Our preferred method for melting chocolate is to use the microwave, whether it’s to simply liquefy it (for a frosting or a cake) or to temper it (so it hardens into a shiny, snappy glaze).
The microwave is far less fussy than the old-fashioned method of warming chopped chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, and it’s also a lot quicker: 3.5 minutes versus 6.5 minutes to melt 4 ounces of chocolate, and about 5 minutes versus 10 minutes to temper the same amount of chocolate. The microwave method is more efficient because heat surrounds the chocolate completely, while in the stovetop method the heat is concentrated at the bottom of the bowl.
We recently found another application where the microwave bested the traditional method: reheating ganache. This simple emulsion, made by heating chocolate and cream together, makes a decadent glaze when warm and a beautifully spreadable frosting when slightly cooled. But if it gets too cool (or if you chill it), you’ll need to reheat it. When we compared microwaving 1 1/4 cups of ganache to warming it gently in a double boiler, it took just 55 seconds versus 8 minutes. That’s one more chocolate-warming technique we’ll now always assign to the microwave.
Stovetop: 6.5 minutes
Microwave: 3.5 minutes
Stovetop: 10 minutes
Microwave: 5 minutes
Stovetop: 8 minutes
Microwave: <1 minute