Best Double Boilers

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best double boilers

Here’s the truth about double boilers: you may think you don’t need one … until the day you do. If you spend any time in a kitchen, you are going to reach a point where you wish you had a double boiler. Whether it is to melt chocolate or cheese, set up a custard, or coax the creamiest of hollandaise sauces out of eggs, a double boiler is a valuable kitchen tool to have on hand.

Some foods benefit from gentle, indirect heat, and this is where a double boiler shines. Its composition is simple: a pot, an insert, and a lid. Water is heated in the pot, which produces steam. The steam gently heats the insert, slowly cooking or melting anything within it. If you’ve ever burned chocolate or curdled a sauce, you may already know the benefits of a double boiler.

While fairly simple in design, there are still a number of considerations to take into account when shopping for a double boiler. This guide will help you select one with the features you want at the price you wish to pay. We also offer information about what we feel are some of the best double boiler choices currently on the market.

A bain-marie is a hot-water bath appliance constructed similarly to a double boiler, but it is designed to be used in the oven.

Double boiler construction

As mentioned, we are talking about two distinct parts when dealing with a double boiler: the bottom pot and the insert.

The bottom pot is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum with a flat bottom for stability on a burner. Some pots have an aluminum core sandwiched between stainless steel in the base to promote even heating. Thicker walls on the pot can also help keep the heat even.

The insert is usually made of stainless steel. It should fit snugly in the pot so that steam won’t escape. The two together should be balanced, rugged, and rust-resistant.

Some double boilers feature a nonstick surface on one or more of the pots, which can help with both cooking and cleaning. If you buy nonstick, however, you should be aware that the types of utensils you can safely use are somewhat limited.

Double boiler size

Double boilers come in a variety of sizes: we’ve seen capacities from half of a quart up to 12 quarts. The average capacity is 2.5 to 4 quarts, which is a decent size for a typical family. Anything with a smaller capacity would limit you to light use, and larger sizes may prove difficult to store. Consider how you will use it when determining the size you need.

You should also verify that the capacity listed is for the insert and not the pot. The capacity for the two in any given double boiler set may be the same, but that is not always the case.

Double boiler handles

While larger double boilers may feature side loops, the majority have handles on both the bottom pot and the insert. This allows you to easily move both elements around, either separately or together. The handles can be riveted or welded to the pot, and the insert and may be made of steel or another material that offers heat resistance. Whatever they are made of, the handles should be ergonomic and comfortable to hold.

Consider handles with hanging loops or holes if you plan to store the double boiler on a hanging hook. Avoid a handle that’s too long, as it may make the double boiler feel cumbersome.

Double boiler lid

The double boiler lid should fit snugly to retain moisture and heat. It should have a handle or knob on top that is heat-resistant, so you can easily remove the lid during or after cooking. A lid made of tempered glass is beneficial because it prevents you from having to remove it too often; you can keep an eye on your food without disturbing the cooking process.

Double boiler prices

The majority of double boilers are reasonably priced. They start under $20 and average between $30 and $40.

On the high end, double boilers can cost $100 to $200 or more. These pricier models are usually of higher quality, providing you with greater control over the heating process.

You will also spend more for a higher capacity, with top prices commanding large, restaurant-grade double boilers.

Tips

  • Lightweight is a beneficial quality to have in a double boiler, but take care that it is not too light, as this would just leave it feeling flimsy.

  • You will achieve the best results with a double boiler if you use a spatula to occasionally stir the contents of the insert.

  • If you have a compact double boiler, you could also use the bottom as a saucepan. If you have a larger double boiler, consider using the bottom as a stockpot.

  • Check that the elements of a double boiler can be used in the oven before putting it to that use — and find out what temperature the material can safely withstand. Temperature ranges for oven-safe double boilers can run from 350°F up to 550°F or more.

  • A pour spout built into the insert, while not a standard feature, can help to cut down on spills.

  • Not all double boilers are made for use on an induction surface. If this is what you cook with, verify that any cookware you buy would work with induction.

  • A double boiler set that includes a double boiler insert and a steamer insert will give you more options in terms of how it can be used in the kitchen.

  • The water in a double boiler does not necessarily need to be at a full boil to melt chocolate or cheese or to create a sauce. In fact, the process often works better when you keep the temperature at a simmer.

  • While you could certainly mock up your own with two stray pots for double-boiling purposes, a dedicated double boiler set will provide you with greater stability, a more consistent heat, and a better culinary outcome overall.

The maximum cooking temperature that a double boiler can reach is limited to the boiling point of water, which is 212°F (100°C).

FAQ

Q. How much water should I use in my double boiler?

A. You generally want to put an inch or two of water in it to start (verify this with your documentation). Add more water than this, and you will likely have water boiling over; add less, and you run the risk of boiling dry and possibly damaging the pot. You should check the level and add water if needed during the cooking process.

Q. Which is better: riveted or welded handles?

A. Both types of handles are bonded strongly and can withstand heat, but rivets may create spaces where food and bacteria can collect. Welds do not. Rivets are more commonly used, however, so you may not have much of a choice.

Q. Can I use a double boiler to make fudge and candy?

A. No. Both fudge and candy require sugar syrup to be at specific temperature stages (235°F to 240°F and higher) which the double boiler, with its 212°F ceiling, can’t reach.

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