Have you ever wanted to make something incredible but your recipe called for a double boiler, only to find you don’t own one?
It can be quite the disappointing realization, never fear.
There are many interesting ways of achieving a similar effect without having to purchase anything special.
From basic kitchen appliances and supplies to creative household solutions, learning how to substitute a double boiler is the key to creating sweet and savory dishes with ease.
Let’s dive in and explore some of the best options for replacing a double boiler.
What’s a Double Boiler?
A double boiler is an essential kitchen tool used to melt chocolate, heat delicate sauces, and even cook custards and puddings.
It’s an efficient way to apply gentle, even heat rather than direct application which can burn or curdle milk-based dishes.
To use a double boiler, you’ll need two pans: one with a large bottom surface area containing hot water, and one that fits snugly over the top of filled with the contents to be heated.
Heat the water over low to medium-low temperatures on your stovetop and bring it just below boiling; this ensures the food will not cook too quickly.
Place the top pan into the bottom pan and allow the contents inside to heat up slowly by absorbing the indirect heat from around it.
It’s important not to let any steam from the water get into the top pan as that could cause ingredients such as eggs in custards or sauces to curdle – reducing temperature of both pans usually does the trick.
The 3 Best Substitutes for Double Boiler
Unfortunately, double boilers can be pricey and a hassle to store in small kitchens, so many cooks have adapted inventive ways to improvise when this kitchen tool isn’t available.
Below are three tried-and-true methods for how to make a double boiler without investing in additional cookware.
1 – Use Two Pots of a Suitable Size
Using two pots of a suitable size provides an ideal substitute for a double boiler.
To perform the task correctly, you’ll need two pots: a larger bottom pot and a smaller top pot that fits inside it snugly.
The bottom pot should be twice as large as the top one—this will create enough room to heat the water.
Fill the bottom pot half full with water and place it onto a stovetop burner over medium-high heat.
Then, put your chosen ingredients into the smaller pot before placing it onto the other one.
As steam begins to rise from the boiling water below, this will help your ingredients cook slowly and evenly.
The simmering action of this makeshift double boiler is compounded by its insulation capabilities; since the top pot is ensconced in its own little “box” of steam, not all of its nutrients or moisture will escape during cooking.
This saves you from having to worry about constantly rehydrating or tending to your ingredients as they cook — perfect for long-term applications such as melted chocolate or custard.
2 – Use a Heat-proof Bowl and a Pan or Pot
Using a heat-proof bowl, such as a Pyrex, and a pan or pot is another great way to replicate the function of a double boiler.
All you need to do is place some 1-2 inches of water in the pan and let it come to a boil.
Once boiling, turn down the heat and place your Pyrex bowl into the pan when using this technique.
The benefit of using this method is that you can more directly control and adjust both the temperature at which you’re cooking with and how quickly it reaches that temperature level.
If you’re doing light work with food such as melting chocolate for baking purposes, this might be an appropriate substitute for beginners.
Keep in mind when using this method that you should not directly touch any part of either pot or bowl with your hands or arms due to potential burns from scalding liquids.
Additionally, depending on what type of material your chosen bowl is made from, it may be susceptible to cracking under high temperatures — always use caution when heating items like this over direct flames.
3 – Use a Bain Marie
A Bain Marie is a double boiler that’s safe and easy to use of the oldest forms of double boiler substitutes.
To make a Bain Marie, fill the bottom pot with around 1 inch of water.
Place the top pot in the water and insert your ingredients into it.
As the water below simmers, it will gently heat the top pot and your ingredients without risking burning or scorching.
To get even more control over your cooking temperature, place a thermometer in the center of your ingredients for maximum precision.
The simmering was even reduce stirring required for chocolate, cheese and custard products.
In conclusion, a double boiler is an invaluable tool for any chef, but it’s not something we all have in our kitchen.
Fortunately, with a little bit of creativity and innovation, we can easily find or create substitutes to get the same effect.
The three recommended options here are the bain-marie technique, the heatproof bowl above a pan of boiling water, and the makeshift double boiler.
With the right ingredients and techniques in hand, you can easily cook food far beyond what a standard pot or pan would allow you to do.