Though it seems easy enough to melt chocolate, it really is a little sensitive.  The temptation to walk away, to speed things up, or to multitask is high but melting your chocolate properly should be your first priority when food crafting and will render the best result.


Lori Gilmore

Lori Gilmore

Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.

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