How do I Choose the Best Double Boiler?

Sheri Cyprus

The best double boiler is one that is large enough for your needs. If the bottom pot that holds boiling water to heat the top pan is too small, this can be messy or even dangerous. Water can boil over the brim and out onto the stove; if the bottom pot boils dry, a fire could start if it's left that way for too long. Choose a double boiler that includes a water fill line on the bottom pot as well as heating instructions for your safety. Many people mistakenly use double boilers on high heat rather than low to moderate stove top settings.


The steam from the boiling water in the bottom section provides the indirect heat to the top part. The French call the double boiler a bain marie, or "water bath." The indirect heat created by the two pan system melts chocolate without scorching it and heats milk without curdling it. Double boilers are also ideal for making cream and cheese-based sauces as well as sweet mixtures such as caramel.

The best double boilers to buy are the ones that feature the two pots noticeably different in size. If the top and bottom sections are too close in size, the upper pot may slip down into the lower one, defeating the whole purpose of a double saucepan system. If the lid included in a double boiler set fits both pots, this may be a clue that the pot sizes are too similar. Consider choosing one of the double boiler styles with a glass lid for the top pot. A glass lid on the upper section of the boiler can allow you to easily see when and if your food item is melting.

Quality double boilers often last for many years and most of these even come with a lifetime warranty. Buying a professional type of double boiler is the best option because the price difference between that and one made to a lesser standard is minimal. Good stainless steel double boilers are often labeled professional quality. While non-stick double boilers are available for sale, these are not usually considered to be professional quality cookware.

Look for a double boiler with handles that are easy to grip. You should also make sure the handle length works well with your stove top so your hand isn't too close to the heating element. Finally, be sure the double boilers you're choosing between fit in with your cleaning and maintenance expectations; not all are dishwasher safe.

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Discussion Comments


@drtroubles - Having a double boiler is great as they are really versatile, especially if you get the basket accessory for it. If you have that you can really easily steam things like fish or vegetables.

One of the things I like to do is take a bunch of vegetables and steam them, then I will ditch the basket and use the double boiler to cook some really tender beef strips. Once that's done I just pop the veggies back in with a little soy sauce and a whole dish is made.

Also, if you are into crafts, a double boiler is great for melting wax to make candles, and melting what you need to make soap. Plus, it will make great fondue sauce. Have fun!


What are some of the easiest things you can make with a double boiler?

My relatives gave my wife and I a really nice Kitchenaid double boiler as a housewarming present but we have no idea what to use it for. We don't really make candy so is there anything else it would be good for?

I am curious if it could be used for simple things like preparing fondue sauce. We will occasionally indulge ourselves with an outing to a restaurant that serves fondue, so it would be nice to be able to try it ourselves at home. I can think of all sorts of food that would be good dipped in melted chocolate.


I understand how a double boiler works and can see why it is so useful for many things, but I have never invested in one.

The few times I have made something that calls for a double boiler pan, I have just used the pans I already have.

My cookware is high quality and very durable and so I will get out the largest pan and fill it with several inches of water.

Then I find a smaller pan or glass bowl (depending on what I am making) to set inside this larger pan. This is the way I have always used my pans as a double boiler.

If this was something I did very often, I would probably buy some double boiler cookware, but so far this has worked for me.

I know some people will melt chocolate chips in a double boiler, but I have always had good results using my microwave to do this - as long as I stir it frequently.

If I were to buy some new cookware and wanted a double boiler set, I am wondering if a stainless steel or a copper double boiler would be best?


I know that a high quality, stainless steel double boiler will last a very long time. My mom has been married for over 50 years. When she was first married, she purchased some stainless steel double boiler cookware, and still uses it today when making candy.

She doesn't do much cooking with a double boiler, but makes a lot of Christmas candy, and always uses it for that.

When she makes candy like caramels and toffee, the double boiler works best so the candy won't burn. You really need cookware that is heavy duty, because that candy takes a long time to get to the correct temperature, and gets very hot.

If your pan is too thin on the bottom, you won't have very good results. That is why having a double boiler to use works so well.

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