What Can You Use Instead Of A Double Boiler? [3 Substitutes]

Image of cream heating in a double boiler

You will need a double boiler to prepare egg-based sauces and chocolate-based desserts, but hardly anything else. So, buying one may seem excessive. For recipes that involve double-boiling, you can put together a DIY double boiler with the items in your kitchen and achieve the same outcome. So, what can you use instead of a double boiler?

Instead of a double boiler, you can use a Bain Marie or microwave for some recipes. You can also make a double boiler using a pot and heatproof bowl made up of glass, stainless steel, or any heatproof material. Moreover, you can substitute a double boiler with two pots that fit inside each other.

Let’s talk about this in more detail now.

What Is A Double Boiler? How Does It Work?

In its most basic form, a double boiler has two pots, a large one to hold water and a smaller pot that sits snugly inside it.

For double-boiling, you have to add an inch or two of water into the large pot.

Next, place the cooking ingredients in the small pot and insert it inside the large one.

Then, set the entire arrangement on the stove.

Upon heating, the water boils and produces steam. The heat from the steam warms the contents of the small pot.

This gentle heat helps to cook the ingredients slowly. The cooking process is very slow because it uses indirect heat.

This method of slow cooking is ideal for recipes that need temperature control.

For example, you can use it to temper chocolate, melt butter, make meringues, or egg-based sauces that curdle if you increase the heat even slightly.

3 Substitutes For A Double Boiler

Unless you make decadent desserts or gourmet recipes with egg sauces and custards all the time, you don’t need to buy a double boiler.

After all, it serves a single purpose, and you can achieve the same outcome with a make-shift version.

For the few recipes that need double-boiling, you can assemble a double boiler with the items you have in your kitchen.

Here is how you can set it up.

1. Use two pots of a suitable size.

You can make a double boiler with two heatproof pots of different sizes.

The small pot should fit inside the big one without touching its base.

This will ensure that the water in the large pot doesn’t touch the base of the insert pot when it boils.

For double-boiling, the ingredient should cook in indirect heat from the boiling water.

2. Use a heatproof bowl and a pan or pot.

If you don’t have two pots of a suitable size, you can use a heatproof bowl instead of the insert pot.

Choose a wide bowl that fits snugly in the rim of the pot.

It should form a tight seal with the rim and prevent steam from escaping through the sides.

This will allow the ingredients to cook in the indirect heat from the steam.

Recommended Further Reading:

3. Use a Bain Marie.

A Bain Marie is an adaptation of the double boiler for use in the oven.

It’s commonly used to prepare desserts with a custard base.

The principle of a Bain Marie is similar to a double boiler.

The only difference is that the cooking happens in a conventional oven instead of a stovetop.

To make a Bain Marie, you need a baking dish with high sides. A roasting pan or casserole dish will usually work.

You will also need ramekins or smaller bowls to hold the ingredients.

Once you transfer the ingredients into the ramekins, you can add hot boiling water to the baking dish.

Then, place the entire arrangement inside an oven for cooking.

The main benefit of using a Bain Marie is that it keeps the food moist and soft.

However, be very careful while adding the water into the baking dish to avoid splashing it into the ramekins or on yourself.

Can You Use A Plastic Bowl As A Double Boiler?

You can make a double boiler at home with a pot of simmering water and a heatproof bowl.

However, it’s important to choose the right type of bowl for the arrangement to work.

Plastic bowls are not a good choice for double-boiling because they’re not heatproof. Although a double boiler uses indirect heat, it can still be too hot for the plastic. So the bowl may lose shape and get damaged.

For double-boiling to work, the bowl should transfer heat to the contents in the small bowl.

Plastic doesn’t conduct heat. So, if you use a plastic bowl for double-boiling, the ingredient may not cook.

Related Further Reading:

Can A Pyrex Bowl Be Used As A Double Boiler?

Pyrex bowls are made of borosilicate glass, which is heatproof. You can’t use Pyrex bowls for direct heating or cooking on the stove. However, you can use them for double-boiling.

It’s non-reactive and gets warm when placed over a pot of simmering water.

This heat is adequate for melting chocolate and cooking egg-based sauces and desserts slowly and thoroughly.

When choosing Pyrex bowls for double-boiling, you should ensure that the bowl snugly fits inside the rim of the pot.

It shouldn’t touch the water since direct heat from the boiling water can cause cracks.

Although Pyrex bowls are suitable for double-boiling, you can’t say the same for all glass bowls.

Some types of glass are not heatproof.

When exposed to heat, glass expands on the inside but not on the outside.

This differential expansion can cause thermal shock to the thin glass and cause cracks.

So, you should be careful about using such bowls for double-boiling.

Glass bowls made of thick-walled, good-quality glass are suitable for double-boiling.

It’s best to avoid using bowls with thin glass for this purpose.

Can A Metal Bowl Be Used As A Double Boiler?

Metals are good conductors of heat. So mixing bowls made of stainless steel, steel, and aluminum are suitable for double-boiling.

When you place a metal bowl above simmering water, it will become warm.

The heat from the water will warm the ingredients in the bowl and cook them slowly.

Thus, it will gently cook in this indirect heat.

When using metal bowls for double-boiling, remember that the steam will heat the metal and make it hot.

So, be careful when handling it to avoid getting burnt.

Interesting Further Reading:

Can You Use A Microwave Instead Of A Double Boiler?

Microwaves are not the best substitutes for double boilers. These ovens rapidly heat food and cook quickly. Nevertheless, you can use microwave ovens at specific settings to double-boil small quantities of ingredients. It’s faster than other methods and less messy.

The trick to using a microwave for double-boiling is to apply heat in short bursts.

Use the half-power, medium, or defrost setting.

Cook the ingredient for thirty seconds or less.

Then remove it from the oven, stir or whisk it well, and return it to the oven for another short burst of time.

Repeat the process until the ingredient cooks perfectly.

Going slow with a microwave is a good way to melt chocolate.

It will let you melt the chocolate faster than if you use a traditional double boiler.

The chocolate will be just as smooth, luscious, and silky.


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