How Hot Does Water Really Need To Be For A Bain-Marie?

A hot water bath, otherwise known as a bain-marie, is used for both cooking and warming purposes, like melting chocolate or baking a New York-style cheesecake (per Wasserstrom). They go on to state that this method is just like using a double-boiler, where a bottom vessel holds heated water and the top vessel contains a baked good or an ingredient that needs to be cooked through or heated up.

Since the hot water bath is placed between the food and the direct heat source, like an oven, this prevents the textures from becoming dry, rubbery, or cracked at the top, as Kitchn explains.

What some home cooks don't know, is that the water needs to be at a certain temperature. Now it might be tempting to forgo a food thermometer altogether, throw in some water in a pan, bake your dessert, and call it a day. But, unless you like unevenly baked goods with spots that are overcooked, follow the below tip to find out how hot the water needs to be for a bain-marie.

Boil water to this temperature

According to Kitchen Seer, a hot water bath should be at a temperature of 212 degrees Farenheit. If you're using water for a cold bain-marie, then the temperature should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (though this method is more commonly used by caterers and buffets).

Cook's Illustrated states that the use of boiling water will result in more even cooking throughout the baked goods or food in question. Compared to ice water or room temperature water, boiled water is in (roughly) the same ballpark as the temperature of an oven. Cook's Illustrated goes on to explain that cooler water needs time for its temperature to rise, which slows down the cooking process for the bottom portion of the food, thus, resulting in uneven textures, tastes, and more importantly, doneness.

Fortunately, it's easy as pie to make a bain-marie per these instructions, as My Gourmet Connection explains. Place your ramekins or dessert pan into another deep pan with a capacity of between half and two-thirds the depth of the inside dish (you can also line this deep pan with kitchen towels so nothing slides around). Transfer this to the oven, and then pour your 212 degree Fahrenheit boiling water into this deep pan. Bake as you normally do or per the instructions you're following. And, when all is said and done, take your dessert or top vessel out from the hot water bath as soon as you can (otherwise, it will likely overcook). Whether you're making a Cuban flan or a bay leaf crème brûlée, be sure to use a bain-marie for moist and evenly baked desserts.