If you’re making a chocolate dessert, chances are the recipe calls for melted or tempered chocolate. But what’s the difference between the two? Lindt Maître Chocolatier Thomas Schnetzler explains melting and tempering chocolate, and shares when to use each technique for the best results.

Tempering

Tempering chocolate is a multi-step process that involves heating, cooling and then reheating chocolate to control its delicate cocoa butter content. This ensures chocolate maintains its glossy sheen, and prevents a white veil from developing on the surface, which is called bloom. If you’re making bark, edible decorations such as chocolate shards, or using chocolate moulds, you’ll want your liquid chocolate to re-set with its original qualities—a smooth, shiny texture with a quick and easy snap—which means you’ll need to temper it. You can find a step-by-step guide to tempering here.

Melting

Melting chocolate is the first step in the tempering process, and involves heating solid chocolate until it becomes a liquid. For most recipes where liquid chocolate is required, such as cakes and mousses, simply melting your chocolate will suffice.

If you’re working on a stovetop, start by boiling a few inches of water in a saucepan. Once boiling, take the pot off the heat and place a dry bowl with the chopped chocolate onto the saucepan, ensuring it fits tightly and doesn’t allow any steam to escape, which can alter the texture of the chocolate. The remaining heat in the water will easily and gently melt around 200g (two bars) of Lindt Excellence chocolate. Stir frequently and allow the chocolate to melt gently.

You can also melt chocolate in the microwave as long as you are mindful and use a low and slow approach with short spurts of time. Also, be sure that the dish you are using doesn’t hold too much heat (a bowl made of glass rather than thick porcelain, for example), which can result in burnt chocolate.