It's not as intimidating as it seems.

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Melting chocolate is a basic skill that every cook should have in his or her arsenal. From snackable Chocolate-Covered Strawberries or Pretzels to an indulgent, centerpiece-worthy Chocolate Torte, silky-smooth melted chocolate brings depth and richness to countless decadent chocolate desserts.

There are two primary methods you can use to melt chocolate: melting the chocolate on the stovetop by using a double boiler, or melting it in the microwave. While the microwave technique may be quicker, taking time to create a double boiler and melting the chocolate on the stovetop will ensure that the chocolate does not burn, resulting in an even melt with a silky-smooth texture. In a pinch, however, the microwave technique will work—just be sure to closely monitor the chocolate and follow the instructions listed below.

One important thing to keep in mind is that not all chocolate can be treated the same. Since white chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, it can be more finnicky than its dark chocolate cousin. White chocolate is more sensitive to heat and it's difficult to detect when it's burning; you'll want to keep a close eye on your white chocolate throughout the melting process.

How To Melt Chocolate on the Stove

A double boiler uses two cooking vehicles—a saucepan and a slightly smaller bowl—to create indirect heat to melt the chocolate. The bowl sits on top of the pan of boiling water, and this is where you'll melt your chocolate. This technique is great when you want to cook or melt something gradually and gently—rather than overwhelming the chocolate with the direct heat of a burner, this technique uses the steam from the boiling water as an indirect, even heat source. It will prevent the chocolate from overcooking or burning and gives you more control as you're mixing the chocolate.

Since the steam is really what will melt the chocolate, you won't need much water to create a successful double boiler. When using a double boiler, it's crucial not to allow the chocolate to come into contact with water, which will cause the chocolate to seize. Wiping off the bottom of the bowl after double boiling is an extra precaution we like to take to keep our beautifully melted chocolate away from that water.

  1. Fill a saucepan with 1-2 inches of water. Place on stovetop and bring to a boil.
  2. Place a slightly smaller, heat-safe bowl on top of the saucepan. The bowl should be large enough not to fall into the pot, nestling comfortably in the saucepan without touching the water.
  3. Place chocolate in smaller bowl and mix frequently, ensuring that all the chocolate incorporates and melts consistently (2 to 3 minutes). Once chocolate fully melts, remove bowl from double boiler and wipe off bottom with a towel to dry off any water or condensation.

How To Melt Chocolate in the Microwave

Microwaving your chocolate is a faster and easier way to melt those drops—it doesn't require any waiting for the water to come to a boil, and it can be just as effective as a double-boiler. As noted above, however, it's critical not to over-microwave chocolate, which will cause the chocolate to seize and result in a lumpy, undesirable texture.

The key to this technique is microwaving on 30% power so you can really monitor the chocolate and allow it to melt slowly and evenly. If you microwave on full power, you risk heating the chocolate too quickly and resulting in a burnt lump. Another critical component to this technique is stirring the chocolate every 30 seconds to help it all incorporate. To ensure that your chocolate comes out smooth and silky, follow these simple directions from our Test Kitchen professionals.

  1. Place chocolate in a small microwavable bowl.
  2. Microwave for 30 seconds on 30% power. Stir well and continue to microwave in 30-second intervals until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Note: if only a few lumps remain in the melted chocolate, microwave for only 15 seconds on 30% power.

WATCH: How To Make Chocolate Shell Topping

Once you've learned to melt your chocolate like a professional, the possibilities are endless. Over the holidays, no gift is sweeter than homemade Chocolate Peppermint Bark. A chocolate drizzle adds a touch of richness to lighter, fruit-based desserts, like swoon-worthy Pavlovas with Strawberry Sweet Cream. While we could count endless uses for melted chocolate, one of our favorites has to be coating Bourbon Balls in a shiny chocolate sheen—guests are sure to rave over these professional-looking truffles.

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