There are a lot of ways to apply heat to food, but some of them feel like they require a science degree to fully understand. Whether it’s a high-tech sous-vide or a flameless induction stove, cooking can be complicated, but a double boiler is actually very simple. A double boiler is basically two pots; the smaller pot sits snugly on the larger pot, which in turn sits on top of the stove. Simmering water in the bottom pot causes steam to rise, which heats the contents of the small pot. There are a number of reasons why you might want to use a double boiler, because it’s a great way to apply gentle, even heat to any food that doesn’t react well to direct heat. One of the most common applications is melting chocolate, but you can also use it for hollandaise sauce, cream cheese and other kinds of sauces where the ingredients might separate. Double boilers are especially handy for any home baker.
How To Use a Double Boiler
Using a double boiler is fairly simple, but there are a few steps to take to ensure the best results. The top pan usually has a curved base, allowing it to fit snugly inside the bottom pot. The bottom pot can be used on its own as a regular saucepan.
When using a double boiler, there should be enough water in the bottom to prevent it from all boiling off. But you want to avoid putting too much water, as the top pan shouldn’t come into direct contact with the water. And even though it’s called a double boiler, you’ll likely want to simmer the water, not boil it. If all of the water evaporates, lift the top bowl and add more water as needed.
Can You Make a DIY Double Boiler?
If you do a lot of baking and frequently melt chocolate or make sauces, you might appreciate the convenience of a double boiler. Since the pots are made to nest, it’s easy to ensure a secure fit and prevent steam from escaping. That said, if you only use a double boiler occasionally, you can actually easily make a DIY double boiler. What you need is a heatproof glass or steel mixing bowl that can sit on top of a larger saucepan.
1. Farberware Classic Stainless Series 2-Quart Covered Double Boiler
Faberware is a great option for affordable cookware, and this 2-quart double boiler is a good option for sauces, as well as steaming. That’s because a steaming insert is included with this double boiler, which can be removed if not needed. The curved handles are easy to hold.
2. Our Table 2 qt. Stainless Steel Covered Double Boiler
Bed, Bath and Beyond has its own line of affordable kitchen equipment called Our Table, and the brand has most of your cooking needs covered. This simple 2-quart option is made from stainless steel and includes a glass lid with a steam vent.
3. T-Fal Specialty Stainless Steel Double Boiler
French brand T-Fal is the first brand to produce non-stick cookware, and they remain a reliable option for affordable non-stick pots and pans. This double boiler consists of a non-stick pot on the bottom, with a steel insert on top. A glass lid is also included with the double boiler.
4. All-Clad Stainless Steel Double Boiler Insert
All-Clad is widely considered one of the best cookware brands, and this boiler insert is designed to fit other All-Clad pans. It’s suitable for use with All-Clad’s 3 and 4-quart saucepans. It’s made from stainless steel and has a long handle that stays cool to the touch.
5. Vigor 8 Qt Stainless Steel Aluminum-Clad Double Boiler
If you’re not shopping at restaurant depots, you’re missing out. Webstaurant Store makes it easy to buy durable cookware at reasonable prices. If you need something larger, this option from Vigor is 8 quarts, but it comes in even larger sizes.
How To Make A DIY Double Boiler
You can use a regular saucepan and a heat-resistant glass bowl, or a stainless steel bowl, to make a double boiler. Mixing bowls are a good option, as they’re useful in everyday kitchen settings.
6. Anchor Hocking Glass Mixing Bowls
If you’re looking to make a DIY double boiler, investing in a set of durable mixing bowls is a great place to start. Anchor Hocking, founded in 1905, is a great option for glass cookware. This set of bowls has 10 pieces, including small bowls that are ideal for condiments, as well as larger bowls for mixing and baking. They have curved lips that make them easy to grip.
7. Duralex Made In France Lys Stackable 9-Piece Bowl Set
Another good option for mixing bowls is Duralex. The French brand is famous for its high-quality tempered glass, which resists thermal shock and is more resistant to breaking. Nine bowls are included, and they conveniently nest inside each other.
8. Cuisinart 2.5qt Stainless Steel Saucepan with Cover
You can use a regular saucepan as the base for your double boiler. This option from Cuisinart includes a lid (which you’ll obviously need to remove if using as a double boiler) and a hanging loop on the handle. The saucepan is induction compatible, too.