How to temper chocolate

Tempered chocolate is melted and cooled at controlled temperatures to give a smooth, glossy finish and good snap - perfect for cake decorations.

When melting a bar of dark chocolate, always chop the chocolate as finely as possible so that it melts quickly and evenly. If you're not confident with knife skills, a good tip is to break the chocolate up into pieces then use a food processor to make small chocolate crumbs.

Put two-thirds of all the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. It’s important the water doesn’t boil and the bowl doesn’t touch the water (otherwise the chocolate will get too hot). Melt the chocolate to a temperature of 50C/120F, testing with a thermometer and stirring occasionally. The chocolate will split if it gets too hot. Stir occasionally so it melts evenly. Remove from the heat using a clean tea towel to hold the hot bowl.

Add the remaining chocolate and stir it in. When the liquid chocolate reacts with the cocoa butter crystals in the unmelted chocolate, it creates even-sized crystals throughout as it cools. It’s worth the effort because untempered chocolate will be dull, soft and have a white bloom. Keep stirring rapidly until the chocolate reaches 32C/90F.

To test if your chocolate is tempered, spread a thin layer onto a plate with a palette knife. Tempered chocolate will set very quickly to a shiny, smooth finish.

Skill level


Equipment you will need for this technique

  • cooking thermometer

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