11/04/2011 09:42 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Temper Chocolate In A Microwave

Tempering chocolate is a process of heating and cooling chocolate, and the reason we do it is to make sure it sets up properly. If you simply melt chocolate, it will softly set, sporting gray streaks called bloom and a grainy texture. Chef Peter Greweling of The Culinary Institute of America explains that tempering in a microwave is fairly simple. First, chef Greweling melts about 75 percent of the chocolate in the microwave (the other 25 percent is not melted, and therefore cooler), heating the chocolate in 20-second increments. It's important that you stir in between increments of heating so none of it overheats. When most of the chocolate is melted but there are still visible pieces of pistoles, he uses a thermometer to test the temperature. If the chocolate is above 90F, it's not possible for it to be tempered. If it's below 90F, it may or not be, and there's only one way to tell: Take a spoon and dip it in the chocolate. Chef Greweling puts the chocolate-coated spoon on a plate and waits to see what it does. If it's tempered, it will set in about 5 minutes and be smooth and shiny. Chances are the first couple of times you test the chocolate, it may not be tempered. All you have to do is to keep stirring the melted chocolate (with the pistoles) until the spoon tests properly. Chef Greweling does two tests. His first test didn't set, but on the second try, the chocolate has set beautifully.

Now the chocolate is tempered and is ready to use for dipping or other candy making.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Peter Greweling from the Culinary Institute of America, and today I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to temper chocolate using a microwave.

Tempering chocolate is a procedure of melting and cooling the chocolate in order to get it to set properly. If you simply melt chocolate and allow it to set, it'll set with grey streaks that are called bloom, and it won't be hard, and it won't have a good smooth texture to it. So we need to temper chocolate when we're going to use it by itself.

Tempering chocolate in a microwave is simple. We're going to warm the chocolate slowly, and when about 75% of the chocolate is melted, then we're going to simply stir. That stirring action will melt the remaining chocolate, and as that remaining chocolate melts it will cool off the bowl of chocolate and temper it.

We're going to begin melting our chocolate in the microwave. I'm going to give it twenty seconds at a time, and warm it slowly that way. So the chocolate's had its first twenty seconds in the microwave, and you can see that it's beginning to melt around the edges. It's important, when you use a microwave to melt chocolate, that you stir it between each increment of heating, in order to equalize the temperature so that none of the chocolate overheats. Now it's ready for its second increment of heating in the microwave.

The chocolate's been warmed for the second time in the microwave, and it's really melting nicely. It looks like we have just about fifty percent of it melted. Probably just one more time is going to melt as much of it as we need, but again it's important to stir it and equalize the heat. Now we'll heat the chocolate one more time to melt the rest of it.

It looks like it's melted just about the right amount. You can see that we have a few well-defined pistoles left, but most of the chocolate is melted. I've been stirring and cooling the chocolate for a few minutes and now we'll test the temperature. If your chocolate is above 90 degrees, it cannot be tempered. But remember, temperature alone doesn't tell you whether chocolate is tempered. So we take a spoon, dip the spoon in the chocolate, take it out and put it down and wait to see if it sets. Tempered chocolate will set on a spoon within about five minutes, and when it sets it will be free from streaks and will have a smooth shiny surface.

Since the chocolate on the first spoon hasn't set yet, and I've been stirring for another five minutes or so, the chocolate's cooled off quite a bit more and is probably close to tempered now. I'm going to make a second test. I dip the spoon, make a nice smooth surface, put it down and wait to see if this one sets.

Five minutes later, the chocolate on the second spoon has set beautifully. You see it's perfectly smooth, it's shiny - it's really well-tempered chocolate. This chocolate is now ready to use to dip strawberries, truffles, whatever you want to use it for.

That's how you temper chocolate in a microwave.