Double boilers are handy to have in the kitchen for making delicate sauces like hollandaise, preparing custards or stretchy doughs and melting chocolate for sweet treats. You need a double boiler when you’re working with cocoa power or heating egg whites and sugar for a meringue that will hold pointed peaks. These “hot water baths” allow you to apply gentle, indirect heat while you whisk up temperamental recipes.
A double boiler is a two-vessel heating system. It’s simply a bowl or pot that’s been placed over a pot of simmering water on your stovetop. The best double boiler makes creating heat-sensitive recipes — and cleaning up — a breeze. So whether you opt for a store-bought version or create your own, those two factors should be front of mind.
The best double boilers produce slow, indirect heat for items that, if heated in a saucepan, create unfavorable, scorched results. For instance, overheated yolks in hollandaise sauce can cause the proteins to curdle, and overheating melted chocolate can cause it to become thick and lumpy rather than silky and shiny.
Other uses for double boilers are when you need to dunk holiday-themed cookies to coat part of them in chocolate or to keep your gravy warm.
Make Your Own Double Boiler
To create a double boiler on the fly, fill a small saucepan with an inch or two of water and place a metal mixing bowl on top of the pan, similar to a lid. Make sure there is a gap between the water and the bottom of the bowl because you don’t want the water to come into contact with the bowl. Instead, you want to create a simmer that will transfer a steady stream of heat to whatever you’re cooking in the top bowl. Put the items you’re cooking inside the bowl and boil the water until your ingredients are melted.
Two things to remember: Don’t overfill the bowl and keep an eye on the water level. You may need to top the water off as needed.
If these items are readily available in your kitchen, you can use a smaller pot that fits into a larger one, but the weight could become unbalanced and tilt over. So if you go this route, keep a hand on the top pot to make sure it doesn’t tip over.
If you’d rather not create your own, you can shop online or pick up one from your local home goods store. Check out our selection of the best double boilers that have been vetted by a team of experts. They are a good investment if you plan to make candy or sauces regularly. The products come with both pots needed for even cooking experiences. Wooden spoons are recommended to prevent scratches unless the double boiler comes with a scratch-proof finish.
If you’re tight on space, purchasing a double boiler could make things even tighter. However, if you typically hang your pots and pans, look for a set that has holes or hooks for easy storage. Then enjoy all the delicious recipes you can create with this useful kitchen tool.