How to melt chocolate

Discover everything you need to know about how to melt chocolate including the best chocolate to use, how to melt chocolate using the bain-marie method as well as how to save burnt chocolate.

Chocolate is made from cacao beans or cocoa. There are three different types of chocolate; white, milk, and dark. All three are commonly used in baking. Often recipes that use chocolate require you to melt chocolate.

Melting chocolate is a culinary technique that can easily be mastered. The traditional way to melt chocolate is by using a bain-marie (pronounced ‘bane mah-REE’), which means melting the chocolate over a ‘hot water bath’.

You can also melt chocolate in the microwave too. In this article we look at the following:

What's the best chocolate for melting? How to melt chocolate: on the stove (bain-marie) Melting chocolate in the microwave How to melt chocolate chips Melting chocolate for dipping Melting chocolate for strawberries Top tips for melting chocolate Can you overcook chocolate? Can you reuse melted chocolate? Recipes that use melted chocolate

How to melt chocolate

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What's the best chocolate for melting?

Selecting the right chocolate depends on what you intend to do with it. When melting chocolate for confectioneries such as chocolate truffles or Easter eggs, for example, you should use the best quality chocolate. The best quality chocolate has high cocoa mass and cocoa butter and minimal other ingredients. Not only will good quality chocolate taste the best, but it will also be easier to work with.

When melting chocolate to make confectioneries it's important to temper the chocolate so it sets firm. If you're not sure how to do this read our article explaining how to temper chocolate including a step-by-step guide on how to achieve perfectly tempered chocolate every time. Chocolate with added cocoa butter called couverture is usually easier to temper.

It's also preferable to use good quality chocolate for glazes you for cakes or desserts as cheap chocolate can sometimes separate and create an odd dappled or split effect.

For melting chocolate to use in baking, such as in Mary Berry's chocolate cake recipe, it's less important to select expensive high-quality chocolate but to opt for the best flavour instead. Choose a bar with high cocoa solids. Have a look at the packaging to find out the percentage of cocoa solids in the bar, the higher the percentage, the more chocolate flavour the bar will have.

We would also recommend that you only ever select certified FairTrade chocolate.

How to melt chocolate: on the stove (bain-marie)

When melting chocolate, it's important to do this over low heat to avoid burning the chocolate. The easiest way to do this on the stove is by using a bain-marie or a bowl suspended over a pan of water so the steam from the water creates a gentle and even heat to melt the chocolate. To melt chocolate on the hob or stove you will need a bain-marie or pan and a heatproof bowl that is large enough to sit in the pan without touching the base.

How to melt chocolate: Step 1

Melting chocolate in a bain marie

Fill the pan with a couple of centimeters of water. Place the heat-proof bowl on top. Make sure that the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Snap or chop the chocolate into pieces and put the pieces into the bowl. You could also use chocolate drops or buttons.

How to melt chocolate: Step 2

bain marie method

Heat the water so it is steaming, but not boiling. Place the bowl on top and the chocolate will start to melt. Occasionally mix the chocolate so it melts evenly. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove from the heat and dry the base of a bowl (be careful though as it will be hot) You can now use the melted chocolate.

How to melt chocolate: in the microwave

Melting chocolate in the microwave is the fastest option and Nigella Lawson's preferred method. She explains why she favours melting chocolate this way in her book How To Be a Domestic Goddess 'Not only is it easier to melt chocolate in the microwave than in a bowl over a pan of water, but it's much harder, even in my clumsy experience, to burn it so that it seizes up and becomes expensively unusable.'

  1. As with melting on the stove, you will need to break the chocolate into pieces or use chocolate drops or buttons.
  2. Put the chocolate into a microwave-proof bowl. Choose a bowl that doesn't get too hot in the microwave. A microwavable plastic container is a good option.
  3. On a low or medium setting cook the chocolate in the microwave for 30-second intervals. Mix between microwaves so allowing the chocolate to melt evenly.
  4. Continue until all of the chocolate has melted. Timing will vary based on the amount of chocolate and the power of the microwave used. But it will usually take a minute or two in total.

How to melt chocolate chips

You can melt chocolate chips just as you would melt chocolate from a bar, just simply follow the steps above.

Chocolate chips or buttons are often used in professional kitchens as they can be melted quickly and do not require breaking into smaller pieces as a bar would. However, sometimes the chocolate chips that you find in the supermarket in the baking aisle are not the best quality chocolate, so check the ingredients on the pack before buying.

How to melt chocolate for dipping

To make a lusciously smooth chocolate sauce for dipping add cream, milk or water to the chocolate before melting it. Add the liquid with the chocolate and heat over a bain-marie.

For every 100g of chocolate add 75ml of liquid. Once melted you can add mix in more liquid to the chocolate sauce to make the consistency thinner. In Michel Roux’s chocolate sauce recipe, he also adds butter to make the sauce extra rich and smooth. You could use this chocolate sauce as an indulgent chocolate fondue by dipping fruits, or even for chocolate sauce on ice cream.

Michel Roux chocolate sauce

How to prepare chocolate for a chocolate fountain

For parties and special occasions, a chocolate fountain is a novel idea. Read the instructions that come with the chocolate fountain for preparing the chocolate, but for most models, you will need to melt the chocolate prior to pouring it into the base of the chocolate fountain. Chocolate with a higher fat content is better as it will flow more smoothly.

How to melt chocolate

How to melt chocolate for strawberries

Chocolate dipped strawberries should have a satisfying snap of chocolate coating before you sink your teeth into the sweet soft fruity centre. To achieve this, after dipping the strawberries into the chocolate chill them in the fridge for 15-20 mins. This will help the chocolate to begin crystalising, enabling it to set firm. For the best texture, we recommend that you temper the chocolate but it isn't necessary.

Choose bright plump strawberries for coating and dipping. Strawberries taste best in season during the summer. Drying the strawberries thoroughly after washing them will help the chocolate to stick.

You can use the methods above to melt chocolate for strawberries. But remember to melt more chocolate than you need. You can always set and reuse it. But having a bowl with lots of chocolate in will make the dipping easier. Follow our recipe for chocolate-coated strawberries with pistachio for perfect, chocolate-covered strawberries every time.

 Top tips for melting chocolate

What happens if the chocolate starts to set?

Don't worry if the chocolate begins to set you can simply melt it again by following one of the methods above.

Can you reuse melted chocolate?

You can easily reuse melted chocolate if you haven't added anything to it. Simply decant onto a sheet of baking parchment and allow the chocolate to set at room temperature. It can then be stored until it is next needed or nibbled.

If you have added perishable ingredients to the melted chocolate, for example when making a sauce, or ganache then it will not set firm and will eventually go off. However, should be fine to will keep in the fridge for a week. You can then simply warm to remelt and re-use.

Can you overcook chocolate?

When chocolate gets too hot it has a tendency to burn and seize into a thick dry mess or split into a seeping lump. Burnt chocolate can still be used in baking but can not be set back into firm chocolate with a snap. To save burnt chocolate try mixing in 1tbsp of boiling water or as Nigella suggests 'whisking in, off the heat, a knob of butter or drop of vegetable oil'.

Recipes that use melted chocolate

Here are some of our favourite recipes that use melted chocolate.

Dark chocolate ginger biscuits

Dark chocolate ginger biscuits

Always a sensational flavour combination, rich dar chocolate is a match made in heaven with fiery ginger. These divine biscuits are enrobed in an indulgent chocolate coating.

Get the recipe: Dark chocolate ginger biscuits recipe

Gooey chocolate brownies

These gorgeously gooey, rich and indulgent brownies use melted chocolate to make the sponge extra moist and dense. You can use milk or dark chocolate in this recipe.

Get the recipe: Chocolate brownies

Chocolate explosion drip cake

Chocolate explosion cake

(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

This impressive-looking cake would be a fantastic centrepiece for a birthday. The drip element is a simple chocolate ganache sauce that is carefully piped around the rim of the cake to create a 'dip' effect.

Get the recipe: Chocolate explosion drip cake recipe

Christmas selection box slab

Christmas selection box slab gtk

This indulgent chocolate creation isn't just for Christmas but is a great way to use up leftover chocolate any time of year. Add your favourite chocolate bars and melt white, dark and milk chocolate before setting in the fridge.

Get the recipe: Christmas selection box slab recipe

Rose Fooks
Deputy Food Editor

Rose Fooks is Deputy Food Editor at Future Publishing, creating recipes, reviewing products and writing food features for a range of lifestyle and home titles including GoodTo and Woman&Home. Before joining the team, Rose obtained a Diplome de Patisserie and Culinary Management at London’s Le Cordon Bleu. Going on to work in professional kitchens at The Delaunay and Zedel.