Everything You Need to Know About Double Boilers

Whether you're starting a bakery or working in a fast-paced kitchen, a double boiler is a useful piece of cookware for specialty recipes. A combination of two pots, double boilers can help you prepare delicate recipes with ease. We'll break down what double boilers are, how they work, and what you can make in a double boiler.

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What Is a Double Boiler?


A double boiler is a type of cookware that uses steam as a heat source to melt or cook food. They are made up of two pieces, a large pot that is filled with hot or boiling water and a smaller pot that fits inside to trap the steam from below. Because the heat comes from an indirect source, double boilers are ideal for cooking delicate foods like sauces and types of chocolates.

Bain Marie vs Double Boiler

Double boilers may also be called bain maries, which is the French term for the method of cooking with indirect heat from steam. Translating to "Mary's bath," the bain marie gets its name from the ancient Grecian alchemist who is credited with inventing the technique to heat chemicals. Although the names differ, double boilers and bain maries are the same.

How Does a Double Boiler Work?


A double boiler uses steam from the hot water in the bottom pot to gently heat the contents in the top pot. This keeps delicate ingredients away from the intensity of direct heat. When using a double boiler, you should be sure that the top pot is resting above the hot or boiling water, because if the pot gets too hot, it can cause your product to curdle or scorch.

Double Boiler vs Steamer

The difference between double boiling and steaming is that the latter utilizes direct steam contact with food, while the former uses steam to indirectly heat a cooking surface. Double boilers use gentle and indirect heat to slowly warm or melt ingredients that would otherwise burn or curdle if overheated.

What Is a Double Boiler Used For?

Because double boilers create gentle, indirect heat, they're ideal for melting and tempering chocolate, creating custards, or melting butter. Double boilers are perfect for creating sauces with eggs, like hollandaise sauce, a mother sauce, or a decadent creme anglaise. Because the heat from the steam isn't hot enough to cook the eggs in the recipe, you end up with sauce instead of scrambled eggs.

How to Use a Double Boiler

To use a double boiler, follow these simple steps:

  1. Fill the bottom pot with 1 or 2 inches of water.
  2. Add in the top pot and turn on your burner to a simmer.
  3. Stir the ingredients as the steam from the bottom pot warms the top pot.
  4. Remove the top pot when you've reached the desired consistency and replace any water that has escaped.

How to Make a Double Boiler

How to Use a Double Boiler to Melt Chocolate

If you don't have a double boiler on hand in your kitchen but you still need to cook something with indirect heat, you can easily use this double boiler substitute. A common double boiler alternative can be made with a heatproof mixing bowl on top of a pot of simmering water.

  1. Fill a pot with 2 to 3 inches of water and put it over medium heat.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer.
  3. In a heat-proof bowl, add your ingredients. Make sure the bowl is big enough to cover the entire opening of the pot but does not touch the water to prevent overheating the ingredients.
  4. Place the bowl on the pot and stir until the desired consistency is reached.

Double boilers can be found in all sorts of settings, ranging from high-end chocolatiers to home bakeries. Add a double boiler to your kitchen to make delicious treats like this mouth-watering ruby chocolate truffle recipe.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Product Spotlights|By Janine Jones
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