How to Use a Double Boiler

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"What is this for?" If your cooking utensils include a double boiler, you may have heard this question. You may have even asked it.

Double boilers, while not a commonly used kitchen utensil, are extremely beneficial. They are perfect for preparing cream-based sauces and soups, or desserts requiring melted chocolate. Once you get comfortable using a double boiler, you'll wonder how you lived without it.

A double boiler is essentially a thin-bottom pan inside another pan. To use the double boiler, fill the lower pan with water until it nearly touches the bottom of the upper pan.

To begin cooking, place both pans (inner thin-bottomed pan on top of outer pan filled with the appropriate amount of liquid) on the burner. Although you want the water in the lower pan to boil gently, you want to avoid two things -- boiling your water away, or allowing the heat to come up the pan sides thus over-heating the outside edges of your upper pan.

To avoid these two extremes, heat your double boiler over medium-low to medium heat. Once the water in the lower pan is boiling gently, you are ready to assemble a perfect cream-based sauce, dairy-based soup, or melt some chocolate for your favorite dessert.

Another under-rated double-boiler benefit is its use as a warming pan. When you prepare dinner for guests, it is often difficult to get everything ready at the same time. A double boiler can help. Use it to keep steamed vegetables, sauces, and soups warm. Best of all, if you keep the heat low so your water just simmers, your food will stay warm but will not continue to cook.

White sauce is considered to be one of the mother sauces. It is the foundation for many others. The double boiler is the perfect tool for its preparation.