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What is Tempered Chocolate?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tempered chocolate is chocolate which has been heated and specially cooled so that it forms a precise crystal structure. Most chocolate available for sale is tempered, and it can be recognized by a glossy appearance and pleasing “snap” when broken or bitten into. As a general rule, a home cook does not need to temper chocolate unless he or she is making chocolates, and most cooks use a chocolate tempering machine. It is possible to temper chocolate by hand, but the process is painstaking.

The primary reason to temper chocolate is to change the texture and make it more shelf stable. Tempered chocolate is less likely to develop an unsightly bloom as a result of exposure to excessive cold or heat. It also has an appealing sheen, and a unique texture. Chocolate which has not been tempered tends to be almost chewy, rather than crisp. Tempered chocolate, and sweets made with it, simply taste better.

The structure of chocolate is created by the cocoa butter in the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and then allowed to solidify, the cocoa butter forms a distinctive crystal structure. By being kept at a certain temperature as it cools, the structure will be radically different, creating tempered chocolate. Tempering is a two stage process, involving melting the chocolate down and then holding it at a set temperature while it cools and is worked with.

Chocolate can lose its temper, which is why cooks retemper chocolate to make chocolate sweets such as dipped fruits and filled chocolates. With the use of a tempering machine, tempered chocolate is very easy to make. The chocolate is broken up and melted before seed pieces of already tempered chocolate are stirred in. The mixture is kept at the right temperature electronically, and is ready for use.

To make tempered chocolate by hand, start by breaking chocolate into chunks and heating it in a double boiler until it melts, not allowing it to exceed 133 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). Next, take the chocolate off the boiler, stir in a few pieces of “seed” chocolate, and keep the chocolate warm with the use of a hot pad while you stir it so that it cannot solidify. If you do not have a hot pad, dip the chocolate in and out of the double boiler. For dark chocolate, hold the temperature at around 88° Fahrenheit (31° Celsius). Milk chocolate should be kept at 86° Fahrenheit (30° Celsius), while white chocolate prefers 80° Fahrenheit (27° Celsius). Test the temper by spreading a thin layer of chocolate onto a flat surface and cooling it. It should be dry, hard, and glossy. If it is not, retemper the chocolate.

Tempered chocolate can be used to make a variety of candies and chocolate desserts. In all cases, you need to work with the chocolate while it is warm and molten. If the chocolate cools and hardens, retemper it. Tempered chocolate also prefers to be kept totally dry, and even a small addition of water will cause the chocolate to coagulate and "seize," making it useless for chocolate candies.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon135927 — On Dec 20, 2010

If chocolate is melted slowly enough it doesn't have to be re-tempered. A microwave works great for this. First, chop the chocolate into small bits and place in a glass bowl. Microwave on 50 percent power for no more than 20 seconds at a time and stir the chocolate well after each time. When the chocolate starts to melt, cut the time down to 15 seconds at a time. Br sure to stir the chocolate well after each time. When the chocolate is mostly melted except for just a few unmelted bits do not place it back in the microwave. Just keep stirring and let the residual heat finish melting the chocolate the rest of the way. The key to this method is to not let the chocolate get too warm. If the temperature of the melted chocolate goes above 90­°F it will have to be re-tempered.

By googlefanz — On Dec 20, 2010

Could you give me some guidance on how to work with tempered white chocolate if you don't have a chocolate tempering pot?

I have been wanting to make some tempered white chocolate decorations for a cake that I'm making, but I keep having trouble getting the chocolate to work properly.

I'm not sure if it's something about the way I'm boiling it, or if there's a problem with my pot or I'm using the wrong chocolate or what, but I am just very confused about this.

Could you help me figure out what is going on?

By closerfan12 — On Dec 17, 2010

Great article! I had been looking for articles on how to temper chocolate at home, and this was by far the most informative one.

You would think that it wouldn't be that hard to find a good article on the subject by googling "how do you temper chocolate," but man alive, I was just having the hardest time.

All the articles I found were either really oversimplistic, just telling you to boil the chocolate, or they were extremely in-depth, complete with chocolate tempering temperatures that varied by altitude and the type of chocolate and what not.

This article really struck a nice balance in between all of that though, and gave me the information that I needed.

Thanks wisegeek!

By Charlie89 — On Dec 16, 2010

Wow, that does sound ridiculously difficult. I was thinking about making some dipping chocolate for a party I'm having, but all the articles talking about how to temper chocolate for dipping are just extremely complicated. I guess that makes sense though, since the process itself is so complicated!

Out of curiosity, do you know if its possible to rent chocolate tempering equipment for things like this? I mean, surely caterers have something like that on hand to keep their chocolate at the correct temperatures.

Is it even possible to rent something like that, or do you have to buy it? I'm kind of loathe to buy new kitchen equipment just for a party, but I really want to do this right.

So is it possible to rent something like that, and if not, then what are the best tips for buying one?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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