How to Melt Chocolate
Learn how to melt chocolate with this comprehensive how-to guide!
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about melting chocolate, from choosing the right type of chocolate to the best melting methods.
Melting chocolate is a fundamental skill every baker should have in their arsenal. Whether it’s for coating truffles, dipping strawberries, or making chocolate fudge, melting chocolate is essential in many dessert recipes.
However, it’s not as straightforward as exposing chocolate to heat until it is liquified. If the chocolate gets too hot, it will scorch. If it doesn’t get hot enough, it will be lumpy. If it gets wet, it will seize. Additionally, different types of chocolate have their unique melting points and require different techniques to melt properly.
Best Chocolate for Melting
Choosing the correct type of chocolate is crucial for achieving the perfect smooth, velvety consistency.
The bottom line for defining great chocolate is the amount of cocoa solids present – the higher the percentage, the smoother and more even melting.
According to the FDA, for a product to be categorized as real chocolate, it must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa mass and 18% cocoa butter.
Once the cocoa mass has been made, there are two paths forward:
- Add cocoa butter to the chocolate mass and grind it again to create smooth couverture chocolate.
- Squeeze the cocoa mass into huge hydraulic presses and separate it into cocoa butter and cocoa powder to create regular chocolate.
Couverture (Premium) Chocolate
The precise standards for couverture chocolate state that couverture chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% cocoa mass and 31% cocoa butter (31% is just the minimum amount, and some couverture chocolates contain up to 39% cocoa butter!). As such, couverture chocolate is the highest quality real chocolate available.
Couverture chocolate, unlike regular chocolate, is ground to a finer texture during production and contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter relative to other ingredients. These two differences produce a superior aroma, richer flavor, and a smoother texture, making couverture the preferred chocolate for tempering, enrobing, and dipping. It has a beautiful shine, deep chocolate flavor, and a firm snap, so it’s ideal for chocolate bars, chocolate bark, chocolate truffles, or chocolate-covered strawberries.
In the past, couverture chocolate was available only to professionals, but some of the best companies now make their products available in grocery stores and online. They have a wide range of flavors, from spicy to fruity to floral, in a full range of cocoa solid levels from unsweetened 100% to extra dark 70% to milky 32%. This allows for fantastic flexibility in crafting the flavor and intensity of the finished product. Some of the most popular brands include Amano, Callebaut, El Rey, Felchlin, Guittard, Valrhona, and Weinrich. There’s no “top” or “best” couverture chocolate to recommend, as it comes down to personal taste and preference.
Baking (Regular) Chocolate
Regular chocolate is not as shiny, aromatic, flavorful, or smooth as couverture chocolate. It’s also thicker when melted because it contains less cocoa butter (a minimum of 18%).
The advantage of regular chocolate over couverture chocolate is its affordability and accessibility. Regular chocolate is particularly popular among bakers because recipes that call for melted chocolate are formulated with regular baking chocolate. It’s still okay for tempering but a bit harder to work with because of its thicker consistency.
Although couverture chocolate is classified as the highest quality, regular chocolate can also be very high quality. Great chocolate should indicate the percentage of cocoa solids and contain only a few ingredients – cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. Lecithin as an emulsifier isn’t necessary but isn’t a deal breaker.
How to Melt Chocolate
There are several methods for melting chocolate. Each has its benefits and downsides, depending on what type of chocolate you’re melting and what you’re using it for.
Read on to learn how to melt chocolate:
Melting Chocolate On the Stove (in a Double Boiler)
The most traditional way to melt chocolate is using a double boiler on the stovetop. A double boiler is simply a heat-proof bowl sitting on top of a saucepan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should be slightly larger than the top of the pan so that the bowl sits above the water and does not touch it. The steam from the saucepan creates an indirect, even heat source that gradually melts the chocolate. The double boiler method is relatively slow but allows maximum control over the heating process and a very low scorching potential.
Stovetop (Double Boiler) Instructions
- Add a few inches of water to a medium saucepan and top it with a stainless-steel bowl slightly larger than the circumference of the saucepan. The bowl should create a seal with the bottom saucepan to trap the steam produced by the hot water. Ensure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water – this would cause the chocolate to get too hot. Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Once the water is hot, turn the heat to the lowest setting.
- Place the chocolate in the bowl and stir frequently, ensuring that all the chocolate melts consistently.
- Once melted, remove the bowl from the double boiler and immediately wipe off the bottom with a towel to dry any water or condensation. Don’t risk any water finding its way into the bowl of chocolate.
Melting Chocolate in the Microwave
Perhaps the easiest way to melt chocolate is in the microwave. It only requires one bowl and takes a few seconds. The key to this technique is microwaving at 50% power (to monitor the chocolate and allow it to melt slowly) in short bursts (to avoid potentially burning the chocolate). The uneven direct heating inside a closed box means you must be extra attentive and patient throughout the process to prevent accidental scorching.
- Place the chocolate in a dry, microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds (dark chocolate) / 20 seconds (milk and white chocolate) at 50% power.
- Stir the chocolate with a dry spoon or spatula and continue microwaving in 30-second/20-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until the chocolate is just about melted, with only a few lumps. For the first burst or two, stirring will feel arbitrary, but by the third, the chocolate will begin to melt around the edges of the bowl, and distributing the heat will melt everything more evenly and quickly. Don’t microwave the chocolate until it is completely liquified!
- Finish by stirring until all the chocolate is smooth and homogenous. Letting the carryover heat redistribute itself through stirring helps prevent the chocolate from burning.
Melting Chocolate Directly in a Saucepan
It’s a widely asserted baking rule that chocolate should never be exposed to direct heat to melt it. However, I have done it more than a few times using low heat, and it works just fine. This method is fast and effective but requires the most attentiveness since the risk of burning the chocolate is relatively high.
Stovetop (Saucepan) Instructions
- Place the chocolate in a dry saucepan.
- Turn the heat to the lowest setting and gently stir the chocolate to prevent uneven heating. Keep stirring until the chocolate is just about melted, with only a few lumps.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and continue stirring until all the chocolate is smooth and homogenous. The residual heat of the saucepan will finish melting the chocolate.
Melting Chocolate in a High-Speed Blender
The idea behind this chocolate melting method is that the friction of the blades naturally raises the chocolate temperature, all while agitating the chocolate very efficiently. The key is to use a tamper to push the chocolate down into the blade. Of course, the biggest drawback of this method is that not everyone owns a high-speed blender with a tamper, such as the Vitamix.
High-Speed Blender Instructions
- Place the chocolate in a high-speed blender.
- Turn the blender on and immediately increase the speed to the highest. Use the tamper to push the chocolate down into the blade; otherwise, it won’t blend.
- Continue blending until the chocolate is completely melted, scraping down the sides of the blender occasionally, if necessary.
Melting Chocolate with a Hair Dryer
Honestly, this is probably my least favorite method for melting chocolate. Depending on the amount of chocolate, it takes several minutes, it’s almost impossible to blow dry and stir simultaneously, and if you use a powerful blast of heat, you end up with splatters all over your kitchen. The most significant upside of the hair dryer method is the minimal risk of burning the chocolate.
Hair Dryer Instructions
- Place the chocolate in a dry bowl.
- Hold a hair dryer 8 to 10 inches from the chocolate, pointing it straight into the bowl. Turn the hair dryer on and move it around to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Tips for Melting Chocolate
Before we get started on the methods of how to melt chocolate, read over the tips first to guarantee perfection.
- Choose high-quality chocolate.
- Chop the chocolate into uniform pieces. If you’re working with a chocolate block or chocolate bar, chop it into small, similar-sized pieces for even melting. There’s no need to be precise as long as the pieces are roughly the same size. To chop chocolate for melting, place the tip of a serrated knife on a cutting board and the blade on a corner of the chocolate and bear down with both hands. The serrations will break the chocolate into fine shards. Chocolate discs/wafers, callets, fèves, or chips are fine to use as are.
- Make sure everything that comes into contact with chocolate is dry. Anything touching the chocolate should be dry – the bowl, utensils, … Even a tiny bit of water will create a chemical reaction with the sugar in the melting chocolate, making it grainy and lumpy, aka seized.
- Don’t cover the chocolate. Elaborating on the previous point, covering chocolate might form condensation and cause the chocolate to seize.
- Use low heat. Chocolate burns easily, so use the lowest heat you can get away with. Dark chocolate is the least sensitive to heat, while white chocolate is the most sensitive.
- Stir frequently. Gently stirring chocolate while it’s melting prevents uneven heating. Dark chocolate should be stirred frequently, whereas milk and white chocolate should be stirred continuously. Chocolate retains its shape when melted, so the only way to know if it is truly melted is to stir it. Do not rely on appearances alone.
Troubleshooting Melted Chocolate
When chocolate melts properly, it’s fluid, smooth and shiny. There are instances, however, where chocolate becomes thick, lumpy, and dry during the melting process.
There are ways to avoid this. So, if you encounter problems with seized or overheated chocolate, all is not lost. The chocolate can sometimes be saved, and if it can’t, it can be used for something else.
Seizing describes the nearly instantaneous transformation of chocolate from a smooth, fluid state to a stiff, grainy one.
When chocolate is melted, its ingredients disperse evenly, creating a fluid mass. But if even the smallest amount of moisture is introduced, the liquid and the sugar (present in the chocolate) form a syrup that causes the cocoa particles to stick together. Even in the absence of sugar, though, such as in unsweetened chocolate, the cocoa particles still cling together if liquid in the presence of liquid.
How to Prevent Seizing Chocolate
- In recipes that contain no liquid, take great care not to let any moisture into the chocolate.
- In recipes that do contain liquids such as liqueur or water, always melt the chocolate along with these ingredients to keep the cocoa and sugar particles sufficiently wet.
How to Fix Seized Chocolate
Reversing the seizing reaction means adding just enough hot liquid to dissolve most of the sugar and cocoa particles in the seized chocolate clumps. To fix seized chocolate, add a small amount of boiling water (~ 1 tsp./5 ml for every 150 g of chocolate at a time) and stir vigorously after each addition until the chocolate is smooth. The water will dilute the chocolate, so it’s no longer suitable for tempering (for enrobing or dipping), and it’s also unreliable for baking. Use it instead for making chocolate sauce, hot chocolate, or drizzling.
If chocolate is overheated, it will immediately become thick and muddy.
Different chocolates require different maximum temperatures to melt properly. Dark chocolate should stay below 120°F/49°C, while milk and white should remain below 110°F/43°C. If chocolate exceeds those temperatures, it can easily overheat.
How to Prevent Overheating Chocolate
It’s quite easy to exceed these temperatures, so it’s best to melt chocolate low and slow and check the temperature with a thermometer often. For most chocolate-melting methods, it’s wise to stir often to keep any sections (often along the edges) from overheating.
How to Fix Overheated Chocolate
Just like seized chocolate, overhead chocolate can be rescued.
The longer the chocolate stays too warm, the harder it will be to save. So, remove the bowl containing the chocolate from the heat source, transfer it to a dry, cool bowl, and toss in a handful of solid chocolate chunks while stirring constantly. The solid chocolate will quickly lower the temperature of the melted chocolate.
After you’ve cooled down the chocolate, strain it through a sieve to get rid of any remaining clumps. If the chocolate remains thick or lumpy, add a small amount of vegetable oil (~ 1 tsp./5 ml for every 150 g of chocolate) while stirring constantly. Running the chocolate through a sieve a second time might help improve the texture if the chocolate remains lumpy.
If none of these tricks work, you can still use this chocolate for baking or to make hot chocolate.
If chocolate is burnt, it will be dry, crumbly, and taste burnt.
Unfortunately, carbonization (the process of burning chocolate) is irreversible.
When melted chocolate cools and rehardens, it can “bloom.”
When fat bloom occurs, the chocolate will appear chalky, with lighter brown and gray streaks. It will also sometimes affect the texture of the chocolate, turning it soft and crumbly. Fat bloom happens when the cocoa butter in chocolate melts and separates from the cocoa solids. As the cocoa butter re-solidifies, it works its way to the surface of the chocolate, leaving those gray streaks or white blotches.
How to Prevent Fat Bloom
- Temper the melted chocolate. To temper chocolate, the temperature of the melted chocolate must be steadily raised and lowered and then raised again to create uniform cocoa butter crystals beta V. If done incorrectly, the cocoa butter crystals will form in different sizes and show as a fat bloom on the surface. If you’re melting chocolate to stir into a batter or dough, there’s no need to worry about tempering. But if you’re using the chocolate for molds or enrobing, you will want to temper the chocolate to ensure a stunning appearance.
- Store chocolate in a dark, cool, dry place.
How to Fix Fat Bloom
If fat bloom occurs, it is perfectly safe to melt down the chocolate again and re-temper.
Recipes Using Melted Chocolate
- Dark chocolate bark: have you ever made chocolate bark? Biting into a piece of chocolate bark with so many different flavors and textures is incredibly satisfying. The chocolate melts on your tongue while almonds and pumpkin seeds provide crunch, and dried cranberries add chewiness.
- Chocolate banana cake: chocolate banana cake is the perfect summer dessert. It’s full of chocolate flavor, rich, fudgy, and decadent. The best part? This chocolate banana cake contains only two ingredients!
- Chocolate fudge: this chocolate fudge has a rich, deep flavor and thick, creamy texture. It holds together well without being too hard and melts in your mouth when you bite into it.
- Almond butter cups: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are so popular. However, whenever I tasted one, I thought, “The chocolate could be darker, and the peanut butter could be creamier.” So, here’s a healthy(-ish) twist on everyone’s favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup – almond butter cups with dark chocolate and creamy almond butter filling.
- Nutella: homemade Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread) beats the original version by Ferrero any day. It’s smooth, chocolaty, and so delicious!
- Hot chocolate: if you enjoy rich flavors and thick consistency, you might prefer hot chocolate to hot cocoa. Hot chocolate is the epitome of “drinking chocolate.”
If you’ve found this How to Melt Chocolate cooking guide helpful, let me know in the comment section below!