What is a Double Boiler
The Indirect Heat Source

So what is a double boiler and why do we need to use double boilers for melting chocolate?

Foods such as chocolate are very delicate and cannot withstand direct heat.

This is the case as well for sauces, soufflé, etc.

For tempering chocolate, it's a great source of indirect heat.

But, that's just one of many techniques applied to this tool of old.


A Little History Of Double Boilers

The Bain Marie is simply a French term for water bath referencing the said alchemist originator, Marie.

In the past, this simple kitchen tool was a whole lot more than just a couple of pans, with one holding a little water.

Double boilers have a lot more names, meanings and uses than what we might think.

Sometimes the simplicity of what is a double boiler gets confused with the different languages which refer to it as a Bain Marie, Bain de Marie, and au Bain Marie.

You might even hear someone call it "bomari," "balneus mariae," or even a "kerotakis." It's unlikely though, as these are the ancient names rarely heard of these days.

The ancient historical past of the double boiler is somewhat over shadowed now by it's modern use and complacency in the kitchen today.

Some believe the Bain Marie has been around since 300 BC while others claim it's inception as far back as the time of Mother Mary.

However, double boilers being named Bain Marie has no relationship to The Mother Mary (to  my knowledge).

How Does The Double Boiler Work

What is a double boiler in modern time is pretty much the same as it was in ancient times. Except that it should not be confused with the "wet bath" where the upper pan actually touches the water in the lower pan.

The double boiler, we know and use today is as simple as using two pans in the kitchen, in business, science, etc. to create "indirect heat."

This can be achieved from the heat created by steam within the space between the hot water in the lower pan, and the upper pan.

The Bain Marie can be used for hundreds, if not thousands, of applications.

Make A Double Boiler

If you don't have any double boilers that's okay!

you not only find out what is a double boiler, you can improvise like I did with a homemade double broiler.

At home, you might use this as a chef tool for melting and/or tempering larger amounts of chocolate (over 16oz).

An alternative to melting smaller amounts is melting chocolate in a microwave.

The double boiler is of the best ways to melt or temper chocolate, especially because we need steady, even heat to melt chocolate.


At the very least, you now have an idea of what a double boiler is.


I hope my definition of a double boiler is helpful to you and it makes tempering or melting chocolate easier.

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Tip:
Just because we refer to it as a double boiler, doesn't mean that it needs to boil.

In fact, boiling may cause you chocolate to seize, and/or scorch while tempering or melting chocolate.