How to Temper Chocolate Perfectly for Dipping


temper chocolate
Have you ever tried to dip something in chocolate, only to end up with a lumpy, streaky mess that looked like a kindergartner attacked it with a paintbrush? I feel you. Tempering chocolate is tricky business, but once you know the secrets to getting that thin, glossy coating that snaps when you bite into it, you'll feel like a bonafide chocolatier.

In this complete guide, I’ll walk you through exactly how to temper chocolate perfectly every time for flawless, professional-looking dipped treats. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is once you know the simple steps.

What is Tempering and Why Does it Matter?

Tempering is the process of melting and cooling chocolate in a specific way to stabilize it for dipping, molding, and decorating. This gives the chocolate that signature snap when you break it, and leaves it with a smooth, glossy finish instead of a dull, streaky mess.

See, chocolate is a finicky little ingredient. It’s made up of cocoa solids and cocoa butter which melt at different temperatures. If you just haphazardly melt chocolate without tempering it, the cocoa butter fat can rise to the top or get too warm, causing ugly blooming and soft spots when it sets. No one wants that!

Properly tempered chocolate forms those coveted stable crystal structures we want for dipping. It flows smoothly off the fork or fruit without getting thick or gloopy, and leaves just the right thin coating that doesn’t run or drip everywhere. Take my word for it - tempering makes a world of difference in your dipped treats!

The Three Best Methods for Tempering Chocolate

There are a few different ways to temper chocolate, but in my experience these three methods are foolproof, easy, and work perfectly every single time.

Seed Tempering

This is my personal favorite way to temper chocolate! It uses already tempered chocolate to bring the rest up to ideal temperature. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Finely chop about 2/3 of your chocolate. I use good quality chocolate chips or callets.
  2. Melt the other 1/3 of the chocolate slowly to 115°F. This can be done in the microwave in 30 second bursts, in a double boiler, or even in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Just don’t let any water get into the chocolate.
  3. Once the chocolate is melted, stir those chopped chocolate pieces into the melted chocolate. Keep stirring gently until the chopped pieces are fully melted. This brings the temperature down.
  4. Cool the chocolate to 88-90°F by placing the bowl on a cool surface like marble or granite. Keep stirring slowly until the temperature drops into this zone. This is your target tempering temperature.
  5. Maintain the 88-90°F while you dip! Place back over barely simmering water or use a heating pad underneath if needed.

Easy peasy! The already-tempered chopped chocolate pieces act as “seeds” to temper the rest of the chocolate. Once you get the temperature right, you’re good to go.

The Tabling Method

This traditional technique uses a marble slab to help cool the chocolate down to the ideal temperature range for dipping. Here's the method:

  1. Melt about 2/3 of your chocolate to 115°F. I like to do this slowly in a double boiler.
  2. Pour the melted chocolate onto a clean marble, granite, or stainless steel surface (aka your "tabling slab"). Do NOT use wood or plastic.
  3. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate back and forth on the cool surface. Keep working it until it starts to thicken and cool down to 88-90°F. This should take 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining 1/3 unmelted chocolate and mix it together until fully combined. Maintain 88-90°F temperature.
  5. Time to dip!

It may take some practice to get the feel for when the chocolate is at the right consistency on the cold slab. But once you get it down, this old school method definitely does the trick!

The Microwave Method

Don't have a double boiler or marble slab? No worries - you can temper chocolate in the microwave too!

  1. Chop your chocolate into very small, uniform pieces so it melts evenly.
  2. Melt about 50% of the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring very well after each one.
  3. Once half the chocolate is just about melted, remove from microwave and stir until completely smooth.
  4. Add the remaining unmelted chocolate pieces and stir gently until combined and melted.
  5. Cool chocolate to 88-90°F by placing bowl on cool surface and stirring frequently.
  6. Maintain ideal dipping temperature as you work. Reheat as needed in 5-10 second microwave bursts.

It can be easy to overheat chocolate in the microwave, so stir well and use short increments to avoid scorching. But it does work in a pinch!

Pro Tips for Dip Dipping Success

Once your chocolate is perfectly tempered, follow these tips for flawless results:

  • Work quickly and efficiently. Tempered chocolate can only be worked with for so long before it starts to thicken and get too cool. Have everything ready to go for assembly line dipping.
  • Use quality chocolate. Splurge on the good stuff - it makes a difference! Use real couverture or melanange chocolate specifically made for dipping or coating. Grocery store chocolate chips won’t cut it. I’m looking at you, Mr. Hershey.
  • Dip smoothly in one motion. Dip the item straight down into the chocolate so it’s completely submerged, then lift straight up in one smooth motion. This helps prevent thick uneven drips.
  • Shake it off. Gently shake off any excess chocolate dripping off the item right as you lift it out of the dipping bowl. This prevents bigglops from ruining your decor.
  • Cool properly. Let dipped items set on a cooling rack or parchment paper until chocolate is completely set. Don’t try to move or handle until ready. Have patience, grasshopper!

Follow these steps, and your dipped strawberries, pretzels, cookies and other treats will look like you bought them straight from the fancy chocolate shop in the mall!

Troubleshooting Issues with Your Dipped Treats

What if even after tempering, you still end up with imperfectly dipped treats? Not to worry - here are some common problems and how to fix them:

Dull, streaky finish: Your chocolate got too cool and the cocoa butter fats aren't glossy. Reheat chocolate gently to 88-90°F and work faster next time.

Thick, gloopy coating: Chocolate was too warm, making it runny and thick. Cool it down to proper dipping temperature.

Soft or sticky set: If your chocolate stays sticky or soft, the chocolate wasn't tempered properly. Check your thermometer calibration and technique.

White spots or blooming: This happens if any moisture got into the chocolate or it seized up. Wipe down bowls thoroughly and use dry utensils. Re-temper using correct method.

Not hardening: You may have under-tempered the chocolate. Let it fully harden overnight in cool, dry place before troubleshooting.

Don't sweat it too much - it takes practice! Play around with different chocolates, flavors, and treats to find what you like best.

To Sum It All Up…

  • Tempering chocolate is easy once you know the secret methods to melt, cool, and work with it properly.
  • Seed tempering, tabling, and microwave methods all work well to get chocolate into the ideal 88-90°F dipping range.
  • Use quality couverture chocolate and dip smoothly in one motion for glossy, professional coats.
  • Let dipped treats cool completely before moving or handling.
  • Troubleshoot any issues with dull, thick, or soft chocolate by checking your tempering method/temperatures.

Now you’re ready to dip all the things! Try fruit, cookies, pretzels, marshmallows, nuts, ginger…you name it. Get creative with sprinkles, crushed candy, coconut, crushed cookies or whatever toppings you love.

Make sure to enjoy a few melted chocolate "samples" yourself as you work - only for quality control purposes, of course. Gotta make sure that temper is juuuust right.

Let me know how your chocolate dipping extravaganzas go! I'm sure Willy Wonka would be proud. Just maybe leave the chocolate river at home.