1. Always chop chocolate into uniform pieces with a sharp knife on a cutting board (free of odors) to expedite the melting process.
2. Avoid excessive heat, which will burn chocolate into a thick, gritty disaster.
3. Avoid adding moisture, which will cause the chocolate to seize, or become pasty, stiff and impossible to use. Dry all utensils and pans thoroughly before coming into contact with the chocolate, and be careful not to splash any water or allow steam to get into the melting pot.
Skillet Method: Heat about an inch of water in a skillet until it is barely simmering or very hot. Place chopped chocolate in a dry stainless steel bowl and set the bowl into the skillet. Do not cover, but do stir frequently with a dry rubber spatula. Remove the bowl when only a few chocolate pieces remain. Continue stirring until those last pieces smooth away.
Microwave Method: Place chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Reduce the microwave power to 50% and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Stir the chocolate. Repeat this process, stirring the chocolate after each cooking period. As the chocolate begins to melt, reduce the time from 20-30 seconds to 5-10 seconds. If you try to melt chocolate in one interval, your chocolate is liable to burn.
Double-Boiler Method: Heat water in the bottom of a double-boiler, just until very warm, not boiling. (You can make your own double boiler, if you don't own one, by inserting a glass bowl into a saucepan. The bottom of the bowl should not come into contact with the water in the pan. Place the chopped chocolate into the top of the double-boiler or bowl and set over the hot water. As the chocolate starts to melt, stir gently to even out hot-spots. When it is completely smooth, remove the bowl from the heat.
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