Do I Need A Double Boiler For Candle Making?

What is a Double Boiler?

A double boiler is a piece of cookware that uses steam to gently heat foods. It consists of two parts – a lower pot filled with water that is heated to a simmer, and a upper bowl or pan that sits on top of the lower pot without touching the water. The steam from the simmering water gently heats the food in the top bowl or pan, providing a very even, consistent heat.

The key concept behind a double boiler is the water bath – the food never comes into direct contact with the heat source, so there is less risk of scorching or burning. The steam transfers heat from the simmering water below to the top pan in a gentle, indirect way.

Double boilers can be made from a variety of materials like stainless steel, aluminum, copper, or glass. The top pan may have a handle for convenient lifting on and off the steam bath. They come in many sizes to accommodate different capacities. Many people use improvised double boilers made from nesting pots and bowls rather than purchasing specialized equipment.

Overall, a double boiler relies on steam to gently cook or melt foods in the top pan or bowl without exposing them directly to heat. This makes it an ideal tool for delicate ingredients like chocolate, custards, sauces, and certain candies.1

When is a Double Boiler Used?

A double boiler has several key uses, particularly for gentle heating applications where direct heat may cause problems. Some of the most common uses for a double boiler are:

Cooking delicate foods like custards or chocolate: The gentle, indirect heat from the simmering water in the bottom pot allows cooking delicate foods like custard, chocolate, cheese sauces or egg-based sauces without curdling or scorching them. The steam heat avoids hot spots that can burn sensitive ingredients.

Candle making: Double boilers enable gentle, even heating of wax for candle making. The indirect heat prevents the wax from getting too hot and burning, which can ruin the wax. As this Reddit comment notes, double boilers are great for tempering chocolate for dipping candles.

Making lotions, creams, cosmetics: Similar to melting wax, the gentle heat of a double boiler allows cooks to melt ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, or coconut oil for handmade beauty products without scorching them.

Benefits of Using a Double Boiler for Candle Making

Using a double boiler provides several benefits when making candles. One of the main advantages is that it allows for even, gentle heating of the wax. The water bath created by the double boiler maintains a consistent temperature as the wax melts, preventing localized overheating.

using a double boiler provides several benefits when making candles, such as even, gentle heating of the wax to prevent burning or discoloration.

This even, gentle heat helps avoid burning or scorching the candle wax. Burned wax can discolor candles and give them an unpleasant smell. The indirect heat of the double boiler greatly reduces the chances of this happening.

Another major benefit is that a double boiler provides very consistent temperatures throughout the melting process. Direct stovetop heat can fluctuate as the burner cycles on and off. But with a double boiler, the wax melts evenly while maintaining the proper viscosity for combining with wicks and fragrances.

According to the Armatage Candle Company, using a double boiler leads to a “smooth, fully melted wax that is ready for you to add dye and fragrance” (source). The evenness and control of a double boiler simply makes for a higher quality end product.

Candle Making Without a Double Boiler

While a double boiler is ideal for melting wax safely and evenly, there are a few methods for melting wax without using this special kitchen tool:

The most direct approach is to melt the wax directly in a pot on the stove. Use a heavy bottomed stainless steel or enamel pot and heat it over low heat. Stir the wax frequently as it melts to prevent burning on the bottom. This takes careful monitoring but avoids any extra equipment. Be sure to unplug the phone and prevent any distractions while melting wax on the stove to avoid safety risks. Source:

A crock pot or rice cooker can also substitute for a double boiler. Simply add water and the wax to the crock pot, set it to low heat, and let the wax melt slowly. The indirect heating prevents scorching. Stir occasionally as the wax melts. Rice cookers work similarly – add water and wax, turn on the cooker, and stir as needed. This gives more flexibility for larger batches. Just monitor to ensure the water doesn’t boil away. Source:

A microwave can technically melt wax but this isn’t recommended. The wax can easily overheat and ignite. If using the microwave, only melt a few ounces at a time. Heat the wax in short 30 second bursts, stirring in between each one. But this method provides the least control and highest safety risks. Source:

Tips for Using a Double Boiler

To get the most out of your double boiler, here are some key tips to follow:

Water Level – Make sure there is 1-2 inches of water in the bottom pot. Having enough water will create steam, while too much water can cause it to touch the top pot. Check the water level periodically and add more as needed.

Positioning – The top pan should fit snugly over the bottom pot, but not tightly. There should be room for steam to circulate and heat the top pan. Center the top pan over the bottom pot.

Monitoring Temperature – Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat as needed. Use medium heat so the water simmers gently. Avoid letting the water boil rapidly. Check a thermometer to maintain an ideal temperature for what you are heating or melting.

Stirring – Stir the ingredients periodically for even heating. Gentle stirring helps ensure nothing burns or overheats on one side.

Prep Ingredients – Make sure ingredients are chopped or prepared properly to allow even heating and melting.

Use Pot Holders – The pots will get hot! Always use potholders when handling the top and bottom pots.

Alternatives to Purchasing a Double Boiler

If you don’t want to purchase a specialty double boiler pot just for candle making, there are some DIY options using pots and pans you likely already have in your kitchen.

One easy method is to fill a saucepan partway with water and bring it to a gentle simmer. Then, place a metal or glass mixing bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure it sits securely without touching the water. The steam from the simmering water will provide gentle, even heat to the mixing bowl, creating an improvised double boiler. Just be sure to monitor the water level and add more as needed (Source).

You can also create a double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Choose a bowl that fits tightly over the pot to trap the steam. Glass or stainless steel bowls work best. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water or let steam escape. This setup allows you to gently melt ingredients using the indirect heat from the pot below (Source).

With a bit of creativity, you likely already have the basic kitchen tools needed to put together a functional double boiler for candle making or other projects without spending money on specialized equipment.

Pros of Using a Double Boiler

A double boiler offers some key benefits that make it a useful tool for gentle heating applications like candle making:

Consistent, Even Heating: The indirect steam heat from the double boiler allows for very precise temperature control. This is ideal for heat-sensitive materials like wax that could scorch over direct stovetop heat. The double boiler distributes heat gently and evenly.1

Versatile for Other Kitchen Uses: A double boiler isn’t just for candle making. It’s great for melting chocolate, making custards, hollandaise sauce, and more. So it’s a versatile tool to have in your kitchen arsenal.2

Safer Than Direct Heat: The indirect heating of a double boiler greatly reduces the risk of scorching or burning your wax or other ingredients. So it provides a good safety buffer compared to direct stovetop heat when working with delicate materials.

Cons of Using a Double Boiler

While a double boiler has several advantages for delicate cooking tasks like candle making, it also comes with some drawbacks.

One con of using a double boiler is that it provides slower heating than other direct heat methods. The water bath acts as a temperature buffer, preventing scorching but also increasing heating times. For tasks requiring fast, high heat, a double boiler may not be the ideal choice.

Additionally, when using a double boiler you have to monitor the water level and replenish it as needed. If the water evaporates completely it can lead to scorching. Having to babysit the water level is an inconvenience compared to direct stovetop heating.

The third main drawback of double boilers is that they can take up more storage space with their two-pot design. The pots and lids can be bulky, especially for larger capacity models. Those with limited kitchen storage may struggle finding a place for a double boiler.

Overall, the slower heating, need for monitoring, and large footprint are the key disadvantages to keep in mind when deciding whether a double boiler is the right choice for your candle making or other kitchen tasks.

Types of Candles Best Suited for a Double Boiler

Certain types of candle wax melt and perform best when using a double boiler method. The top choices are:

Gel Candles

Gel wax has a smooth, thick texture that requires even, gentle heating to melt properly. Using a double boiler prevents the gel from getting too hot and losing its consistency. Melting gel wax directly on a stovetop makes it more prone to scorching.1

Beeswax Candles

Beeswax has a low melting point between 144°F and 147°F, so a double boiler gives more control over the temperature. It melts gradually without overheating. Direct stovetop heat can scald beeswax.2

Soy Candles

Soy wax melts at a relatively low temperature, between 115°F and 185°F depending on the variety. A double boiler prevents the soy wax from getting too hot. Overheated soy wax doesn’t perform as well for casting candles.2


In summary, while a double boiler is not an absolute necessity for candle making, it can provide some benefits for certain candle recipes and techniques. For basic candle making, a double boiler is not required as a makeshift setup with a pot of water and a heat-safe contained can suffice. However, a double boiler is recommended to maintain careful temperature control for more advanced techniques like using wax additives, fragrances, and certain wick types. The even, gentle heating of the double boiler helps avoid temperature spikes that could burn wax, seize up mixtures, or degrade additives. While not cheap, a purchased double boiler designed specifically for candle making could be a worthwhile investment for devoted candle makers working with high volumes or specialty recipes.

For those new to candle making or not ready to fully invest in equipment, alternatives like makeshift double boilers will work fine. Start simple without a double boiler to get a feel for the basic process, and then consider purchasing a specialty double boiler if making high volumes or more complex candles where temperature control is critical. With the proper care and precautions either way, it is possible to make great quality candles with or without a true double boiler.

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