Tempering is the process of melting and cooling chocolate so it will be smooth and glossy when it sets (on, say, a chocolate-covered strawberry). Chocolate that isn't tempered is often gray, streaky and soft. Tempering is key for making chocolate-dipped goodies and other candies. Use one of the methods below—an instant-read thermometer is the only equipment you need. Candy-making products called "melts" let you skip the tempering, but they are not real chocolate: They're usually made with partially hydrogenated oil in place of cocoa butter.
On the stove
Finely chop 1 pound dark, milk or white chocolate. Combine three-quarters of the chocolate and 2 teaspoons shortening in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Don't let the water touch the bowl.) Melt the chocolate and bring it to 100?, stirring, then place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water; stir in the remaining chocolate until melted (the temperature should drop to about 82?). Place the bowl back over the simmering water. Bring dark chocolate to 90?and milk or white chocolate to 88?. Rewarm to 90? or 88? if the chocolate cools and becomes too thick for dipping or pouring.
In the microwave
Finely chop 1 pound dark, milk or white chocolate. Combine three-quarters of the chocolate and 2 teaspoons shortening in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds, then stir. Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and the temperature is 100?. Remove the bowl and place it in a larger bowl of cold water; stir in the remaining chocolate until melted (the temperature should drop to about 82?). Remove the bowl from the water and microwave in 10-second intervals until dark chocolate is 90? and milk or white chocolate is 88?. Rewarm to 90? or 88? if the chocolate cools and becomes too thick for dipping or pouring.
Be careful when tempering white chocolate, especially in the microwave: It has a very low melting temperature and can scorch easily. Unlike milk and dark chocolate, it does not contain cocoa solids; it's a mix of cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar.
This is our go-to for candy making—it's more stable and easier to temper than milk or white chocolate. Tempered dark chocolate, such as semisweet or bittersweet, makes a nice snap when you break it.
Like white chocolate, this melts at a lower temperature than dark chocolate, so watch it closely. Because of the added milk solids and low percentage of cocoa butter in milk chocolate, your candy will be slightly softer with less snap than candy made with dark chocolate.
Keep your chocolate and tools dry.
If water or steam gets into the bowl while you're melting, the chocolate will seize up into a stiff, grainy paste.
Finely chop your chocolate.
This helps it melt quickly and evenly. If you're chopping a big, thick block, use a large serrated knife.
Avoid chocolate chips.
They're made with less cocoa butter than bar chocolate, so they don't melt as easily. Good-quality bar chocolate is your best bet.
Test your temper.
Spread a small amount of melted chocolate on a plate; the chocolate should harden in a few minutes and remain shiny. If it doesn't, repeat the tempering process.
Reuse your chocolate.
Let your leftover tempered chocolate harden, then cover and store it at room temperature. You can re-temper it up to two more times.