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How to melt chocolate

Chocolate Chips
There are many recipes out there that call for melted chocolate, from brownies to cakes. Melted chocolate might not sound like a tricky ingredient, but it actually can be and is a place where many would be brownie-bakers run into problems. This is because chocolate tends to hold its shape as it melts (because the cocoa butter melts and the cocoa solids don’t), so unlike butter or ice, so it is difficult to tell just from looking at a bowl of chopped up chocolate whether it has melted or not. If you pop a bowl full of chocolate chips in the microwave and turn it on, the chips will hold their shape until you stir them around. If you overcook chocolate that is already melted, it burns quickly, leaving you with gritty, unpleasant tasting chocolate that isn’t going to do your brownie recipe any favors.

Partially melted chocolate

Fortunately, it is not difficult to melt chocolate as long as you do it carefully. You can melt chocolate in a microwave or on top of a double boiler.  It is best to chop up your chocolate a bit so that the pieces are small and uniform, which will allow them to melt quickly. The double boiler method is the old standard because it forces you to stand there and pay attention to the chocolate as it melts, as well as providing a gradual heat that won’t easily scorch your chocolate. It does result in a bit of extra cleanup, however, so I prefer to use method when I’m melting a larger quantity of chocolate.

The microwave method is much quicker, but also much easier to screw up. To microwave your chocolate, place it in a bowl and cook it on high in 20-30 second intervals, stopping to stir it well before putting the chocolate back in the microwave. The exact time it takes will vary by your microwave, but the chocolate will start to melt before long and the heat of the melted chocolate, along with the stirring actions, will help to melt the as-yet-unmelted chocolate in your bowl. You must check the chocolate frequently here because a few extra seconds can result in burned chocolate, and failing to stir the chocolate well means that the chocolate on the bottom of the bowl may burn before the rest of the chocolate has melted.

Melted Chocolate

Update: If you are looking to temper your chocolate, rather than just melt it, try this tutorial!

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  • Esther
    August 17, 2010

    thank you for the informative chocolate melting post. I love reading about all the different “tutorials” you write because I always learn something new. 🙂 Melting chocolate is always a messy thing though, It’s harder to wash off bowls.

  • Sara @CaffeIna
    August 17, 2010

    Thanks for the post! I am one of those people that do not find it that obvious how to melt chocolate and I often screw up and burn it 🙁

  • Ryan
    August 18, 2010

    I hate melting it in the microwave, I get so nervous. Maybe I’ll give it another go…

    When I first started baking I accidently left my rubber spatula (with stainless steel handle) in the microwave and almost caused a fire.

    I’ll do the extra cleanup with a double boiler, less chance of injuring my clumsy self, haha.

  • Faith
    February 1, 2015

    Thank you for your post. 5 years later, yesterday I baked a birthday cake for the first time for our first son’s first birthday, I could not melt the white chocolate and had to improvise for the eyes on the cake.

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