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Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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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 will reach a point where you wish you had a double boiler. Whether for melting chocolate or cheese, setting up a custard, making fondue, or coaxing 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.

To prepare food with a double boiler, water is heated in the pot on a cooktop. The heating process 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.

double boiler
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, which is sometimes referred to as a bottom pan, 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 two stainless steel layers in the base to promote even heat distribution. Thicker walls on the pot can also help keep the heat even.

The insert of a double boiler is usually made of stainless steel. A stainless steel steamer insert should fit snugly in the pot so the 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. This can assist 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, as those made of metal can scratch the surface.

If you are watching your budget or don’t plan to use your new double boiler very often, there are models available that don’t cost a lot but get the job done.

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Features to consider in a double boiler

Size and capacity

High-quality double boilers come in a variety of sizes and capacities. We’ve seen double boilers that can hold just half of a quart and double boilers that can hold up to 20 quarts.

The average capacity is 2.5 to 4 quarts. This 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.

Bear in mind that you should 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 of a double boiler may be riveted or welded to the pot. The insert 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.

Many of the best double boiler handles also stay cool to the touch. Cool handles reduce the likelihood of burns and make it easy to maneuver the pot while in use. If you don’t have cool-touch handles, you will definitely want to keep a pair of oven mitts handy.

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 encourage the retention of 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.

Quality double boilers often have lids that are made of stainless steel or glass. A tempered glass lid 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.

Extras

Some double boilers come with a few accessories. A spatula is the most common item; it’s often included with purchase. Spatulas suitable for double boiler use are typically made of silicone to prevent scratching the interior surfaces.

Some models come with other utensils as well, such as a spoon, tongs, or whisk.

candles
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know you can use a double boiler to make candles? In fact, it’s not safe to melt wax directly in a pan. The gentle heating process and infusion of steam provided by a double boiler melt wax slowly and evenly for easy candle-making.
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Benefits of using a double boiler

As mentioned, a double boiler is a must-have for recipes that require gentle heating and slow cooking. Here is a look at some advantages offered by this essential cookware.

  • A double boiler stands out for even heating. This is a must for certain foods that would be ruined if scorched during the cooking process.
  • Achieving precise cooking temperatures is easier with a double boiler than with a standard saucepan. This is due to the steam and indirect heat provided by the two-component construction.
  • Because double boilers come in different sizes, there is one available to fit any consumer’s needs.
  • Specialty sauces like those that require cheese, eggs, or chocolate turn out best when made in a double boiler. Because it’s difficult to prepare such delicacies with direct, intense heat, a double boiler reduces the chances of burning such delicate ingredients.
  • Keeping certain foods warm without scorching them is easy to do with a double boiler. This cookware comes in handy when serving meals with sauces, gravies, or other elements that tend to burn easily when kept on a standard stovetop burner.
  • Double boilers are easy to use. Other than the fact that you must fill the insert with water for your heat source, there’s not much difference in using a double boiler and cooking with a saucepan or pot.
  • Well-made double boilers are made to last through years of use. Chances are a quality double boiler will be the only one you’ll need.

While most home cooks don’t need a huge double boiler, large models are practical for those who frequently make generous portions or often prepare food for a large number of people.

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Cleaning a double boiler

Just like any other type of cookware, keeping a double boiler looking and performing its best requires thorough cleaning after use.

Washing the components with warm water and a few drops of liquid dish soap is the best strategy. Never use a harsh scouring pad that may scratch the finish. After removing food particles, rinse the components thoroughly. Always dry a double boiler completely before storing it.

If you aren’t a fan of washing dishes, keep in mind that some double boilers are dishwasher safe. However, you should never place the components in the dishwashing machine if the manufacturer recommends hand washing.

double boiler
DID YOU KNOW?
Some manufacturers of double boilers provide information about the gauge or thickness of the material used to make the cookware. Dense material is more durable and offers better heat distribution and retention.
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Double boiler prices

Average price

The majority of double boilers are reasonably priced. They start under $20 and average between $30 and $40. Models in this price range work well for most consumers.

High-end double boilers

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. They are ideal for home chefs who plan to use the cookware frequently or simply prefer a high-end option.

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

Some double boilers come with a steamer set comprising a double boiler insert and a steamer insert. This gives you more options in terms of how the item can be used in the kitchen.

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Tips

  • Lightweight is a beneficial quality to have in a double boiler. That said, there is a fine line between a lightweight double boiler and one that is just too flimsy.
  • Stirring helps. 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. 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 and sometimes more.
  • Think about easy pouring. Is this a feature you need? 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 stovetop. If this is what you cook with, verify that any cookware you buy is induction-compatible.
  • 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 best when you keep the temperature at a simmer.
  • While you could certainly mock up your own double boiler with two stray pots, a dedicated double boiler set is far better. Why? It will provide you with greater stability, a more consistent heat, and a better culinary outcome overall.
  • Clean your double boiler as soon as you are done using it. This makes it easier to remove food particles.
double boilers
If the styling of a double boiler is one of your priorities, you may want to consider a high-end model with stainless steel construction and a mirror finish. This look will complement any kitchen decor.

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). If you add more water than this, you will likely have water boiling over. With less than this,  you run the risk of boiling dry and possibly damaging the pot.

During the cooking process, check the level, and add water as needed.

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. Is a tempered glass lid better than a metal lid?

A. Not necessarily. Both materials are durable and do a good job retaining heat, provided the fit is secure. However, the one benefit of a lid that’s made of glass is that you can keep an eye on the pot contents without removing it while you cook.

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