What is the best way to melt chocolate?

29 Jul 2020

Food + Drink

No need to stress about melting chocolate, follow our tips and you can’t go wrong!

We’ve all had the same sinking feeling when trying to melt chocolate – it seems like nothing is happening, and before you know it the chocolate has burned. As you waft the acrid smoke out of your kitchen window, you can’t help but wonder what you did wrong.

Fear not! We’re here to explain the potential pitfalls of melting chocolate, and how you can get it right every time. Grab a bag of our cooking chocolate drops, pop on an apron and let’s get melting!

Why does chocolate burn when you melt it?

burn melted chocolate smoke

Chocolate burns in two different ways, and to understand why we need to look at the ingredients in chocolate. Chocolate is made of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, milk powder and an emulsifier (check out our blog here on how chocolate is made for a quick reminder), and when these are heated wrongly, they can separate and burn.

One way to burn chocolate is when you overheat the chocolate and it separates, leaving you with blackened, burnt cocoa particles and a pale yellow oil. This is because the complex fat structure in the cocoa butter is broken down completely, and it is unable to regain its previous form, even after cooling.

Another common error when melting chocolate is “seizing”, which occurs when the chocolate becomes a solid grainy mass. This happens when the melting chocolate is exposed to moisture – even just a little can ruin your baking aspirations. The moisture causes the dry sugar and cocoa particles to glue together, separating it from the hydrophobic (water-hating) cocoa butter and causing it to become a solid, grainy mess.

How to melt chocolate without burning it

melt chocolate on the hob

The most fail-safe way to melt chocolate without burning it is using a bain-marie or a double boiler. For this, you’ll need a saucepan filled with a couple of inches of hot water with a heatproof bowl on top of it – but make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water! Keeping the saucepan on a low heat, fill the bowl with chocolate drops or chopped-up chocolate pieces, and stir until smooth.

This method gives you the most control over the process, as you can keep an eye on the chocolate and stir it throughout the whole process. Make sure to use small pieces of chocolate, as they will melt faster and more evenly.

How to melt chocolate in the microwave

melt chocolate in the microwave

Using the microwave is the fastest way to melt your chocolate, but it is a little riskier than doing it on the hob. This is because you aren’t constantly watching it – glossy melted chocolate can transform into a burnt mess in just seconds!

For microwave melting, put your chocolate pieces in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, making sure you stir it thoroughly after each stint. To be extra-safe, put your microwave on 50% power so it melts more slowly. The trick with melting chocolate in the microwave is to stop before all the chocolate is completely melted. If there are small bits of chocolate left, just keep stirring the chocolate until it becomes smooth, as the warm mixture will melt those pesky chocolate chunks.

How to use melted chocolate for dipping

dipping in melted chocolate

If you want to surprise your loved ones with a luscious bowl of melted chocolate and a variety of tasty treats to dip in it, you’ll need a couple of tricks up your sleeve. Melting chocolate is the first step, but left to its own devices, the chocolate will soon harden up, becoming grainy and dull.

To keep your chocolate melty and delicious, you have a couple of choices. Dust off that slow cooker or fondue set from the back of your cupboard and use that (on its lowest heat) to keep the chocolate melted.

You can also add some vegetable oil or coconut oil to the melted mixture, stirred in thoroughly, and it will keep the chocolate soft and runny. Don’t use this if you want your chocolate to harden though, as it keeps the chocolate thin and it won’t set as well.

If you want an even more decadent dip, you can make a ganache. This is done by mixing melted chocolate with cream; best done with high-cocoa chocolate (70% or over), the cream stops the chocolate from hardening and can be used as a dip, a spread, or just eaten with a spoon…

For those less inspired by the culinary delights of melting chocolate, we have our very own dipping adventure packs, from small but perfectly formed Mini dips for two to our Large Dipping Adventure, which can feed a gaggle of chocolate-lovers! Dip sweet gianduja balls, marshmallows or florentines, go for a salty hit with pretzels or settle for a savoury bite with Brazil nuts.

Which chocolate is best for melting?

white milk and dark melted chocolate

Choosing the right chocolate for melting depends on what you’ll be using the chocolate for. Rich, well balanced dark chocolate is ideal when you have a stash of super sweet treats to dip it in, like marshmallows or biscuits. Milk and white chocolate are good for fruit, as the freshness of the strawberry or banana cuts through the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly.

Ultimately though, it comes down to personal preference – we’re not going to tell you to stop dipping marshmallows in white chocolate or banana in dark chocolate! We’ve even heard of people dipping chips in chocolate – but you’ll have to check out our blog on weird and wacky chocolate flavours to find out more.

What can you do with melted chocolate (apart from dipping)

If you’ve been practising how to melt chocolate but you’re bored of just using it for a dip, then here are some ideas on how you can use your melted chocolate in more inventive ways!

Chocolate bark – Arguably the easiest way to deal with melted chocolate, simply pour your chocolate onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper until it’s your desired thickness. Then scatter whatever flavours you like on top before it hardens! Copy our Chocolate and Nut Selector or maybe add bits of cookie from the bottom of the jar for a chocolatey rocky road. A great way to entertain the kids and get a tasty treat at the same time!

Chocolate sauce – Mix your melted chocolate with equal amounts of cream to make a luxurious ganache, or add butter, cream and a splash of your favourite tipple to make an adults-only dessert sauce!

Millionnaire’s shortbread – We’ve got our own chocolate version of this, but if you want to make your own, layer shortbread and caramel on a tray. Wait for it to set and then pour your melted chocolate on top. To get the satisfying chocolate snap, you’ll have to temper the chocolate first – our cooking with chocolate blog shows you how.

hot chocolate with melted chocolate on rim

Decadent hot chocolate – Whisk that melted chocolate into a saucepan of steaming milk to create a divine hot chocolate. If you like yours thick, you can add a touch of cornstarch, or leave it as it is and curl up on the sofa with a good book. To get this level of hot chocolate without the effort, try our luxury hot chocolate sachets instead, or take a look at our hot chocolate blog if you want to try and make it a little healthier.  

Drizzle over ice cream – Do we need to say more? Why choose store-bought chocolate sauce when you can watch the smooth melted hot chocolate take on a crackle as it hits the cold ice cream. 

Whatever you choose to do with your melted chocolate, we hope this blog has given you more confidence in how to melt chocolate without burning it! If we’ve inspired you, have a look at our cooking chocolate selection to see how our luxury chocolates can up your kitchen game.