So you think you know how to melt chocolate correctly—until you pull the bowl out of the microwave to give it one last stir, and realize it has turned into dark, grainy clumps. Turns out, you don’t actually know how to melt chocolate in the microwave, and that’s totally OK. We’ve all overheated chocolate at least once in our lives. But from time to time, you want to stir melted chocolate into your granola, or drizzle it over pancakes, and we have a simple trick for doing that without making a burnt mess. 

First, you need to know why your chocolate burns. Chocolate tends to "seize up" (yup, that’s the technical term) when it comes in contact with water. So, if the spoon you’re using to stir or the bowl you’re melting in is slightly damp, your chocolate will turn into a stiff, lumpy paste. Sure, that’s not the silky-smooth result you were hoping for, but don’t start over just yet (unless your chocolate is smoking and scorched—that’s the point of no return). If your chocolate is slightly overheated, there’s a simple fix. Rescue seized chocolate by mixing more fats—melted butter, canola oil, or whatever you have on hand—into your chocolate, starting with one teaspoon at a time. Continue until the chocolate has returned to its satiny drizzling state. 

Now that you know how to fix seized-up chocolate, learn how to avoid this common chocolate mistake all together. The most useful, simple trick is making sure your equipment is completely dry. Stick with glass bowls and metal utensils when melting chocolate. Wooden spoons tend to retain moisture, so even if it seems dry, it could still be a bit damp. There are also two popular ways to melt chocolate—in the microwave and in a double-boiler—and each has its own foolproof method.

1. To properly melt chocolate in the microwave, place your chocolate into a wide, shallow glass bowl. If you’re using a bar of chocolate, chop it into small chunks before melting. Microwave for 1 minute on medium heat, and then stir. Repeat this process at shorter intervals, stirring every 15 seconds until the chocolate is melted.

2. To properly melt chocolate in a double-boiler, bring several inches of water to a boil in a small pot. You don’t need a ton of water for this to work. It’s actually better for you if you don’t fill the pot too much, because it could splash up into the bowl of chocolate, and you know how the cookie crumbles (or the chocolate clumps). Cover the pot of simmering water with a tightly fitting heat-proof bowl, making sure that the bottom isn’t touching the water. Place the chocolate in the bowl and allow it to melt a little before whisking the chocolate until it’s smooth.