How to Temper Chocolate the Proper Way: A Step By Step And Complete Guide


There’s nothing like chocolate to hit the spot when you’re craving some dessert. Whether it’s a slice of devil’s food cake, or a brownie warm from the oven - chocolate is a perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

As wonderful as chocolate is, no one likes it when chocolate melts all over their hands. It sticks to you, getting in the crevasses of your fingers and leaving a dark residue. And it melts so quickly! One moment, you have a square of chocolate in your hand, and the next, you’re wearing it on your fingers.

How can we prevent this?

Good news! By performing a simple series of steps, called tempering, we can create a chocolate coating that will dry to a shiny, crunchy finish. Tempered chocolate is what makes a chocolate-covered strawberry, or a chocolate bonbon have its nice crunchy coating.

Tempering chocolate can be a tricky process. When you temper chocolate, you heat and cool it slowly while stirring it. While this basic description might sound easy, one false move can cause the entire batch to go awry.

So, how do you temper chocolate the right way? Keep reading to find out how to temper chocolate, with and without a thermometer. We hope to give you the tools and know-how you need to create perfect chocolate-covered strawberries anytime you crave them.

How Do You Properly Temper Chocolate?

Man tempering a chocolate

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The first thing you need to think about is what kind of chocolate you should use for tempering. Luckily, you’ll find chocolate comes in pre-tempered disks, perfect for creating a crunchy chocolate coating.

Since chocolate has a variety of flavor profiles, you want to make sure the chocolate you pick fits with the flavors in your dessert of choice.

Make sure you buy chocolate without any added wax, so no regular chocolate bars. Also, you need to purchase at least 1½ pounds to start with. Even if it’s more than you need, it’s easier to temper a larger quantity than a small one because the temperature won’t fluctuate so quickly.

Once you’ve selected your raw material, you’re ready to learn how to temper chocolate. The method described below is known as the seed method and it’s not the only way to temper chocolate, but it’s the most accessible way for at-home cooks.

Step 1: Melt the Chocolate  

Melted chocolate with spoon

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Chop your chocolate into small pieces and put about two-thirds of it into a bowl, setting aside the rest. You can either melt your chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop in a double boiler.

If you’re using the microwave, put the bowl inside and nuke it at half power for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the bowl and stir your chocolate to cool it slightly.

If you use the stovetop, make sure the top part of the double boiler isn’t touching the water in the bottom part. Heat up the chocolate until melted.

Use a candy or digital thermometer to check the temperature of your chocolate after it’s melted. You want the temperature to be around 105 degrees F for white or milk chocolate and 120 degrees F for dark chocolate.

Step 2: Add Your Reserved Chocolate

Block of chocolate on a big fork

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Slowly add the reserved chocolate, stirring it in gradually while monitoring the temperature with your thermometer. Let each handful of chocolate melt completely before you add more. You want your melted chocolate to cool to about 82 degrees F.

If you used a microwave to heat your chocolate, don’t cool it down so much. Cool your dark chocolate to around 88 degrees F and your milk or white chocolate to about 85 degrees F.

Once it cools, you’re ready for step 3.

Step 3: Reheat Your Melted Chocolate

Melted chocolate

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Only move to this step if you used a double boiler on the stovetop to heat your chocolate. Once you’ve cooled the chocolate to 82 degrees F, warm it again. Warm your dark chocolate to around 88 degrees F and your white or milk chocolate to 85 degrees F.

Congratulations! You have successfully tempered your chocolate, and you must now use it before it sets. While it remains liquid, you can simply reheat it and continue using it, but once it solidifies, you must re-temper it to use it again.

To keep your chocolate in a liquid state, periodically heat it for up to 10 seconds, or until it reaches 88 degrees F.

How to Temper Chocolate Without a Thermometer

What if you don’t have a thermometer? Do you know how to temper chocolate without one?

Well, you could just buy confectionery coating. It looks and tastes almost like tempered chocolate, and it makes the kind of smooth crunchy coating you’re probably looking for without the hassle of tempering. But luckily you don’t have to resort to such shortcuts.

The basic process of tempering chocolate without a thermometer is almost identical to the process described above.

Step 1: Melt Chocolate in a Double Boiler

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer and turn off the heat. Melt two-thirds of your chopped chocolate in a clean, dry bowl over the simmered water. Don’t stir it – just let it stand in the water until it’s about two-thirds melted, then stir until completely melted.

Test the temperature of the melted chocolate by placing a dot of chocolate underneath your bottom lip or on the inside of your wrist. It should sting, but not be too painful. This means your chocolate has reached the correct temperature.

Step 2: Add the Remaining Chocolate

Take the bowl out of the hot water, dry the bottom, and add the rest of the chopped chocolate to your bowl. Stir gently until melted. The chocolate should look thick and matte while it cools. Be patient, this process can take up to 30 minutes.

Once the chocolate is completely melted, test it on your skin again. It should feel cooler than your body temperature. If it’s too hot, add more chocolate and keep stirring. Once the melted chocolate feels cool to the touch, it’s ready to be used.

If your chocolate cools too much and becomes thick, put the bottom of the bowl in your saucepan of hot water for a few seconds. Remove the bowl and stir. Make sure it’s still cool to the touch before using it again.

What Does Tempering Do to Chocolate?

Scientifically, what are you doing when you temper chocolate and why is it desirable?

Well, in basic terms tempering puts cocoa butter crystals into a stable structure so your chocolate is more resistant to melting or crumbling.

So, how does this happen?

Start with your raw material, chocolate disks from the supermarket. This solid chocolate is in an unstable crystal structure because it melts easily.  

Once it’s melted, you can begin to change its crystal structure by cooling it, so the cocoa butter begins to form new crystals. Then, you heat it slightly, so it doesn’t solidify before you have a chance to use it. Don’t heat it too much, or you’ll destroy these new crystals and you’ll have to start the tempering process again.

During the cooling process, controlling the temperature of your chocolate is extremely important.

You want to achieve a specific kind of crystal structure in your chocolate more stable than its original structure. This stable crystal structure will solidify into a nice candy shell. It has a higher melting temperature than regular chocolate and is resistant to bloom and separation.

Troubleshooting Common Mistakes When Tempering Chocolate

What if something goes wrong while you’re tempering your chocolate?

Accidents are bound to happen when you’re trying a new cooking technique, especially one as tricky as tempering chocolate. Don’t worry! We’ve found some common problems you might run into and ways you can either solve or work around them.

You may encounter one or both of the following difficulties:

Chocolate Bloom

Chocolate Seize

When learning how to temper chocolate, you’re going to make mistakes, but most of the time, you can just start the tempering process over again. For many beginners, the most challenging part of tempering is mastering the small temperature changes between each step in the process.

The difference between 82 degrees and 88 degrees is miniscule and your mixture can go from one temperature to the other quickly, so you must be vigilant. Again, don’t worry too much if you overheat it. As long as your chocolate hasn’t seized, you can just reheat and start the tempering process again.

Be patient with yourself and keep practicing. You’ll be able to temper your chocolate like a professional in no time!

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