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Sometimes when I melt chocolate in a double boiler it will turn grainy, and melting in a microwave often burns it. What is the best way to melt chocolate to get good, smooth results?

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Well, do you have a sous-vide setup? That'd be the best way—you can melt it without needing to retemper it—and with absolutely no risk of burning it. –  derobert Feb 7 '12 at 19:35
    
No, no sous-vide I'm afraid –  ElendilTheTall Feb 7 '12 at 19:36
    
I've heard when melting chocolate chips in microwave that adding a teaspoon or less of Crisco shortening will make it smooth and runny and perfect for dipping buckeyes does anyone know if this works? –  user14396 Nov 21 '12 at 15:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It depends on what you're doing with the chocolate.

If temperature isn't that critical and its going to be mixed into a cake or brownies or such, then do it in the microwave. Its simpler and as long as you don't rush it, its does a good job. Just go 10-20 seconds at a time, in bowl that doesn't hold heat well.

If you need precise temperature controlled chocolate (for tempering perhaps), its best to use a double boiler. The bottom pan just has steaming water - so I never really count that as a dirty dish. With the double boiler, you get several advantages. It won't get any hotter than the water. It its gradual and gentle. And you can monitor and stir as the temperature rises. If it turns grainy, its likely a bit of water dripped in. Depending on the top bowl on the double boiler, its possible to accidentally knock some condensation into the chocolate...and now its toast. I use a top bowl that has a small outer lip on it to keep this from happening.

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Alton brown uses a heating pad to avoid the risk of the water altogether. Yes- I know how much you love AB references. –  Sobachatina Feb 7 '12 at 22:25
    
@Sob - I tried the heating pad after watching that episode. An hour and almost no melted chocolate, I fired up the double boiler. –  rfusca Feb 7 '12 at 22:30

Melting chocolate in a double boiler is the safest method for melting chocolate, and it's fairly easy. But it makes two pots dirty. I didn't had the problem of it being grainy. So I don't know what to say about that.

Melting chocolate in the microwave oven is faster and requires less dishes, but you have the risk of burning. Therefore, lower the wattage and take it out to stir every 20 seconds. It also continues to melt out of the microwave oven, so you can take it out even when there are still some pieces. They will melt because of the heat of the surroundings. If you see that not everything is going to be melted, pop it back in for ten seconds and stir.

I would advice using the microwave oven (but with reduced power), although most chefs (in their videos at least) use a double broiler.

And a footnote: be very careful with white chocolate. That tends to burn the most easily.

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The 2nd dirty pot had water and perhaps a spot of chocolate on in it, the 1st with chocolate cleans so easily since chocolate melts at below 120 degrees so I would not be concerned with this. Upvoted because double boiler every day!!! –  Mike B Feb 9 '12 at 3:48
    
I usually use the defrost function to melt chocolate and haven't had any problems. –  sourd'oh Oct 6 '13 at 19:47

I've been melting chocolate at the lowest position on the induction stove. No double boiler, no nothing. Just the pan, the chocolate, the butter and nº1 on the stove.

As the heat is so low, it will always turn out right.

Edit: And whisk every once in a while. It will lower the temperature.

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If you are very patient, and chop the chocolate into reasonably small pieces (say a 1/2 inch squares), or use chocolate chips, the microwave at low power is extremely effective.

I put chocolate in on power level 2 on mine -- it takes several minutes at that low level -- and you should stir several times. I do this in a glass bowl, intentionally, so there will be some residual warmth when I take it out. At low power, the risk of burning is insignificant.

By doing this, I can keep chocolate in temper for candy (12 ounces of chocolate and three cups crunchy cereal like corn flakes is wonderful) without all the usual fuss of tempering.

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I would imagine that you have to be very careful with the temperature in order to keep the chocolate "in temper". From what I read, if the temperature exceeds 91ºF (33ºC) you will need to temper it again. Melting in the microwave is not ideal if you need that level of control. –  Chris Steinbach Nov 22 '12 at 0:03
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For the physics of keeping the Type IV cocoa butter crystals (IIRC the crystal types correctly), you surely do. In practice, you are BARELY melting the chocolate, so it is easy to manage. The heat in the glass bowl helps melt the last bits, and the stirring is important. And going SLOW. It can take 8 to 12 minutes to do 12 oz of chocolate. But you only have to stir two or three times. Slow, slow, slow :-) Also, my nuker has a rotating platform--I imagine this is harder in an older microwave without that. –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 22 '12 at 0:08
    
Ok. In that case it's not ideal in my microwave :-) Sounds like yours has a lower setting than mine. –  Chris Steinbach Nov 22 '12 at 0:22
    
Yeah I do it on power level 3 on a fairly weak built in microwave, then drop to 2 when the first visible signs of melting appear. –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 22 '12 at 0:24

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