Double boilers are a very versatile kitchen appliance many cooks swear by so you must learn how to use a double boiler. If you want to make things like melted chocolate, making delicious custard for dessert or hollandaise sauce for eggs or other dishes. The double boiler helps make these things in a gentle fashion, as they are sensitive items that can be ruined or overcooked very easily if you tried to make them any other way.
For instance, for those of you who love melted gooey chocolate for toppings or maybe to make your own shapes of chocolate candies, a double boiler is imperative. If you tried to heat it and melt chocolate over the stove in a normal pan, it would adversely affect the chocolate’s texture. That’s because it is made of an emulsion of sugar, fat, and cocoa solids. If you overheat it that emulsion is ruined. But if you use a double boiler, your melted chocolate will end up smooth, shiny, and perfectly delicious.
How Does a Double Boiler Work?
So, how does one use this fantastic invention? Instead of the items you want to cook or melt or whatever being heated directly over a heat source, i.e. a stove, you put water in the pan that sits on the heat source. Then, the heated water produces steam and the steam gently heats the food or other item you need to melt or otherwise cook.
When you use a double boiler, you need to make sure there’s always a gap of some sort between the bottom of your bowl and the water in the pan on the stove. And be sure to use enough water, because if all the water gets boiled away, then you will have a dry pan and heating a dry pan is dangerous and could start a fire! Or at the very least damage your pan.
You can of course buy a double boiler that is already made which consists of a metal colander that doesn’t have holes, with a tapered bowl that can fit overtop several pan sizes. The insert will have a handle and a spout. The spout helps make it much easier to pour out the product, i.e. the melted chocolate. This type of double boiler is good if you only need to use one once in a while.
If you need to use a double boiler more often, it is a better idea to buy a set. The set will have a special pot, along with an insert with a flat bottom that fits into that pot. These cost more but are worth it for frequent users.
DIY Double Boiler
Or if you are in a pinch, you could make yourself a double boiler. You will need a large pan as well as a bowl made of either glass or stainless steel that will fit on the rim of your pan. This is good if you rarely need a double boiler, but be careful and check the fit to make sure it works.
Another makeshift double boiler can be made using a small pan that fits inside a big pan. That is a little awkward though as you must keep hold of the pan on top or it will fall over, and that restricts you to only having the other hand to do the rest of your task. Just be certain the pan you use is not too small or the large pan too large, or you get too much heat concentrated onto the bottom of your small pan. It may take some trial and error on your part when you are a beginner cake decorating person.
Using Your Double Boiler
When it comes to using your double boiler, no matter which of the above methods or gadgets you choose to use, the rest of the instructions are pretty much the same. First, you put one or two inches of water into your bottom pan. Then, turn the stove onto medium heat, not anything higher or it will burn your food item. Then, double-check to make sure the bottom of the pan on the top isn’t touching the water in the bottom pan.
Next, put the small pan on the larger bottom one, then add the chocolate or whatever you are cooking or melting. As the food cooks or melts, you have to keep whisking it with a whisk constantly. Be sure the water only simmers, not a hard boil as you do this. Keep doing this until your product heats or cooks the way you want. While doing so, be sure none of the water manages to get into your top pan or your food will get ruined.
Note: If you need to make something such as candy that has to cook at over 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the boiling point of water, using a double boiler is not going to work for you.
Warning: One thing to remember is that if you want to melt some wax and want to do it in a double boiler, you should NOT do so over a gas stove. That’s because if you melt wax it will produce fumes that can catch on fire and really mess up your day! It is best to melt wax in something using an electric heat source that doesn’t have a direct flame! A great tip for the beginner cake decorating.
All in all, if you like to cook a lot of things that are better off made using an indirect sort of heating method, then you should buy or make a double boiler!