If you are a cooking enthusiast, then you like to prepare all kinds of foods that require all sorts of fragile ingredients. I must admit that I also like to experience in the kitchen as many time as I have the chance. However, cooking sometimes requires special tools that regular people don’t have in their kitchen. I don’t make crème Brulee, so why would I have a burner, right?
One of the tools I am talking about is the double boiler, or else known as a bain-marie. You don’t find it in all kitchens, but it sure is helpful at times. I learned about it a couple of years ago, and since then, let’s just say that my melted chocolate looks a little better on my cakes.
What is a double boiler?
When you hear double boiler, what do you think about? My first guess was a double pot in which you could boil two things at once. But I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s actually two pots. The first goes on the stove, and you have to put water in it, 1 to 3 inches to be more exact. The second fits on the top of the first and is this one in which you add the food you actually want to cook or heat.
It has many uses, from cooking delicate soups (like shark fin soup) and sauces, to melting chocolate. You can do that because the temperature in the top pot is a lot easier to control thanputting it directly on the stove. That was the whole purpose of the bain-marie, after all, to cook in a delicate and controlled manner.
The benefits of a double boiler
This kitchen item was specially designed to help chefs and regular cooking enthusiasts as well, to reach perfection when preparing complicated recipes. Let’s take butter, for example. Did you know that there is a right way or a wrong way to melt it? Neither did I until recently. A bain-marie will help with that as well.
- ü It will slowly cook ‘sensitive’ food. When you put a pot on the stove, the energy transfer from the burner to the pot and its content is a lot bigger than with a bain-marie. When you use a double boiler the energy from the stove goes to the lower pot, and then it goes to the top pot. Slow cooking is sometimes the secret to a successful recipe, which is why a double boiler is perfect for the job.
- ü Your deserts will look a lot better. Have you ever tried melting chocolate in a regular pot? Or butter? If you turn away one second, the chocolate will stick to the pan. Not only it will give you a chance for a good scrubbing, but it will also affect the taste of the chocolate. Burned chocolate doesn’t taste very good, trust me. A double boiler, however, will melt the chocolate without burning it. It would take a long time to burn it in a bain-marie. The taste and the texture will be a lot better too.
- ü You can heat some foods if you are not a big fan of the microwave. Personally, I have nothing against microwaves, but some people do. A double boiler will help you heat and reheat in asimple manner. Also, there is no chance of the food sticking to the pan.
- ü Some sauces require a very low temperature to prepare. I mean below the boiling temperature. Even simmering won’t do. So what is your alternative? A double boiler, of course. If you need to prepare a special sauce, like the ones based on eggs, a bain-marie will do a perfect job.
- ü You can even steam vegetables. Some models come with a sieve that you can put on top of the lower pot. Steamed vegetables are very healthy and are recommended for people who are on a diet, not only because they want to lose weight, but for people on special diets due to health problems.
What to consider when buying a double boiler
A bain-marie is a pretty simple item. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to meet a few criteria to be considered a high-quality product. Here are a few things to consider when purchasing one.
- ü Non-stick feature – aluminum is among the best materials that a pan can be made of. Cooking is very easy, and you will have no trouble cleaning it up. The non-stick feature will save you time when you are doing the dishes. Even better, aluminum is compatible with a dishwasher, so you don’t need to do the scrubbing yourself. Stainless steel is another ideal option.
- ü The handle – ideally, you should go for an ergonomic handle. It will help you not drop the boiler, and there is no chance of you burning your hand. Ergonomic handles are usually made of hard plastic, so the heat transfer is close to none. I can’t even remember how many times I burned my hands because I forgot to wrap the handle in a towel. Sometimes you forget, so if you think about it, the plastic handle is more of a safety feature than anything else.
- ü The lid – that should preferably be self-basting. You want your food to be moist and to keep its flavors. Such a lid also seals in the heat.
- ü Other features – some models come with a steamer as well. It’s not something that turns your double boiler into a high-quality product, it’s not a must, but it will definitely extend its usage. Steamed vegetables or fish are also welcome on any diet, so why not go for it? Also, the more features, the better.
The design is not as important as the features I mentioned above, but you can go for a shiny double boiler, why not? Just make sure that the model you purchase stays put. Some cheap models don’t, and they can be a potential danger in your house. For example, if the top pot isn’t stable in the lower pot, it can fall. Worst case scenario is that you pour some hot sauce on your legs, the best is that you waste a perfectly good sauce. Either way, you lose.
What are the best double boilers?
There are a lot of models online. Some of them are good; some are not. It’s up to you which one you choose. But keep in mind that it’s your money on the line. So my advice is that you pay a few extra bucks now, but you save in the long run. Here are a few examples of high-quality double boilers that are more than affordable.
T-fal B13996 Specialty Stainless Steel Double Boiler
This bain-marie might as well be the cheapest on the market that provides such a high-quality. I did my research, and people seem more than satisfied with it. I didn’t use it personally, but I usually trust reviews on trusted sites. Actual buyers are the most honest when it comes to praising or complaining about a particular product.
The T-fal double boiler is made of high-quality aluminum. Both the interior and the exterior have a non-stick feature that will make cleaning very easy. You won’t have to scrub the pots. You can just throw them in the dishwasher and be done with them. Aluminum is an ideal heat conductor so that cooking will be simple as well. The base provides even heating, which is crucial to cooking delicate sauces.
The stainless steel boiler insert is durable. Some people say that they had this model for years, and it still looks intact. The phenolic handle is ergonomic, which ensures a safe and secure grip. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this aspect. A lot of people get burned from poorly made handles. Just ask an ER doctor.
The capacity of this double boiler is 3 quart, but precisely that. If you need to heat 3 quarts of milk, for example, you can’t do too much stirring. So make sure to pour less than that. I must mention that the base pot can be used as a simple pan. You can use it with the lid and everything. It will fit perfectly. Keep in mind, though, that this double boiler cannot be used on induction cooktops, but it’s ideal for any other type of heat source. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 2-quart Covered Double Boiler
Farberware is a renowned brand that has been providing high-quality kitchen utensils for years. It’s no wonder everyone is buying its products, myself included. This is the first model I came in contact with, and I am happy about my choice. From where I stand, I couldn’t have made a better decision.
I first bought the Farberware when I got curious about making desserts. Nothing can melt chocolate and butter better than this product. In the meantime, a lot of models have been released, but I never felt the need to give up on mine. It’s a 2-quart covered saucepan and a double boiler insert. The full cap base on the double boiler has an aluminum core that is surrounded by stainless steel. That ensures a quick, even heating.
I use this double boiler on many occasions, not just for the purpose it was designed for. Sometimes I make mac and cheese in it. I do that because I can put the pan in the oven. As long as the temperature in the oven is below 350º F, it shouldn’t suffer any damage. I was a bit afraid that the handle will melt, but it didn’t. It didn’t even modify its shape. It’s just as comfortable as when I first bought it.
One of the things that I liked (and still do) was the design. I know it may sound a shallow thing, but I like shiny pots. The Farberware double boiler is polished to a mirror finish. Another one was the self-basting lid. It retains all the heat and moisture that makes my sauces not lose water. They end up having a perfect consistency. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
Range Kleen 4-Piece 3-quart Sauce Pan with Lid, Steamer, and Double Boiler Insert
This is another perfect example of an ideal double boiler. It has everything you need and more. Not only that will help you make the perfect egg sauce, but you can also use it as a regular pan, and a steamer. The stainless steel that it’s made of is of premium quality, which is probably the reason it’s worth almost double than the previous model. But that is a very good thing. Cleaning will never be as easy. Durability is not an issue. You can even place the pot in the oven. But make sure not to turn the temperature higher than 350º.
The bottom of the Range Kleen double boiler is encapsulated, which basically means that the heat will be distributed evenly for maximum results. It is compatible with most heat sources (electric stove, halogen, gas, ceramic/glass). As long as you use an interface induction disk, you can even use it on an induction cooktop.
The heavy gauge steel with cool touch phenolic handles rivet so that they will last in time. Plus, they have an ergonomic design that will ensure a firm and secure grip. By the looks of it, they should be comfortable to hold as well. The lid is also made of stainless steel and has a phenolic handle that is designed for tight-fitting. It will seal the flavors in so that nothing gets away. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
Although I currently own the Farberware, I must admit that I like the Range Kleen better. I believe that it is one of the best double boilers on the market. The material that it’s made of and the fact that it’s multi-purpose makes this model a very useful tool in the kitchen. And it’s not even that expensive.
Cooking can be tricky at times, but nothing can stand in your way as long as you have every possible help. We live in a day and age where every little thing has a solution. Double boilers are not a new concept, but they surely got better over the last few years. Click here to buy on Amazon
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