The Lip Test Master Chocolatiers Always Use For Tempering

If you're a fan of making chocolate-covered strawberries at home, you probably know a thing or two about tempering dark chocolate — the process of melting blocks of chocolate for the fruit to be dipped into. And even though tempering chocolate involves precise steps of first heating, then cooling chocolate to specific temperatures, before warming it up again, there is an unscientific way chocolatiers use to determine whether the ingredient is ready to be used: this involves placing a dab of chocolate under the bottom lip, or on the inner part of the wrist to determine if it is ready. The method has been compared by chocolatier Christopher Curtin to testing the temperature of infant formula by placing a few drops on your wrist, per Food and Wine.

There's a reason why professionals have been known to use the method, even though as Curtin points out, it isn't really practiced in professional kitchens anymore. Chocolate is ready to be molded when it is between 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so the theory is that if the chocolate is at the right temperature, it might feel slightly warm, but it shouldn't burn the skin under your lip or the inside of your wrist.

Chocolate needs to be tempered or it won't be shiny

Tempering dark chocolate might sound like a lot of work, but it is a very important step if you want your chocolate to be shiny and evenly colored before you use it to dip fruit in or to make candy with. While you can melt chocolate over direct heat, master chocolatier Jacques Torres tells Food Network that it is best to melt chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie, or with the help of a microwave oven, where you can blast the chocolate on high for 30 seconds every time, until the chocolate has melted. It is important to check the chocolate each time by giving it a gentle stir, because melted chocolate won't always look like a molten mass — in fact, it will still hold its shape.

If you're making chocolate at home, putting a dab under your lip or on the inside of your wrist will work in a pinch. But as any professional will advise you, its still best to use a thermometer to make sure you've tempered your chocolate properly — which means melting the chocolate, cooling it down to 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and then heating it up so it is 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for dark chocolate, 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit for milk chocolate, and 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit for white chocolate. Otherwise you'll end up with chocolate that looks grainy or powdery.