Why Half-And-Half Needs To Be Tempered When Cooking

Though you might be most familiar with half-and-half as part of your morning coffee routine to add creaminess and a touch of sweetness to a strong brew, there's actually so much more it can do when used in cooking sauces, soups, and more. The carton may look familiar enough in the grocery store, but if you wondered what actually gives this dairy product its name, it's because it's made with half whole milk and half cream (per Kitchn), and is therefore different from heavy cream or whipping cream. 

Now that you know a bit more about it, another important fact to understand is that half-and-half must be tempered before you start cooking with it. According to The Spruce Eats, this means when an ingredient needs to be stabilized so its characteristics stay intact. In the case of this creamer, it has do with its higher fat content as well as its temperature, since it's stored in the fridge. The process of tempering will ensure it doesn't become curdled or lumpy when you start cooking with it.

When you're combining hot and cold ingredients together, it's always a good idea to consider tempering, says Rouxbe. The goal is to make the two ingredients reach the same temperature gradually. This cooking and baking technique ensures that everything comes together properly, instead of one ingredient cooking too quickly, according to Crafty Baking

There's an easy way to temper half-and-half

The Spruce Eats breaks down the correct way to temper half-and-half to make your dishes shine. According to the article, you'll need to start by getting a heatproof bowl and add in the cold ingredient — in this case, the half-and-half. Then, pour a small amount of the hot liquid into the bowl, and start whisking them together until combined. Real Simple further suggests that you should be adding your ingredients together in parts, so don't pour all of the hot liquid in at once. Instead, pour in bit by bit and repeat. This will help the temperature gradually increase in sync.

Tempering isn't just for half-and-half, either. You can also temper other ingredients like chocolate, but the technique is different. If you're making a decadent dessert that requires this process to heat up and cool down the cocoa, make sure you're tempering your chocolate correctly for the best results that have the right texture and appearance.