Introduction: How to Temper Chocolate

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The 4 simple steps you need to know to temper chocolate perfectly every time.  There's no magic in getting chocolate to temper - it just seems that way!  Follow these easy steps and never be intimidated by chocolate again.

When you buy chocolate, it is already "in temper."  This means that all of the fat crystals are aligned to give the chocolate perfect snap and shine.  When you melt chocolate to change its shape or use it in a recipe, you are taking it out of temper.  The heat causes the fat molecules get all jumpy and if they aren't realigned correctly, you get what's called "bloom."  Bloomed chocolate still tastes great, it just loses its visual and textural appeal.  But even bloomed chocolate can be brought back into temper!

Tempering chocolate can seem like a big mystery, but all you need is a bowl, a pan and a thermometer to get it right every time.  For the most accurate results, I recommend using an instant-read thermometer.  

Step 1: Setup

If you have a double boiler, more power to you!  If you don't, you can set up a simple "bain-marie:"  
  • Rest a metal bowl on a saucepan with 1 inch of water in bottom.
  • Make sure the bottom of the bowl is at least 1 inch above the surface of the water - not resting in the water.
Using chopped chocolate or chocolate wafers, reserve a quarter of the amount of chocolate in a separate bowl to use as a "seed" later.

Grab a silicone spatula and a good thermometer, and you're ready to rock.

Step 2: Melt

Bring the water in your saucepan to a SIMMER  (do not boil)

Stir the chocolate continuously until it has all melted smoothly.

Bring the chocolate to:
  • 118oF (48C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 112oF (45C) for Milk Chocolate
Remove the bowl of chocolate from the saucepan and carefully wipe the steam from bottom of the bowl.

ONE DROP OF WATER IN THE MELTED CHOCOLATE WILL CAUSE IT TO SEIZE and, well, ruin it completely.    So, you know, be careful.

Step 3: Seed

Now we seed the melted chocolate with the reserved chocolate pieces.  This will help bring down the temperature of the chocolate.

Add in the unmelted chocolate, and stir until smooth.  Keep stirring with your spatula until the temperature of the chocolate reaches:
  • 89-90oF (32C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 86-88oF (30C) for Milk Chocolate
You may set your bowl of chocolate into another bowl of cool water to help speed up this process.

Step 4: Rewarm & Maintain

If the temperature of your chocolate drops too low, just SLOWLY reheat it over the bain-marie until it reaches its proper temperature:
  • 89-90oF (32C) for Dark Chocolate
  • 86-88oF (30C) for Milk Chocolate
Your chocolate is now ready to use!

Maintain the tempered chocolate at these temperatures using both the cool water bath and the bain-marie as needed.

Now wasn't that easy?!
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