If you are like me and a total chocolate fiend, then you have undoubtedly learned the lesson that chocolate is difficult to melt the hard way (again, just like me). I recently attempted to make some chocolate and caramel apples for Halloween and completely blew it. We ended up having to abandon the chocolate altogether when I made what I now realize is a plethora of chocolate-killing mistakes. So in order to save you all from this disaster next Halloween (or hey, any old holiday or maybe just a Tuesday night), I have done all the research on the best tips and tricks for chocolate melting and combined them into a foolproof guide for you to follow the next time your sweet tooth hollers for some gooey, melty, delicious chocolate! Keep reading to learn how to melt chocolate like an absolute pro!
Why Would I Melt Chocolate?
Okay, if you're not yet on board the melted chocolate train, then this is a fairly valid question. I am quite positive I can get you on board, though. Anyone ever heard of a chocolate fountain? This is the piece de resistance of melted chocolate, and a wonderful addition to almost any party. A chocolate fountain is literally melted chocolate dripping continuously from a fountain, and typically comes with fruits and other treats to dip in it (think marshmallows, strawberries, and rice krispie treats, to name a few). If you are not sold yet, then you may want to melt chocolate if you are following a recipe for certain sweets like brownies, souffles, icing,or truffles. The truth is that while chocolate is pretty much perfect in any state, the melting process brings out the unique gooeyness (for lack of a more technical term) that makes chocolate really special. Plus, if you are going for a specially decorated dish, then you may need to melt your chocolate to get the best consistency for dripping, covering, or drawing with it. Have I convinced you yet? Okay, good.
What Is Difficult About This?
I have melted quite a few things in my life, no problem. Butter? Easy. Caramel? Piece of cake! This is why I will join you in questioning why melting chocolate is so much more difficult than melting anything else--so difficult, in fact, that we need an entire article to discuss it. Long story short, it is basically the sugar content in chocolate that makes it tough to melt. If you get even one contaminator in the chocolate, it can “seize,” which basically means the sugar will form a syrup with the other ingredients and form a giant clumpy mess, just like mine did on Halloween. This can also happen if the chocolate gets too hot too quickly, so our number one piece of advice is to take things slowly and not hurry through the melting process. Lucky for you, we have a few more tricks to help make sure this does not happen to your chocolate!
Getting the Right Chocolate
Though all chocolate will melt (as we have probably all learned from leaving a candy bar in the car on a hot day), some are better for your melted chocolate recipes than others. The main difference will be in how they harden again after you melt them, and whether or not this matters in your recipe. What can happen is that the cocoa butter can start to separate from the chocolate and create that weird gray color on the top of your goodies, which prevents them from getting a good, crisp bite as well. If you get chocolate with high cocoa butter content, then you can go through a process called tempering that helps avoid this. If you are baking your chocolate, you do not need to temper it, and you can also buy pre-tempered chocolate pieces, which will help with this process. To get high cocoa butter chocolate, look for the word “couverture.” It is also important to pay attention to your percentages with chocolate: anything in the 60-70% range will be best for melting and coating. Keep in mind that chocolate comes in many forms. Most markets will carry chocolate bars, candy melts and chocolate chunks, so make sure you choose the right type for your specific recipe.
Though getting the right chocolate is important, keep in mind that this only really matters for treats that you can see the chocolate in, for instance for a coating or a dip. If you are simply putting chocolate chips inside a brownie, then you can probably get away with untempered chocolate, and pretty much any kind of chocolate will do. For dipping or coating, tempering chocolate or buying pre-tempered chocolate will be essential. Once you have your preferred chocolate, then it is time to get melting!
Preparing Your Chocolate
Prepare your chocolate for a successful melt by chopping or slicing it into small, uniform pieces. This will help all of the chocolate melt more evenly, as opposed to large chocolate chunks or bars that will melt on the outside way before melting the inner portions. A serrated knife will be best for this process, or if you can break your chocolate along break lines, that works too! Many baking chocolates and candy melts come in chips or small pieces already, so if you purchased those then you can skip this step!
The most important preparation step is to keep your entire space completely dry! One drop of water in your chocolate will cause it to become clumpy and seize up while melting. You should carefully dry off your countertop, bowl, spoon, and any other utensils you are using to prepare your chocolate before you start the melting process.
Method 1: The Microwave Oven
The microwave is easy, and you probably have one already, so it is a popular chocolate-melting tool. This method can be tricky though, if not done properly. The key here is to go very slowly. Even though it may take a total of 30-45 seconds in the microwave to fully melt your chocolate, you cannot just program 30 seconds and let it sit. When you open the microwave oven, you will likely see a big, clumpy mess instead of the smooth, silky chocolate you were hoping for. The best way to melt chocolate in the microwave is to go 10-15 seconds at a time and stir in between, especially once the chocolate on the edges starts to melt. Make sure you stir your chocolate with a spatula between each interval to prevent it from burning. Chocolate typically keeps its shape well into the melting process, so the stirring will give you more accurate information about how melted your chocolate actually is.
Method 2: A Double Boiler
A double boiler is a specialized set of pans that places a pan or bowl on top of another saucepan, and this is an extremely popular way to melt chocolate. You fill the bottom saucepan with a little bit of water, then bring it to a boil and start simmering. Once the water is boiling, you place the chocolate pan or bowl on top, turn off the stove, and let the chocolate melt. Once again, be sure to stir your chopped chocolate to prevent it from burning. This is a great tool for melting chocolate, and very easy.
Method 3: The Liquid Bath
However, chances are you may not have a double boiler or even have known what one was before the previous paragraph. If that is the case, then you can kind of recreate one with this liquid bath method. You basically just fill a saucepan (like in Method 2) and then place a heat-safe bowl of chocolate in it (still cool). You then turn the heat off as soon as the water starts to simmer, and walk away for a few minutes. Your chocolate will slowly melt, and you can easily see it happening. With a double boiler, you cannot always see what is happening inside, so this method is preferable for some chefs!
Method 4: With Liquids
Your recipe may call for you to melt your chocolate by mixing in another liquid, such as cream, water, or milk. You may recall that earlier we said your prep space had to be completely dry because even a drop of water would cause the chocolate to seize! However, if you have enough water, and you do it carefully, this is not always the case. The recommendation is about one tablespoon of liquid for every two ounces of chocolate--this keeps the chocolate wet enough not to seize up on you. The darker the chocolate, the more water you will likely need to avoid seizing, and you should add it all at once instead of in small quantities like you may be tempted to do. You should never add chocolate to cold liquids (or vice versa), but make sure that your chocolate is warm before adding it. Only use hot chocolate if your recipe specifically calls for it! Melting chocolate with other liquids is great because it can speed up the time it takes to melt the chocolate!
Whether you’re dipping strawberries, making truffles, testing out homemade candy or creating a decadent chocolate cake, there are many reasons to melt chocolate chips. No matter why you are melting your chocolate, you should try out all four of these methods (or three, if you do not have a double boiler) and see which one works for you! We always recommend following your recipes, of course, but if you are baking a little more freely, then all of these options are safe and foolproof ways to melt your chocolate for the best ooey, gooey results.