Most home cooks like myself learn by reading blogs or watching YouTube videos. I also learned to see my grandmother and mother whisk in their kitchens. I’m pretty lucky that I come from a cooks’ family who also loves sweets. My grandmother used to make our handmade desserts.
I practically learned everything I knew from my grandmother. My kitchen is often busy during the holidays at my home since my grandmother and mother like giving sweets to family and friends. We make peanut brittle, chewy caramel, caramel popcorn, and a variety of other confections.
Besides, making candles and beeswax decorations are two of my favorite things to do. When I initially started working with wax, I learned that melting it required a double boiler. Because you need some separation between the high heat of the hot pan and the wax, you’ll need to use a double boiler.
Water boils in a double boiler, and the steam from the boiling water warms the wax bowl. It’s more secure this way. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to purchase a double boiler then. So, that necessitated some inventions, and I devised some DIY double boiler variations along the way.
This guide will come in handy if you’re a home baker or candy maker like me. If you’re trying it for the first time or can’t seem to figure out a proper double boiler substitute, continue reading.
What Is Double Boiler & Where It Is Used Most?
A double boiler is just cooking or melting with two pots together. The upper one goes on top of the bottom, creating a cavern of empty space in the lower pot. The upper one should fit into the bottom one leaving some room for water. Just pour an inch or two of water into the bottom pan and place the shallow pan on top.
Then, you bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. The water in the bottom pan starts to simmer over low heat, transferring a moderate, consistent heat to whatever you're cooking in the pan above. Check the bottom pan occasionally to make sure the water hasn't evaporated, and add extra water if necessary.
A double boiler is mainly used to temper chocolate, whip up an egg-based sabayon, or keep gravy warm, items that can't be cooked over direct heat. A double boiler is used in several holiday cookie recipes, especially when you need to drown something or coat it with chocolate.
Some components need gentle, progressive heating without coming into close touch with the heat source. Otherwise, they will burn, separate, curdle, clump, or be damaged in some other way.
Substitute For Double Boiler
If you're creating a recipe that asks for the use of a double boiler, you won't be able to do it without using indirect heat. So, if you don't have a double boiler or you can't afford one, you'll need an alternative to double boiler.
#1. Saucepan & Metal Bowl
If you don't have a double boiler and need to gently heat something, we recommend using a saucepan and a metal bowl to make your own double boiler. You can also use a heavy glass bowl instead of a metal bowl!
- The bowl you use to build your double boiler should partly fit into the saucepan you're using without resting on the bottom of the pan.
- Fill the saucepan with just a tiny quantity of water (preferably 1/4 of the pan size).
- Place the bowl into the saucepan; the water level must be low enough that it does not come into touch with the bottom of the bowl.
- Bring the water to a boil, then add the ingredients to the bowl before heating it in the saucepan.
Like hollandaise sauce, chocolate, and custards, several delicacies are best made in a double boiler or the alternate arrangement mentioned above.
#2. Saucepan, Jar Ring, & Measuring Cup
You'll need a saucepan, a canning jar ring, and one or two glass measuring cups to install this setup. Let's see how you can do this.
- Fill the saucepan halfway with water and place the canning jar ring at the bottom. This shields the glass measuring cup from direct contact with the stove's hot source, preventing it from breaking. If you don't have a ring, fold a towel and place it on the base of the large pan.
- Place the glass measuring cup on top of the canning jar ring in the saucepan. Your glass measuring cups should be heat resistant. Fill the glass measuring cup halfway with your ingredients.
- Now, fill your saucepan with water to the point where the ingredients are in the measuring cup.
- Set the heating element to medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer. The water in the saucepan should only be heated long enough for the contents in your glass measuring cup to completely melt.
- To properly combine the ingredients, stir them together. Turn off the heat in the pot.
This method is used best when you combine 2 or 3 items and softly melt, like cooking herbal recipes, baking, or keeping food warm. This method is also known as Water-bath or Bain-marie in French!
This is the simplest and easiest way to melt without direct heat. It's best for quickly melting without scrubbing a lot of confectionery tools. It's also best when you don't have much time, and you're in a hurry.
- Break up the ingredient you want to melt into small pieces and set it in a microwave-safe basin. Put the jar in the microwave.
- Run the microwave on high for 1 minute at 70% power. Take it out of the microwave and give it a good swirl.
- Microwave for another 30 seconds until the ingredient is completely melted. If it isn't melted even after that correctly, just stir again and put it in the microwave again for 30 seconds.
Because every microwave is different, it's essential to keep an eye on your item as it cooks. The primary disadvantage of this approach (and why we kept it at last) is that you may easily overcook your ingredients in the microwave, especially white chocolate. Because you don't have any control of what's happening inside.
#4. Other Alternatives
If you don't have a microwave or don't want the hassle of using different pots, you have two other options. Setting a bowl of chocolate on top of a 350° oven is recommended by some experts. However, I, myself, haven't tried it ever (let me know if you do). It should take a little longer, but the heat from the oven will melt the chocolate gently and evenly.
There is another handy method that works on lesser amounts yet is enjoyable and straightforward. You can use a dryer. Begin at a distance, aiming the drier straight into the chocolate dish, then gradually move closer as the chocolate melts. One word of caution: tiny chunks may fly out of the bowl if you're not cautious. You don't want to spoil/lose your precious chocolate bars, right?
How To Melt Chocolate Without a Double Boiler?
My chocolate lover, I'm glad you chose to stick it out till now! I'll reveal a chocolate secret in this part. So, read just a little bit more!
People mostly use a double boiler to melt chocolate and caramel with gentle heat. But what if you don't have one in your kitchen? What can I use instead of a double boiler to cook chocolate?
It's not as difficult as it seems. While many people use twin boilers for this purpose, you don't always need one to melt chocolate. There is another method for melting chocolate that many people utilize.
A heat-safe bowl placed on top of boiling water (like our 1st choice to exchange double boiler) is one of the replacements for a double boiler. Ensure there's a space between the bottom of the bowl and the water; if the bowl touches the water, it'll transmit too much heat.
You may also use your microwave to melt chocolate without needing a double boiler. Melting chocolate at 30-second intervals, stirring after each blast of heat, is a great way to melt delicate and soft foods in the microwave.
Do's & Don't While Using Backup Double Boiler
Using double boiler alternatives also has its disadvantages. However, by following these cautions, you'll be able to remain out of danger:
- Do maintain the low heat. This may be accomplished by altering the heat source on the cooktop by lowering, raising, or shutting it off.
- Don't fill the water-filled pot more than halfway. This is because when the water hits the boiling point, it may tend to pour out.
- Do handle the pots with extreme caution. With time, the pots get very hot, necessitating the use of protective gloves while holding them.
Don't overheat it with the water. In technique #1, the water should be just high enough to not touch the bowl; it's preferable if it warms via steam rather than water. In approach #2, I only allow 1-2 inches of water to flow up the edge of the glass measuring cup — any more, and the cup will start to float, which is dangerous!
Just be a little more careful and don't leave the kitchen for too long while using double boiler replacements. And you'll be good to go!
Switching Double Boiler: The Results of Surveys & Research
We discovered the following statistics on the internet when we researched how often people use double boiler alternatives:
- 95% of users who utilized a replacement for a double boiler successfully prepared their intended dish.
- Housewives all around the country make extensive use of double boiler replacements.
- Thirty percent of those who did have a double boiler at home attempted the other techniques as well as a backup double boiler.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Should I even invest in a double boiler?
As you can see, creating the effects of a double boiler using stuff you already own is pretty straightforward. So, there's no need to spend the money on a second boiler and give up valuable kitchen storage space. However, if you like collecting culinary gadgets and often melt chocolate, create eggs Benedict, or produce French sauces, it's a handy item - so the choice is yours.
Q. Can I make a double boiler using a mason jar?
Put a metal mixing bowl over a conventional pot of water to create a double boiler without purchasing a double boiler. Putting mason jars in the freezer, in my experience, usually ends in their shattering or the top popping off. And no, you don't want to use them to make a double boiler. The same goes for using any plastic material; don't use them.
Q. What can't I use as a replacement for a double boiler?
Silicone is recognized for its heat tolerance and adaptability. However, it can't be used in your double boiler replacement. Since silicone is a slow conductor of heat, the whole procedure may take considerably longer than it needs to. Simply use silicone as a mold and replace it with the above options for faster and more efficient cooking.
Q. How does a double boiler or any of our double boiler alternatives work?
A double boiler works by transferring heat from a secondary pot to the food item, allowing gradual heating. Because excessive heat might damage the dish, foods that need control heating must be cooked in a double boiler or any of our double boiler alternatives.
Q. What happens if a double boiler is underfilled?
Don't underfill the pot. If all the water boils away, you'll be left with a dry pan to heat, which might cause harm. A specialized double boiler insert, essentially a metal colander with no holes, may be purchased.
Q. Is it necessary to use a double boiler to create candles?
To melt wax for candle production, a double boiler is an efficient and cost-effective method. Heat the resin in the smaller container in the bigger pot over medium-low heat until it is fully melted. To keep the water from evaporating, carefully add extra water to the bigger pot as required. You can also use our 1st double boiler substitute to do this.
Q. Is it possible to melt chocolate without using a double boiler?
Without a double boiler, melting chocolate may be a difficult task. Using the improper container to melt chocolate might result in sticking, scorching, and other unpleasant outcomes. Fortunately, with a bit of ingenuity, you can create your own temporary double broiler. Fill the bigger pan with water to approximately a third full.
As I've told earlier, my mother, who is a fantastic baker, always maintained a double boiler in our kitchen. As her official soul chef, I knew we were going to cook brownies when I saw her pull out the pair of similar pots, one stacked and locked in neatly on top of the other like a double-decker bus. Her go-to recipe when we were youngsters entailed melting butter and chocolate together.
No offense to my mother, but the double boiler is a gear that, like a nine-piece knife set (you actually only need three) or an avocado slicer (all you need is a sharp knife and a spoon to get the job done), I now know is entirely unnecessary. I have also shown you how!
It's not that the double boiler isn't helpful—important it's if you're warming temperature-sensitive materials that need mild, indirect heat (chocolate). It's only that putting one together as a double boiler alternative with stuff you already have is more straightforward and handy.
Why buy an expensive double boiler when a medium-sized pot and a heatproof metal or glass mixing bowl would suffice?