Can I Use A Pyrex Bowl For Double Boiler?

What is a Double Boiler?

A double boiler is a specialized piece of cookware designed to gently and evenly heat sensitive ingredients like chocolate, custards, and delicate sauces. It consists of two pots or pans stacked together, with one pan sitting above the other.

The bottom pan holds simmering water which creates steam that indirectly heats the top pan. The food contained in the top pan is thus heated gradually and evenly, preventing scorching or burning. This gentle heat also helps retain color, texture, and nutrients in delicate ingredients that could otherwise be destroyed by direct high heat.

A double boiler setup has several key benefits compared to conventional stovetop cooking:

  • Food is heated indirectly so there’s no risk of scorching.
  • Delicate foods are protected from curdling, seizing up, or separating.
  • image of a glass bowl sitting on top of a saucepan over a stovetop burner

  • Ingredients cook and melt evenly throughout.
  • Temperatures stay low so nutrients, colors, and flavors are preserved.
  • The water bath atmosphere creates a humid environment that further protects delicate foods.

Thanks to these advantages, recipes that require melting chocolate or cooking custard, hollandaise, cheese sauces, and other heat-sensitive ingredients often call specifically for the gentle, moist heat environment of a double boiler.

Can Pyrex Bowls Be Used?

Pyrex glassware is designed to be durable and withstand high temperatures, making it a popular choice for baking and cooking. According to the Pyrex company, their glassware can withstand temperatures from -40°F to 570°F (-40°C to 300°C) before becoming compromised or damaged (1).

The borosilicate glass used in Pyrex products like mixing bowls has excellent thermal shock resistance. This means Pyrex can go from freezer to oven without cracking or shattering from the abrupt temperature change. However, extreme swings in temperature should still be avoided (2).

For use as a double boiler, Pyrex bowls are generally safe as long as proper precautions are taken. The boiling water used should not exceed 212°F (100°C). Care should be taken when pouring boiling water into a Pyrex container to prevent damage from rapid heating or thermal shock. In general, pre-heating the vessel first is recommended. Additionally, Pyrex should not be placed directly on a stovetop burner or under a broiler, as this subjects it to too much direct high heat (3).

In summary, Pyrex bowls can safely be used for a double boiler provided the recommended temperature thresholds are respected and proper safety measures are taken to prevent thermal shock.

Advantages of Using Pyrex

Pyrex glassware provides several key advantages that make it a top choice for using as a double boiler vessel. These include:

Durability – Pyrex is made from borosilicate glass that can withstand rapid temperature changes without cracking or shattering. This makes it ideal for going from stove to freezer and allows Pyrex to be heated to high temperatures in an oven or on the stovetop. According to, “Pyrex® has a very high resistance to attack from water, acids, salt solutions, halogens and organic solvents.”

Ability to Monitor Cooking – Pyrex is optically clear, allowing you to see the food cooking inside. This permits monitoring doneness and prevents overcooking. As states, clear glass bakeware like Pyrex “makes it easy to keep an eye on your cooking.”

Ease of Cleaning – The nonporous glass surface of Pyrex resists stains and is simple to clean. Pyrex can be safely washed in a dishwasher. The brand Pyrex notes their products feature “glass that cleans easily and won’t absorb stains or odors.”

Potential Downsides to Pyrex

While Pyrex glassware has many advantages, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind when using it for a double boiler:

One concern is the possibility of the glassware breaking if heated too quickly or experiencing sudden temperature changes. According to Consumer Reports, Pyrex can crack or shatter when exposed to rapid temperature swings. This is because the glass expands at different rates, creating stress. Using Pyrex over direct high heat or cooling it too quickly, such as by placing it on a cold surface when hot, increases the risk of breakage.

There are also limitations on the maximum temperature Pyrex can withstand. Most experts recommend keeping temperatures under 400°F when using Pyrex for cooking tasks like a double boiler. Higher heat could weaken the glass over time and cause it to fracture.

Finally, while Pyrex works well for gentle simmering and delicate tasks, it may not be ideal for all high-heat cooking applications. Other materials like stainless steel or enameled cast iron may provide better heat conductivity and durability under extreme temperatures.

Tips for Using Pyrex Bowls

When using a Pyrex bowl for a double boiler, it’s important to take some precautions to ensure safe and effective use:

First, be sure to gradually heat the empty Pyrex bowl before adding any ingredients. This helps prevent thermal shock which can cause the bowl to crack or shatter [1]. Place the empty bowl over simmering water and let it preheat for a few minutes.

Always use proper pot holders, towels, or gloves when handling the hot Pyrex bowl to avoid burns. The bowl will get very hot when used for steaming or melting.

Make sure the Pyrex bowl is securely positioned over the simmering water and not at risk of falling into the lower pan. Use a saucepan that allows the rim of the bowl to rest securely on top.

Recommended Pyrex Bowls

Pyrex offers a wide variety of bowls that can be used effectively as the top pot in a double boiler. Here are some of the most popular options:

Pyrex Prepware 4-Cup Glass Mixing Bowl – This medium 4-cup size bowl features a spout and handle for easy pouring. The clear glass allows you to monitor the progress of your recipe. Comes with 1, 1.5, and 2 cup size options as well (Amazon).

Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowl Set – This BPA-free 4-piece set comes with 1, 1.5, 2, and 4 cup bowls, all with handles and spouts. The nesting bowls save space. The clear tempered glass is thermal shock resistant (Cooking StackExchange).

Pyrex Colored Mixing Bowls – For a pop of color in the kitchen, the colorful Pyrex mixing bowl sets come in various vibrant hues. Sets contain 3 to 6 bowls in nesting sizes ranging from 1 to 8 cups (Amazon).

Alternative Vessels to Consider

Besides Pyrex, there are several other vessel options that work well for a makeshift double boiler:

  • Stainless Steel Bowls – Stainless steel mixing bowls make a great double boiler vessel. They conduct heat evenly and won’t react with acidic ingredients like tomato sauce. Be sure to use a bowl with a flat bottom. Here’s a good set of stainless steel mixing bowls.

  • Glass or Ceramic Bowls – Heat-safe glass or ceramic bowls are ideal for doubling boiling delicate sauces or melting chocolate. Choose a bowl with thick, sturdy glass that is labeled oven-safe. This 4-quart ceramic bowl from Sur La Table is perfect.

  • Metal Pots or Pans – Any heat-safe metal pot or pan can function as the bottom part of a double boiler. Use a small sauce pot or saucepan that the top bowl can fit over without touching the bottom. Be sure both pans are the same diameter for stability.

The key for any DIY double boiler is to avoid the top vessel touching the hot bottom vessel. As long as you choose bowls and pans with some space between, you can improvise an effective double boiler setup.

Recipes Well-Suited for Pyrex

Pyrex glassware is ideal for making various recipes that require gentle, even heating. Some examples of recipes that work well in a Pyrex double boiler include:

Chocolates and Candies: Using a Pyrex bowl over simmering water provides the perfect way to melt chocolate slowly and evenly. This prevents scorching or seizing. You can make homemade chocolates, fudge, caramel, and more in a double boiler. See this recipe for Double Boiler Brownies.

Custards: Gentle heat helps custards like crème anglaise or crème brûlée set up properly without curdling or scrambling. Pyrex allows you to cook custards over a double boiler until just set.

Sauces and Dips: Making hollandaise, béarnaise, or other egg-based sauces in a double boiler is an easy way to prevent curdling. The even heat also allows you to cook down and thicken sauces gradually. You can even use Pyrex to melt cheese for dips and fondues.

Foods Needing Gentle, Even Heating: In general, delicate foods that should not be exposed to direct heat do well in a Pyrex double boiler. This includes recipes like zabaglione and sabayon that use whisked egg yolks. Poaching fruit in syrup is another great application.

Safety Tips

When using Pyrex bowls, especially for hot food, it’s important to take some basic safety precautions:

Use potholders or oven mitts when handling hot Pyrex bowls. The glass can get extremely hot when used for cooking or baking, so proper hand protection is a must to prevent burns. According to the Pyrex website, their glassware can withstand temperatures up to 500°F.

Avoid putting a hot Pyrex bowl directly on a cold surface like a countertop or sink. This sudden temperature change can potentially cause the glass to break or shatter. Let the bowl cool gradually before setting it down, or place a potholder underneath it.

Inspect Pyrex bowls carefully before each use for any cracks, chips, or other damage. Damaged glassware is more prone to breaking and should be discarded. Look closely at the rim, bottom edges, and handles.

Follow all recommended oven temperatures and use caution when broiling. Most Pyrex is oven safe up to 400°F. Improper use can lead to cracking or shattering.

When microwaving food in Pyrex, use microwave-safe lids and leave a vent for steam to escape. This prevents pressure buildup that could cause the dish to break.

The Bottom Line

In summary, Pyrex glass bowls can be an excellent option for using as a double boiler provided you follow some basic safety guidelines. The durability and heat resistance of Pyrex makes it ideal for melting chocolate or cooking delicate sauces without burning. However, you’ll want to use thick-walled Pyrex bowls specifically marketed for stovetop use and handle them carefully to prevent cracking or shattering from rapid temperature changes.

When used properly, Pyrex double boilers allow precise temperature control and are a versatile, affordable alternative to traditional stainless steel options. Just be sure not to place a hot Pyrex bowl directly on a cold surface, submerge it in cold liquid when hot, or use it under broiler heat. As long as you transition the temperature gradually and stir gently, Pyrex bowls should provide reliable service for all your double boiling needs.

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