For such a simple step, melting chocolate can cause a lot of distress. If it gets too hot, it’ll burn. If it doesn’t get hot enough, it’ll be lumpy. If it gets wet, it’ll turn gritty and sludgy.

So we wondered: What’s the best way to melt chocolate? Here are the results of our tests.

Determining the best way to melt chocolate

I evaluated each technique based on several factors. First, how much time does it take? To be most efficient, I want to get my chocolate melted in the least time possible.

Which relates to my second criterion: How many dishes do I have to wash? Because if there’s a method that takes a minute longer but results in fewer dishes, I’m going to choose that one every time.

The final factors relate to each other: effectiveness and scorching potential. The key to melting chocolate is to get it completely and evenly melted without it scorching and burning from too much heat exposure.

After testing five different methods against each other, here are my results.

Side-by-side testing of chocolate melting methods

A quick overview of the testing: For each test, I used 3 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate. Larger quantities will take longer to melt than the times listed below. Additionally, milk and white chocolates have lower melting points and thus are more sensitive to heat, meaning it’s easier for them to scorch. Be extra careful when using these varieties.

Each of the methods I tested ultimately worked for me, and none resulted in scorching or seizing. But one method reigned supreme.

Melted chocolate in a bowl Rossi Anastopoulo
Using a microwave, my chocolate melted smoothly and evenly in under two minutes. 

My favorite way to melt chocolate: In the microwave

The method: 30-second bursts in a bowl at regular power, with a quick stir in between

The results:  

  • Time: 90 seconds  

  • Number of dishes to wash: 1  

  • Effectiveness: 10/10 

  • Scorching potential: 3/10

Overall takeaways: I found this to be the easiest, most efficient way to melt chocolate. It only dirties one bowl, takes less time than any other method I tried, and did not have me worried about scorching. Of all the tests, microwaving is my preferred method to melt chocolate. Just make sure to keep heating in short bursts, as opposed to minutes-long intervals, to avoid potentially scorching. 

Other methods I tested included:

Chopped chocolate in a double boiler Rossi Anastopoulo
A double boiler is effective but requires the proper setup. 

Melting chocolate in a double boiler

The method: Metal bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1" of simmering water

The results:  

  • Time: 5 to 6 minutes 

  • Number of dishes to wash: 1.5 (since the saucepan is only full of water, you just have to empty the water and dry it)  

  • Effectiveness: 10/10 

  • Scorching potential: 2/10

Overall takeaways: This method is perhaps the most traditional way to melt chocolate. The reasoning behind it is that setting the bowl over simmering water allows the chocolate to melt using steam, promoting gentle, even melting. And it does work! However, you do have to be vigilant about the chocolate around the edge of the bowl and the level of heat; if it gets too high, the chocolate on the edge of the bowl can start to burn. In addition, I’ve occasionally found myself in kitchens without a heatproof bowl or pan that will easily fit over a saucepan (or without an appropriately sized saucepan for my bowl), which can sometimes be a challenge. And the bowl does need to be the correct size for this to be successful: If it’s too small, the bottom will touch the water (a no-no!), and if it’s too big you have a lot of side overhang. Overall, this method is a little clunky and takes longer than microwaving, but overall effective and unlikely to result in scorching.  

Chopped chocolate in metal bowl set in skillet full of water Rossi Anastopoulo
For the water bath method, a heatproof bowl of chocolate is set in a skillet of simmering water. 

Melting chocolate in a water bath

The method: Metal bowl set directly into a skillet with about 1" water. The water is brought to a simmer, then turned off; the bowl of chocolate melts using the residual heat.

The results:  

  • Time: 3 to 4 minutes (Note: the chocolate melted before the water even reached a simmer) 

  • Number of dishes to wash: 1.5 (since the pan is only full of water, you just have to empty the water and dry it) 

  • Effectiveness: 9/10 

  • Scorching potential: 2/10 

Overall takeaways: This method comes from Alice Medrich, who prefers it to a double boiler because, as she claims, simmering water is a more gentle heat than the steam generated in the double boiler, thereby preventing scorching. My chocolate melted before the water even reached a simmer, but if you had a larger quantity, you might need the residual heat of the warm water to melt it completely. Overall, I found this method pretty similar to a double boiler, and it’s a good option if you don’t have a bowl and saucepan that fit neatly together.

Melted chocolate in saucepan Rossi Anastopoulo
Yes, you can melt chocolate directly in a saucepan on the stovetop. 

Melting chocolate directly in a skillet or saucepan

The method: Directly in a dry saucepan over low heat

The results:  

  • Time: 2.5 to 3.5 minutes  

  • Number of dishes to wash: 1  

  • Effectiveness: 10/10 

  • Scorching potential: 6/10

Overall takeaways: It’s a widely asserted baking rule that you should never, under any circumstances, expose your chocolate to direct heat to melt it. To do so risks scorching — hence setups like a double boiler and water bath, meant to prevent heat from directly blasting your chocolate and burning it. But you know what? If you set your saucepan over low heat, this direct heat method works fine. Gently stir at intervals to prevent uneven heating and keep the heat low, and you should be OK. Just keep a close eye and don’t leave your chocolate unattended, as it can quickly burn. And know that this is riskier with milk chocolate and white chocolate because of their lower melting points; I’d choose another method on this list for those. 

Melted chocolate in bowl next to hair dryer Rossi Anastopoulo
Using a hair dryer to melt chocolate will work in a pinch but isn’t my preferred method. 

Melting chocolate with a hair dryer

The method: Using a hair dryer to blow directly onto chocolate in a bowl 

The results:  

  • Time: 3 to 4 minutes  

  • Number of dishes to wash: 1 (but beware, this can get messy and result in Jackson Pollock-esque chocolate splatters on you or your kitchen)  

  • Effectiveness: 8/10 

  • Scorching potential: 1/10

Overall takeaways: I was excited about trying this clever method: Just point a hair dryer over your chocolate, turn it on, and watch it melt. Alas, it’s too clever for its own good. That powerful blast of heat can also blow your melted chocolate into splatters all over you and/or your kitchen. Plus, it can be difficult to blow dry and stir at the same time, making this clunky and ineffective. Keep the hair dryer in the bathroom and save this method for when you have no other option — it does work in a bind.

Spoonful of smooth melted chocolate next to spoonful of seized melted chocolate Rossi Anastopoulo
On the left, properly melted chocolate; on the right, melted chocolate with a few drops of water added, causing it to seize

An important step to remember: Keep the chocolate dry

Chocolate and water don’t go together. Even a small splash of water in your melting chocolate will cause it to seize, becoming stiff and grainy instead of smooth and silky. And sadly, there’s no way to completely undo the damage.

However you choose to melt your chocolate, make sure all of your bowls and utensils are dry and keep your chocolate from being exposed to moisture. Be especially careful with methods like the double boiler or water bath, which involve water. Other liquids like vanilla extract will cause seizing too, so avoid stirring into your melted chocolate.  

A baker holding two offset spatulas that are being used to test chocolate in temper Jenn Bakos
The offset spatula on the top was dipped into chocolate that was melted and cooled; it’s dull and not properly tempered. The spatula on the bottom was dipped into tempered chocolate, so it remains shiny even once cool.

Once melted, should you temper your chocolate?  

When melted chocolate cools and rehardens, it can “bloom” — in other words, take on a dusty, white, mottled appearance and a matte, rather than shiny, look. This happens because cocoa butter crystals can migrate to the surface, becoming visible. Bloomed chocolate is still perfectly edible! It’s just not quite as visually impressive.

To avoid this, bakers often temper their chocolate — they keep it at a stable temperature to avoid bloom and ensure it dries into a shiny, snappy chocolate coating.

If you’re melting chocolate to stir into a batter or dough, like in Flourless Chocolate Nut Cake, there’s no need to worry about tempering. But if you’re using the chocolate for dipping, such as with these Chocolate-Dipped Rye Palmiers, you may want to temper your melted chocolate to ensure a stunning appearance. (This step is already called for in the recipe itself!) To learn more, see our basic guide to tempering chocolate.

If you’re melting chocolate for any upcoming baking projects, choose a high-quality brand for the best results. We have a wide range of styles and flavors from top producers like Guittard, Valrhona, and more.  

Cover photo by Jenn Bakos.

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Chocolate-Dipped Rye Palmiers
Chocolate-Dipped Rye Palmiers
4.0 out of 5 stars 1 Review
2 hrs 30 mins
24 palmiers
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About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She didn’t have any bakers in her household (with the exception of her grandmother’s perfect koulourakia), so she learned at a young age that the best way to satisfy her sweet tooth was to make dess...
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