How to Temper Chocolate

February  5, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: We all know how to eat chocolate, but do you know how to temper it?

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We all love pretty things dipped in chocolate: pretzels, strawberries, marshmallows. But if you simply use melted chocolate as your dip, the final product is dull and mottled-looking.

That's when tempering comes in.

Tempered chocolate has a shiny, glossy appearance, will snap when you break it, and, most importantly, won't melt when you touch it. Scientifically, tempering chocolate means aligning the cocoa butter crystals so that they're stacked tightly together. In the kitchen, it means heating up your chocolate to reach a desired temp, cooling it down slightly, and stirring it like mad (agitating, in pastry school terms) the entire time.


Let's begin. Start with 1 pound of already-tempered dark chocolate (chocolate you buy from the store is already tempered). Put a third of the chocolate aside. Place the other two-thirds of the chocolate in a clean dry bowl over a pot of simmering water (a double boiler). Some chocolatiers prefer to stray away from metal bowls, opting instead for a material that doesn't conduct heat as quickly.


Using a chocolate thermometer, heat the chocolate to 115 degrees. You can also heat the chocolate in a microwave in 5-10 second spurts if you do not have access to a double boiler. Be careful not to let the chocolate get too hot -- the temperature of chocolate rises quickly. If you go over 120 degrees, your chocolate will burn and you will have to start over with a new batch (so sad).

Once your thermometer reads 115 degrees, remove the chocolate from the heat and place it on a damp towel “nest” on a flat secure surface. This damp towel will stop the bowl of chocolate from moving while you stir and will also soak up any condensation on the outside of the bowl (which can cause seizing when making contact with chocolate).

Make sure your remaining third of chocolate is broken into little pieces. Put most of this chocolate into the heated chocolate and stir until all pieces are melted (remember: agitation). Once all the new pieces are melted, continue to add the rest of the chocolate little by little, stirring in between each addition. The closer you get to 90 degrees, the more you will notice the chocolate changing in thickness and texture. You may reach 90 degrees before you use all of the broken-up chocolate -- that's okay.


To test: Stick the end of a spoon in the chocolate and drizzle it onto a piece of parchment paper. Place it aside to sit at room temperature. If, after 2 to 3 minutes, you see it start to lose its sheen and harden…your chocolate is tempered! You are ready to start molding or dipping.

Your chocolate will hold at 88-90 degrees for a few minutes, but once you go out of temper you must start all over again. You can maintain the chocolate by keeping it in a proofer set at 90 degrees (or sometimes putting the bowl back on the double boiler for a second or two will do the trick). Do not walk away. A second too long, and your chocolate will spike in heat -- and you will need to start again.


Troubleshooting. If your test is not drying you may need to cool further, or add more broken-up chocolate and continue to stir. If this still doesn’t work, you may not have stirred enough when adding the broken-up chocolate -- try reheating the mixture and start over.  

Initial melting temperatures:

Dark Chocolate: 114-118° F (46 – 48° C)

Milk Chocolate: 105-113° F (40 – 45° C)

White Chocolate: 100-110° F (37 – 43° C) Note: be very careful as the high milk and sugar content in white chocolate will cause it to burn easily.

Holding temperatures:

Dark chocolate should be between 88-89° F (31° C)

Milk and white chocolates should be between 84-86° F (29 – 30° C)

Let's get dipping:


Peanut Butter Cups

Salted Caramels

Pomegranate Truffles

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • walkie74
  • SarahKS
  • Tdiddy
  • Maureen Abood
    Maureen Abood
  • EatsMeetsWest
Photo Editor turned Pastry Chef. Owner of Bringing you classic French macarons with an American twist!! Check us out at!


walkie74 February 26, 2013
What is the difference between chocolate couverture and tempering regular chocolate? I have a recipe that calls for couverture, but can I sub the regular (cheaper) stuff instead?
SarahKS February 12, 2013
Alton brown recommends holding the chocolate over a heating pad to help keep the heat level consistent.
Tdiddy February 12, 2013
Can you start with chocolate that has fallen out of temper? I'm hoping to find a use for some chocolate that melted a bit then solidified again, but is no longer in temper as a result.
Maureen A. February 11, 2013
This is a great description of how to temper chocolate--thank you!
EatsMeetsWest February 10, 2013
Mm, those chocolate-dipped pretzels look good enough to "cross my heart and hope to die", LOL! Thanks for the step-by-step process as well as troubleshooting for tempering chocolate Brette :) .

I can't wait to temper my own chocolate like a pro, but one question - do I have to use a chocolate thermometer, and is it any different from a candy thermometer? I want to save a bit of change since I don't get to temper chocolate as much as I'd like to, sadly :P
JORJ February 10, 2013
will a regular candy thermometer work? what is special about a chocolate thermometer?
Anna B. February 5, 2013
I tried tempering chocolate chips and it didn't work. Then someone told me that chocolate chips can't be tempered, is this true?
Brette W. February 5, 2013
Chocolate chips contain additives that allow them to hold their shape under high heat -- so they won't work when you're tempering chocolate!
Anna B. February 5, 2013
Thanks. Good to know. But chocolate bars will work fine?
Brette W. February 5, 2013