Bain-marie Cooking Technique

The “bain-marie” is a cooking technique characterized by the indirect transmission of heat. It is in fact based on the use of a first container containing hot water, in which is immersed a second container containing the food to be cooked. The first container is directly heated on the fire or on a hotplate.

The peculiarity of bain-marie is the progression of the thermal increase and the maximum limit of about 100°C (212°F), beyond which water cannot go because it reaches boiling point.
Bain-marie cooking is used for certain creams or for some whipped doughs; today, it is often replaced by some machines such as pasteurizers or tempering machines.

Pasteurizer is mainly used for creams and sorbets, whereas tempering machine is used for covering chocolate.
On the other hand, for small quantities is enough the classic bain-marie, of which experts differentiate three types.

Dynamic Bain-Marie

It consists of a pot in which water is heated to a temperature of 95°C and transmits the heat to another wooden container; inside this, the operator stirs until the mixture congeals. The water must never reach a boil.

Static Bain-Marie

It is aimed at the preparation of puddings whose mixture must be poured into buttered molds, placed in pots half filled with water. The prolonged heat treatment can be carried out with the water at an intense boil. A variant of this system involves placing the container in a pan with high edges, in which boiling water is placed. The whole is put in the oven at 200°C for at least half an hour.

Not Bain-Marie Cooking

Warm water is put inside a casserole placed over a moderate heat source. Inside, in another container, butter creams and other compounds are prepared to be assembled without cooking.

Uses in the Kitchen

The water bath can be used in the following ways:

  • Melting chocolate to avoid separation and crusting instead typical of pans over a fire
  • Bake cheesecakes without sinking in the center or cracking
  • Bake creams without lumps and surface film (also thanks to the steam that rises)
  • Classic hot sauces, such as Dutch and Béarnaise, which require some heat to emulsify the mixture, but not too much because a high temperature would cause the sauce to curdle or “split”
  • Some products, such as terrines and pâtés, are cooked in a “baked water bath”
  • Adding condensed milk
  • Warming milk for feedings
  • Keep food warm for long periods of time (food warmer)
  • Lique crystallized honey by putting the glass jar in the water bath.