In culinary terms, a bain-marie' or bain marie (also known as a water bath) is a French term for a piece of equipment used to heat foods gently and gradually to fixed temperatures.
- Used to melt chocolate to avoid splitting and caking onto the side of the pot.
- Cheesecake is often baked in a bain-marie to prevent the top from cracking in the center.
- Custard may be cooked in a bain-marie to keep a crust from forming on the outside of the custard before the interior is fully cooked.
- Classic warm sauces, such as Hollandaise and beurre blanc, which require heat to emulsify the mixture but not enough to curdle or "split" the sauce, are often cooked using a bain-marie.
- Some charcuterie such as terrines and pâtés are cooked in an "oven-type" bain-marie.
- Thickening of condensed milk, such as in confectionery-making, is done easily in a bain-marie.
- Bains-marie can be used in place of chafing dishes for keeping foods warm for long periods of time, where hobs or hot plates are inconvenient, too powerful or would dry out the food.
The device's invention is popularly attributed to Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist traditionally supposed to have been Miriam, a sister of Moses. The name comes from the medieval-Latin term balneum (or balineum) Mariae — literally, Mary's bath — from which the French bain de Marie, or bain-marie, is derived.