Melting chocolate is pretty straightforward, but like most baking techniques, precision is important. One wrong move and you could end up with chocolate that is scorched, chalky, and unusable.
The first step is understanding the kind of chocolate you’re working with. Because chocolate chips contain soy lecithin, a food additive that helps them retain their shape when they’re baked, they might not melt as smoothly as chocolate bars. But if they’re the only thing you have on hand, or if you’re going for convenience, they’re a good choice because they’re already cut to size.
Whether you’re melting chocolate on its own to use for drizzling or dipping, or you’re melting chocolate with butter or cream to make brownies or ganache, it’s important that the chocolate be small and uniform in size so that it melts at an equal rate. Follow these guidelines and you’ll end up with silky results every time.
Two Ways to Melt Chocolate Chips
The two easiest, most common ways to melt chocolate—chips or otherwise—is in a double boiler on the stove or in the microwave. Both have their advantages.
A double boiler, which is a set of pots that consists of one larger pot and a smaller one that rests above the first, allows you to cook low and slow. This ensures the chocolate comes out silky. This method also allows you to keep an eye on things. The downside of using a double boiler is that it leaves the chocolate more exposed to water. If water accidentally splashes into the pot, it could ruin all the chocolate and turn it into a paste. Another downside is more pots to clean.
The microwave saves you some extra cleanup because it requires just one bowl, but it cooks much faster than the stovetop, which makes the chocolate easier to scorch.
Cookbook author Jake Cohen, whose book “Jew-ish” came out in March 2021, likes using chocolate chips for melting when he’s making ganache or tarts. While he’s been known to use the microwave, he prefers the stovetop method.
“I believe in a double boiler,” he says. “Unless you’re using chocolate chips to decorate, you’re typically incorporating some fat when you melt, and it’s much easier to do that in a double boiler.” (Think the chocolate-tahini filling that he swirls into his babka.) It’s easier to burn the chocolate in the microwave, where it gets very hot, he says, and the slower stovetop cooking makes for a glossier finish, closer to what tempered chocolate will look like.
As for white chocolate, be careful, Cohen warns. “It always burns faster and can end up with a chalkier texture,” he says.
How to Melt Chocolate Chips in a Double Boiler
To melt chocolate chips on the stovetop, you’ll need a designated double boiler or, if you don't have one, you can make your own double boiler with a large saucepan and a metal bowl.
- Heat water in a saucepan: Heat 1/2 inch to 1 inch of water in the saucepan, and once the water boils, return it to a simmer.
- Add chocolate chips: Place the chocolate chips into the double boiler insert or another metal bowl. If using a separate bowl, place it on top of the saucepan. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
- Stir as the chocolate melts slowly: Once the chocolate starts to melt, stir it. If it looks glossy, keep stirring until all the chocolate chips have broken down, then remove from the heat.
Melting Times for the Stove
- Milk chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 4 minutes to melt.
- Dark chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 4 minutes to melt.
- White chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 3 minutes to melt.
How to Melt Chocolate Chips in the Microwave
- Place chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl: Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Remove, stir, and repeat: After the first 30 seconds, remove the bowl from the microwave and give the chocolate a stir. Be careful: the bowl will be hot! Return the bowl to the microwave and heat for another 30 seconds.
- Remove and stir again: Depending on how much chocolate you’re using, the chips may have sufficiently melted if you keep stirring.
If you’re using a cup or more, you’ll likely need to return the chocolate to the microwave and keep heating and stirring in 30 second intervals—or less, if you think the chocolate needs less time.
Melting Times for the Microwave
- Milk chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 1 minute, or 2 30-second blasts on high heat, to melt.
- Dark chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 1 minute, or 2 30-second blasts on high heat, to melt.
- White chocolate chips: 1/2 cup takes 45 seconds, or 1 30-second blast and 1 15-second blast on high heat, to melt.
Chocolate Chip Recipes
That’s it! Here are some recipes to put these methods to work:
- Hetty McKinnon’s Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries
- Classic Chocolate Mousse
- Chocolate Covered Pretzels
- Bittersweet Chocolate Cake