This easy-to-follow guide on how to temper chocolate will help you achieve glossy, smooth chocolate that stays hard at room temperature and will take on whatever shape you want it to. Properly tempered chocolate gives a satisfying snap when you bite into it; and it melts at body temperature, giving you the perfect melt-on-your-tongue experience. This guide will walk you through all you need to know to master this exciting skill.
Tempering chocolate is one of those skills that seems daunting to learn, but it's actually quite easy. And once you know how to do it there is so much creative fun to be had. It's perfect for dipping strawberries, piping decorations, coating truffles, and more.
What does tempering chocolate mean?
Tempering chocolate is essentially slowly guiding chocolate through precise temperature changes combined with agitation, which affects the chocolate on a molecular level.
The cocoa butter contained in the chocolate is coaxed to realign uniformly to make the chocolate stable, glossy, smooth, and with a higher melting point. Sound complicated? Don't worry, it's much easier than it sounds.
The result gives you chocolate with the perfect texture, that satisfying 'snap' texture, that won't melt easily while handled and will firmly set at room temperature. If you are using real chocolate (with cocoa butter), it will not harden properly without going through the tempering process.
After tempering you won't have to worry about your treats, such as dipped biscotti, melting while on display or in gift boxes. Also, when making molded chocolates, the chocolate has to be tempered in order to release properly from a polycarbonate mold.
What happens if you don't temper?
If chocolate is melted without tempering it, the cocoa fat will separate, resulting in a dull, streaky, grey-ish colour and a soft and chewy texture. Not the glossy, smooth finish that you desire. Untempered chocolate is also far more sensitive to heat and humidity, giving you results that easily melt and spoil faster.
The best kind of chocolate to use
The best, easiest kind of chocolate to temper is couverture chocolate. This chocolate is specially designed for tempering, made with a higher ratio of cocoa butter (32–39%), making it the most desirable for chocolatiers.
I love to work with Callebaut's Belgian couverture chocolate. It so easy to use and the results and flavour are both excellent. It comes in small discs, also called callets, pistoles, fèves, or wafers, that are popular for tempering because they don't require chopping up like the bar versions of chocolate do.
However, you will be fine using another high quality chocolate, even if it isn't couverture. Look for a high cocoa butter content and no added wax. Here is what to look for:
- High cocoa butter percentage is best - The higher the percentage of cocoa butter, the thinner the chocolate will be, making it easier to temper and work with.
- Avoid other fats - Chocolate that contains any fats other than cocoa butter is not real chocolate.
- Avoid wax - Wax is a common additive to ready-to-eat chocolate as it helps it to remain solid at room temperature, slowing it from melting while in your hand.
- Avoid chocolate chips - Chocolate chips are generally low in cocoa butter as they are designed to be baked with. They are tricky to temper and work with.
- Avoid ready-to-be-eaten, manufactured candy bars
Note: Real chocolate is made of cocoa butter and solids, sugar, and sometimes milk solids (in milk and white chocolates). The main percentage that you see marked on chocolate packaging describes how much of it came from the cacao tree in the forms of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. This is often broken down further to reveal the percentages of each.
Dark vs Milk vs White:
Almost any kind of 'real' chocolate can be tempered, they just require reaching different temperatures during the process. Dark chocolate is the most stable and easiest to temper option, so if you're just starting out you may want to try that.
If you are making chocolate dipped truffles, you should ensure that the flavour of your chocolate compliments the filling. Chocolate naturally comes in a range of flavours, depending on where it's from, ranging from nutty, spicy, to fruity.
Methods of tempering chocolate
- Seeding method - In the seed or seeding method, the basic idea is that you add pieces of well tempered chocolate to melted, untempered chocolate. The addition of the tempered chocolate with its fully formed, ideal crystals will encourage the same crystalline structures to develop within the melted chocolate, thus seeding it, and bringing the entire batch into temper. This method is fairly easy and requires minimal special equipment.
- Sous vide method - Because of its temperature precision, and the ability to temper even small amounts of chocolate, sous vide is the easiest option for tempering chocolate. Of course, having a sous vide immersion circulator is required for this technique, but they have become quite affordable. Clean up is a breeze with this method as well.
- Traditional tabling method - This method involves cooling melted chocolate during the tempering process by spreading it across a cool, marble surface. It is ideal when tempering over a kilogram of chocolate and is efficient for chocolatiers who work in huge batches. This method gives the best results, however, it is not the most practical for tempering chocolate at home, unless you have a lot of space to work with and a large marble slab.
How to temper by chocolate type
All of these different types of chocolate can be tempered, however, the temperatures they need to be guided through in the tempering process differ. Follow the links below for step-by-step instructions on how to temper each of these different kinds of chocolate:
How to use tempered chocolate
Here are some of the wonderful ways to use tempered chocolate:
- Dip - For berries, fruit, biscotti, cookies, pretzels, potato chips, etc.
- Chocolate coating - For truffles or candies.
- Solid chocolates - When using molds.
- Writing and piping decorations
- Chocolate leaves - And other garnishes.
Tips for Success
- Finely chop chocolate - If you are using chocolate bars rather than discs, you must finely chop the chocolate into small, even pieces. This helps it to melt quickly and evenly. The best tool to chop chocolate with is a large serrated knife.
- Use more chocolate - Tempering any amount of chocolate is possible, but the temperature of smaller amounts (anything under 16 ounces) fluctuates more rapidly, making the process more difficult. Still doable, but requires moving faster and paying close attention. However, the higher the volume, the longer it will hold the workable temperature.
- Avoid water - Even a droplet of water or other liquid can cause your chocolate to seize up and be destroyed. Keep your tools and work surface completely dry before melting chocolate. Even steam can turn your chocolate into a grainy mess (see chocolate seize in problems you may encounter).
- Cool environment - A dry, cool day is best for tempering chocolate. Always work in a cool environment. Especially for your first try. Time to turn on that air conditioner if you have one.
- Follow temperature guides - This is crucial to properly tempering chocolate. Improperly tempered chocolate will have a dull and waxy, possibly streaky finish, and sometimes a grainy texture. Don't worry, this is easy to prevent with proper supervision.
- Be present - Attempt tempering when you can dedicate yourself completely to the task. You will be monitoring temperature to the degree, so don't let yourself get distracted and miss the moment you were waiting for. Focus, take your time, and enjoy the process.
- Use a thermometer - Use a good, accurate digital food or candy thermometer with instant read. For the most accurate temperature reading, measure from the centre of the bowl after constant stirring.
- Avoid overheating - Chocolate is sensitive to heat and can become scorched and unusable (see chocolate seize in problems you may encounter).
- Always test for temper - Don't worry, if your chocolate has gone out of temper, you can always re-melt and start over.
- Reuse leftovers - Reuse your leftover tempered chocolate. Let it harden, then store it in an airtight container at room temperature. It can be re-tempered up to to two more times, or chopped up and used in baking.
Problems you can encounter
- When chocolate is stored incorrectly and exposed to a too large range of temperatures, the cocoa fat separates, rising to the surface in 'bloom.' The surface will look dull and streaky grey/white, with a rough texture. Chocolate bloom can also appear on improperly tempered chocolate.
- The chocolate is still fine to eat or bake with, but it is no longer in temper. You can bring it to temper again by 'seeding' it with well-tempered chocolate. However, if it's in this condition when you purchase it, you should return it because the bloom is evidence that the chocolate was improperly cared for.
- Don't confuse chocolate bloom with the normal scuffs and scrapes that chocolate can receive from regular storage and transportation.
- If melted chocolate suddenly turns into a thick and grainy paste, the chocolate has 'seized.' Picture instant recrystallization - a chocolatier's worst nightmare. There are two things that can trigger this dreaded condition: water and overheating.
- Seize caused by water:
- Chocolate (even melted) is completely dry. It consists of cocoa butter (fat) combined with cocoa solids, sugar, and depending on the type, milk solids (dry ingredients). Even the tiniest drop of water can cause the moistened cocoa solids to clump together and separate from the cocoa butter.
- The crystalline structure of the entire bowl of chocolate will rapidly break down, leaving you will a grainy mess that cannot be tempered.
- Luckily, you can prevent this from happening by keeping your work surface and tools completely dry. If you are working with a double boiler, be careful of steam and condensation. Wipe the exterior of your double boiler or bowl dry when not on the pot. Never cover a pot of melted chocolate with a lid as it can cause condensed steam to drip into the chocolate.
- What if this happens to you? The chocolate cannot be tempered, however, it can still be utilized in baking, ganache for truffle centres, or add more liquid to form a chocolate sauce or syrup. Add at least 1 tablespoon of liquid per ounce of chocolate to get the chocolate to remain in a liquid state for sauces.
- Note: If you are colouring white chocolate, you cannot use liquid food colouring for this same reason (see 'how to colour tempered white chocolate' for more information).
- Seize caused by overheating:
- Once chocolate reaches a certain temperature (depending on the kind of chocolate) it will 'burn' or 'scorch'. While the chocolate hasn't technically burnt, it has seized into an irreparable state. This leaves you with a dry, grainy paste of unusable chocolate.
- The best thing that you can do is start over with a fresh batch of chocolate.
- To avoid this, be very careful when heating chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. White chocolate has the lowest melting temperature and is especially at risk.
Cooling down too much (losing temper)
- The chocolate will naturally cool as you stir, setting on the sides and becoming thick and matte as it goes out of temper. The larger the quantity of chocolate you have, the slower this cooling will be.
- You need to actively keep chocolate at its working temperature to keep it from going out of temper. You will find easy instructions on how to do this in my posts on how to temper chocolate by method or chocolate type.
- The image below shows chocolate that was not tempered properly.
Hot weather or high humidity
- It's always best to temper chocolate in a cool, dry environment. The room temperature should be 70°F / 21°C or cooler. And the relative humidity should be 50% or lower. Temperature can affect crystal formation; and chocolate becomes very difficult to work with in higher humidity.
- The best way to temper chocolate in hot weather is to blast an air conditioner.
The science of tempering chocolate
Chocolate contains cocoa butter - the ingredient that gives it that luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth characteristic. Cocoa butter is made up of six types of fat crystals (Forms I-VI) that range from loose and unstable to firm and structured.
Through tempering, the cocoa butter is encouraged to form the most desirable of these, and the crystals are realigned uniformly to make the chocolate stable, glossy, smooth, and with a higher melting point. The result gives you chocolate with the perfect texture, that satisfying 'snap' texture, and that won't melt easily while handled.
A well-tempered chocolate is made up of tightly locked together Beta Prime (Form V) crystals. This crystal has the best mouth feel and appearance, and is the most stable. Once tightly locked together through a proper tempering process, it takes a higher temperature to separate these crystals, resulting in a much higher melting temperature than not tempered chocolate.
In the process of tempering, we guide chocolate into forming Form V crystals through precise temperature manipulation, and encourage the crystals to align uniformly through agitation. Form V crystals form when the chocolate is at its ‘working temperature.’
Let's scientifically walk through tempering process.
Melt: First we need to get rid of all of the existing crystal types. We do this by heating the chocolate and completely melting it. The temperatures below are high enough to melt all of the crystals without risk of damage to the chocolate.
Cool: Now that the chocolate is melted, we could just lower the temperature to the Beta Prime sweet spot immediately and hold it there to form perfect Form V crystals. However, with this method it takes a long time for the crystals to form. That's why we are going to drop the temperature lower. This temperature drop will initiate rapid formation of Form V and Form IV crystals. Form VI crystals take weeks to form, so they won't make an appearance.
Note: In the seeding technique, the chocolatier adds pieces of tempered chocolate into the melted chocolate at the beginning of the cooling step. These Form V 'seeds' serve to encourage the formation of the same crystal type in the cooling melted chocolate, promoting a well-tempered chocolate.]
Note: If the temperature accidentally drops lower than recommended here, your chocolate will form Form III or lower crystals. This can prevent you from forming quality Form V crystals when you reheat it. The best solution would be to remelt all of the crystals and start again.]
Reheat: Now we have our rapidly formed Form V and Form IV crystals. But to be perfectly 'in temper' we need to have only Form V. So next, we raise the temperature again to the point where the Form IV crystals melt but the Form V crystals remain.
We have now coaxed the chocolate to form beautiful Beta Prime (Form V) crystals. The chocolate is in temper and ready to be worked. Be careful as any excessive heat at this point will destroy your Form V crystals and the chocolate will have to be re-tempered.
Alternatives to using tempered chocolate
There are products available as substitutes for those who don't want to temper chocolate:
Candy melts / coating chocolate / confectionary coating / summer coating / chocolate bark coating
- Compound chocolates, such as these, don't contain any actual chocolate. They are usually made with partially hydrogenated oil, sometimes with added cocoa powder for chocolate 'flavour.' There are often less desirable ingredients as well: high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, paraffin wax, artificial flavours, etc.
- However, their waxy feel and poor flavour is offset by the fact that they are conveniently fast and easy to use. Simply melt, dip, and set at room temperature. Search for good quality and check ingredients if you opt for these.
- Compound chocolate can be used in flexible silicone or plastic molds. However, unlike tempered chocolate, it will not release from a polycarbonate mold. Real chocolate contracts as it sets, helping it to pop out of the mold.
- This can be easily made by melting 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening per 6 ounces of chocolate chips. It's functional if you want a super fast and easy dip. It won't set as well as tempered chocolate so you may need to store dipped items in a refrigerator until serving.
Store chocolate in an airtight container in a dark place with a cool temperature of 53.6-68°F / 12-20°C, where it won't experience wide temperature fluctuations. Such temperature changes can cause chocolate to 'bloom.' Do not store chocolate in the refrigerator.
Chocolate chips were designed for baking and contain a low percentage of cocoa butter. This makes them tricky to temper and even trickier to coat things with. I do not recommend attempting to temper chocolate chips.
Chocolate does get old and will flatten in flavour with time. Don't use chocolate that is more than a couple years old.
Because the temperature guidance required for tempering chocolate is so precise, unless you are using the sous vide method, I recommend using a good quality, digital food thermometer. Some specially trained people can test temperature on heat sensitive areas of their wrist or below their bottom lip, however, this is difficult to do and takes lots of practice.
You do not need to temper chocolate that will be used in baking, or when it will be used immediately, such as in a fondue or for drizzling over ice cream.
Learn step-by-step how to temper chocolate. Master a new and useful culinary skill with this easy to follow guide.
Chocolate - Use your choice of good quality dark, milk, white, ruby, or gold chocolate. (At least 8 ounces. The more you use, the easier it is to control the temperature.)
Tempering chocolate involves guiding the chocolate through a series of temperature changes. The temperatures required depend on the kind of chocolate that you use. Based on what you are using, find precise instructions here:
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 58
- Sugar: 3.7 g
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Fat: 3.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 5.2 g
- Protein: 0.6 g
- Cholesterol: 0.6 mg
Keywords: how to temper chocolate