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What kind of Bain Marie should you use? Water Bath vs. Dry Heat

Electrical Bain Marie Dry Heat 10294 Large

Bain Marie’s are used in science, industry and cooking to heat materials gently and gradually to a desired temperature or to preserve the temperature of materials over a period of time. Usually consisting of three parts, one or several smaller containers are stored inside a main container where the heat source is supplied and a lid to keep the heat in.

Literally translating as “Mary’s Bath”, Bain Marie’s are typically heated water baths that house metal containers, conducting a consistent temperature through to another liquid based substance, often food.

Modern technology has however produced an alternative type of Bain Marie, using electricity to produce dry heat. Both water bath and dry heat Bain Marie’s have their strengths and weaknesses for use with domestic or commercial food storage and in the catering industry.

The traditional wet Bain Marie technique can be used for cooking, baking and changing the state of food, including melting and emulsifying sauces, as well as the added benefit of reheating and preserving temperatures. These appliances also produce a great deal of steam and provide a damp environment for food, which retains the moisture and prevents food from drying out. Whereas dry heat electrical Bain Marie’s should only be used for maintaining the temperature of food and heating it up.

Wet Bain Marie’s are often used for the following purposes:

  • Cheesecake can be baked in a wet oven Bain Marie to prevent it from cracking.
  • Custard can be cooked from scratch to prevent it from splitting or to stop a crust from forming on the top before the interior is cooked. The steam provided also keeps it from drying out.
  • Cooking warm sauces such as Hollandaise, as they need enough heat to emulsify but not too much heat to curdle the mixture.
  • Terrines and pâtés are also baked in a wet oven Bain Marie to maintain a consistent temperature and provide steam to keep the mixture moist.

However, because of the many uses for water based Bain Marie’s, they can be very expensive especially on an industrial scale. The water bath also needs to be continually topped up particularly when working at high temperatures. Furthermore, using water with electrical equipment has the potential to be hazardous if the machine is faulty or becomes damaged.

In addition to this, the appliance also takes longer to reach the desired temperature and requires more regular cleaning and draining than its dry heat counterpart. A dry electric Bain Marie can be installed immediately and reaches the set temperature faster, as the electrical element heats a thick aluminium plate rather than heating a body of water. This means the dry version is more energy efficient and more affordable.

Dry Bain Marie’s are an essential appliance for domestic and commercial events, restaurants, cafés and catering companies to reheat and maintain the temperature of a variety of liquid based foods. The last thing anyone wants is food waste or customer complaints about their food being too cold, not tasting as it should or making people ill because it was not heated thoroughly.

The wet heat appliance seems to be used for extremely specific purposes with temperamental foods whereas the Dry Bain Marie’s can be used for maintaining the heat and moisture of the majority liquid based foods such as:

  • Soups
  • Pasta sauces
  • Gravy
  • Mushy peas
  • Curry sauce
  • Baked beans
  • Cheese sauce
  • Porridge

The easy to use and affordable KuKoo Dry Bain Marie is available through the Monster Chef website and includes two stainless steel Bain Marie pans and lids.


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