I share a lot of homemade non-toxic products that require the use of the bain-marie method and I thought it would be a good idea to create a reference point explaining what it is.
So what IS a bain-marie, right? It’s a French cooking term for a hot water bath. It’s pronounced ban-mah-REE. Traditionally it’s used for cooking delicate foods over low temperatures. This is the method I use to gently melt a lot of the ingredients I use in the products I make.
HOW TO MAKE A BAIN-MARIE
A bain-marie is super easy to put together. All you need is a small or medium saucepan and a large bowl that covers the top of the saucepan. I like to use a clear Pyrex bowl for this.
Fill your saucepan with 2-4 inches of water and set your bowl on top. Over a low-medium heat, the water in your saucepan will begin to simmer and the rising steam will melt what you have inside your bowl.
NOTE: You don’t want the water in the saucepan to touch your bowl, and you want to make sure your bowl fits snugly, so the steam is trapped beneath it. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your water to make sure it doesn’t boil off. Add more if necessary.
IS A BAIN-MARIE THE SAME THING AS A DOUBLE BOILER?
In a nutshell, yes. A double boiler is two pots: a large one that looks a lot like a saucepan and a small shallow pan that nestles on top. Same steps apply. You fill the bottom pan with a few inches of water and the steam melts what you have in the top shallow pan.
BAIN-MARIE VS DOUBLE BOILER
Owning an actual double boiler is handy if you do a lot of cooking or regularly make products that require one. If you only need one occasionally, you can accomplish the same results with a bain-maire.
In the end, it’s a matter of preference. I love using the bain-marie method because it’s simple and easy to put together. I don’t feel the need to go out and buy a double boiler if I can accomplish the same results with a bowl and saucepan. I did buy a clear Pyrex bowl just for making my products, that way I’m not using it for food as well. If you have a double boiler or plan on using this method, I suggest getting one just for making your products. I personally don’t like cooking in the same dishes I use for making my products. That way there is no chance of cross-contamination.