Have you ever wanted to make a dish that needed to use a double boiler but didn’t know what one was or have access to one?
A double boiler is an essential tool for cooking and baking, especially for any recipe that requires heating food evenly or melting chocolate.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to substitute a double boiler – from using a makeshift version with two separate pots to using the innovative “Bain Marie” method.
Learn the basics of how to cook and use a double boiler, plus three great alternatives so you can master your recipes.
What’s a Double Boiler?
A double boiler is a useful kitchen tool that’s great for gently cooking items that need moderate, even heat.
It’s similar to a regular pot, but the double boiler consists of two pieces – an upper pot and a lower pot – connected together.
The lower pot of the double boiler is filled halfway with water and placed on the stovetop, heated until it lightly simmers.
The food – such as sauces, custards, or melted chocolate – goes into the top portion of the boiler and sits over the simmering water.
This setup allows for gentle steaming heat, unlike direct cooking from the burner, which can scorch or overcook your food quickly.
Double boiling creates a creamy texture to dishes like puddings, quiches, and mousses while retaining their bright flavors since they do not get overcooked.
To use a double boiler in your kitchen: first, fill the larger pan with hot water, then place your smaller pan inside it and cover it.
Make sure not to let any of the water boil over into your food; add more cold water as necessary.
With this simple device, you can easily create delicate yet delicious culinary creations.
The 3 Best Substitutes for Double Boiler
If you don’t have a double boiler or are looking for alternatives, then here are the three best substitutes you can use.
1 – Use Two Pots of a Suitable Size
Cooking with two pots is an effective and economical way to recreate the effects of a double-boiler.
To do this, simply choose two pots in suitable sizes; the larger pot should fit snugly around the lip of the smaller one.
Put water into the bottom of the larger pot and bring it almost to a boil before placing it on the stovetop.
Then place whatever is to be cooked or melted into the top pot – such as chocolate or cheese – and lay that atop the bottom pot.
By being sympathetically heated from below, whatever’s inside will experience a gentle heat adequate for melting, blending, and combining ingredients without ruining their flavors.
The process also helps to keep uncooked ingredients from separating due to temperature changes.
So if you don’t have access to an actual double boiler, fret not.
Two properly matched pots can save a great deal of effort while imbuing your dishes with optimal flavor and texture.
2 – Use a Heat-proof Bowl and a Pan or Pot
For those looking to make chocolate treats that call for a double boiler, using a heat-proof bowl and a large pan or pot can substitute nicely.
The bowl should fit comfortably over the top of the pot, almost like a lid, but leave enough space to ensure steam can flow between them.
Place your ingredients into the bowl along with some water and simmer the water until it begins to steam.
The heat-proof bowl will allow you to create chocolates, custards, and other molten treats without having to go out and buy an additional piece of kitchenware.
Not only is this an economical choice in comparison to buying an actual double boiler, but any excess water evaporates thanks to the steam created by the hot liquid within.
This method helps put more flavor and texture into your desserts than traditional boiling methods, giving you delicious results with sugary goodness.
3 – Use a Bain Marie
Using a bain Marie is an easy and effective way to cook delicate dishes like custards, sauces, and melted chocolate.
This technique involves placing a heat-proof bowl or pot over a pot of simmering water.
This ensures that the food is heated gently and consistently without risking scorching or boiling over.
The steamy environment created by the bain-marie helps preserve the flavor, aroma, color, and texture of the food compared to direct contact with heat sources.
It’s also particularly useful for recipes that require extra smoothness or creaminess—you can prevent lumpiness in sauces and make sure that your chocolates are perfectly glossy every time.
If you don’t have access to a double boiler, you can fairly easily substitute it with a simple bain Marie.
All you have to do is place your ingredients in an appropriate glass bowl on top of a shallow pot filled with simmering water, thereby creating an improvised steam bath – taking care that the base of the bowl does not touch the surface of the water.
In conclusion, with a little bit of creative problem-solving, you can easily replicate the effects of a double boiler without ever having to use one.
From two pots to heat-proof bowls and bain maries, there are plenty of substitutes that you can use for melting chocolate, blending ingredients, and other delicate cooking tasks.
All it takes is some patience and creativity.
So the next time you need to whip up a delicious treat, skip the double boiler and get creative with other household items instead.