Philippa Sibley's expert guide to tempering chocolate

Philippa Sibley
13 March, 2014

Philippa Sibley shares her step-by-step expert guide to melting and tempering chocolate.

Tempering chocolate sounds like a daunting task but it’s all about temperature. When chocolate is heated and melted the fat molecules separate and to reunite them you need to temper the chocolate, which stabilises the molecules and ensures it sets with a wonderful sheen and crack. Chocolate work should be done at room temperature, ideally between 18°C and 24°C. If it is too hot, then the chocolate won’t set; if it’s too cold, then it sets so quickly you won’t have time to work with it. Humidity can cause problems as well.


  • your choice of best-quality dark couverture, milk or white chocolate
  • heatproof bowl
  • wooden spoon or heatproof
  • rubber spatula
  • digital sugar thermometer
  • large step-palette knife or
  • pastry scraper


1. Finely chop or grate the chocolate and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Let more than half of the chocolate melt before you give it a stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

2. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth and shiny. The temperature of the chocolate should be 50–55°C for dark couverture, no more than 50°C for milk chocolate and no more than 45°C for white.


3. Pour two-thirds of the chocolate onto a cool work surface (marble and stainless steel are the best). Set aside the remaining chocolate and put back on the pan of simmering water off the heat to keep warm.

4.–5. Using a large step-palette knife or scraper, work the chocolate continuously, bringing it up over itself.

tempering chocolate 1

6. Keep working the chocolate until it begins to thicken and the temperature drops to 26.C.

7. Scrape the chocolate off the work surface and return it to the bowl with the remaining warm chocolate.

tempering chocolate 2

8. Stir the chocolate until it reaches 30–32.C for dark and milk chocolate, and 28–29.C for white chocolate. The tempered chocolate is now ready to use.

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