A bain marie is a pot that is used to warm and hold food. It is an invention that is often used in restaurants, salad bars, and other places where there is a need to keep food at a certain temperature. The concept of the bain marie is very similar to a double boiler.
A bain marie is made up of two pots, the larger of which is used for heat and the smaller one for holding the foods. In addition to its main purpose of keeping food warm, you can use it to melt ingredients. For instance, you can melt chocolate in a bain marie.
Bain maries can be used to cook but are best for warming and storing delicate foods. Foods such as cheesecakes, creme brulee, and zabaglione are commonly prepared in a bain marie. This method also helps keep the ingredients in the dish intact, preventing caking and cracking.
Most commercially available bain maries use stainless steel. There are a variety of different shapes and designs for the pot. Free-standing bain maries are a more common choice for home cooking but are rare in commercial settings.
To use a bain marie, a larger pot is filled with water, and the smaller one is placed on top. Once the water is heated, it creates steam and produces a gentle heat. The evenly distributed heat allows the food in the smaller pot to be cooked without curdling.