The bain marie is a French term. It refers to a (usually) cylindrical container used in cooking to heat substances slowly until they reach a certain temperature. The bain marie is used to maintain the warmth of materials too. In English it is known as a water bath.
Shapes and Size of the Bain Marie
This equipment comes in various sizes and shapes. In cooking, the most common sizes are 8 quarts, 2 quarts, 1.25 quarts, 8.25 quarts and many more. The shapes can vary, but the cylindrical metal container is most frequently used.
This container has three components. The fist is the handle. The second is a lower or outer container that holds the liquid which is typically water. There is also an upper or inner container. It is smaller than the other one and can fit inside it.
This is where the material that has to be cooked is kept. Depending on the size of the bain marie, there could be a base beneath it. Below the outer container is a source of heat.
Usually the inner container is soaked halfway with the liquid. In short, the outer container has the liquid and the inner container (which fits in the outer container) has the material to be heated. The base is then heated. This causes the temperature in the containers to go up. This water is used to keep the inner container from getting boiled.
If using water and the container is at sea level, the material temperature will not go over 100 C. If other liquids are used (salt solutions, oil etc) the temperature will differ. The size of the bain marie can also be a factor.
Dry Heat Versions
While the traditional bain marie uses liquid, there is an electric dry heat version now available. This is gaining popularity as it is easier to clean and heat up. It also takes up less energy. These can also function at higher temperatures. During the heating, the electric bain marie can use steam, vapor or hot water.
The bain marie has many uses. It can be used to melt chocolate so it doesn’t cake the pot. There are also dessert bain maries with a thermal insulation feature. it is utilized as chocolate fondue. The bain marie can also be used for making cheesecake. The main advantage of using it to make cheesecake is that the cheesecake won’t crack.
Custard can also be cooked in it. This is ideal because it will prevent a crust from appearing before the insides are cooked. Various sauces like beurre blanc and Hollandaise can also be prepared in the container.
Terrines can also be prepared in the bain marie. Frozen milk can be heated in it. Condensed milk can also be thickened in the bain marie. The container can also be used to keep various food warm.
If it’s going to be used for cooking, the size of the bain marie has to be addressed first. As stated, there are many kinds available, so you won’t have problems finding the right one.