How to Caramelize Sugar

The process of how to caramelize sugar is quite a bare one and is the begin of many dessert sauces and candies. The technique may seem daunting at beginning, but once you get the attend of it it will open the door to many new recipes to master !
Pot of sugar caramelizing
The process of caramelizing sugar feels like pure magic. Snowy white sugar granules are heated either solo or interracial with water and those crystals promptly become a fluid that starts to completely change in tinge and season. Caramelized sugar resembles nothing of its original express and the final result opens the doors to endless uses .
Caramelized sugar is used in everything from caramel sauces, candies, topping flan, ice creams, frostings, and so many more things ! It ’ randomness tied used for savory preparations such as the sweet and sour gastrique sauce.

The process for how to caramelize sugar can seem daunt, but I promise you it very international relations and security network ’ t. There is all kind of chemistry and science happening during the process, but I ’ meter going to break it down for you and keep it truly simple so you can approach this procedure with confidence !
Bowl of granulated sugar

What is Sugar ?

The white granulated carbohydrate most coarse in bake is a molecule known as sucrose. Sucrose is contained in all plants and is found in very senior high school quantities in carbohydrate cane and boodle beets. consequently, these are the plants where most of our granulate sugar is derived from .
Sucrose is actually made up of two different kinds of simple sugars, fructose and glucose, that are bonded together. This bail is very stable and is what forms the sugar crystals .
Pot of sugar syrup boiling on its way to caramelizing.

The Stages of Sugar Syrup

When sugar is combined with water and heat is applied a solution known as a simple syrup is formed. As the temperature of the boodle rises, more body of water evaporates off resulting in a higher concentration of sugar in the solution. The higher the concentration of boodle, the more brittle the cool syrup is. This is important cognition in sugarcoat make, as certain sugar concentrations are needed for versatile concluding products .
Below is a chart mapping out the assorted stages sugar syrup goes through before it reaches caramelization .

The Thread Stage 215-230°F 102-113°C Syrups, Preserves
The Soft Ball Stage 240°F 115°C Fondant, Fudge
The Firm Ball Stage 245°F 118°C Caramel Candies
The Hard Ball Stage 250-260°F 122-127°C Marshmallows, Nougat
The Soft Crack Stage 270-290°F 132-143°C Taffy
The Hard Crack 300-310°F 149-154°C Butterscotch, Brittle

Pot of caramelized sugar

Caramelizing sugar

When high heat is applied to sugar it begins to discompose and become a liquid. When sugar is heated even further it begins to turn blue in discolor and tastes nutty in relish. This action is called caramelization and is the basic process used to start many sugarcoat recipes and dessert sauces .
There are two basic methods used for caramelizing sugar : The Dry Method and The Wet Method. If done by rights, both methods achieve the like end leave, but both have their advantages and disadvantages. It truly is a matter of preference .

The Wet Method

The wet method acting is what I recommend for those who are brand new to the caramel making process. The benefit of the wet method acting is that it slows down the caramelization process and makes it more difficult to burn the sugar. The disadvantage of the wet method acting is that you are more at hazard of re-crystallizing the boodle and you must be much more careful to not agitate the concoction excessively much .
The process of making wet caramelized carbohydrate is very dim-witted. Sugar is combined with water system and heated. The concoction should be stirred together until the sugar is wholly saturate and beginning to dissolve. Once the sugar/water mixture comes to a boiling point it is then left entirely to cook, without stirring it. The concoction will go through all of the carbohydrate syrup stages listed above and then will move further into caramelization. As the water continues to evaporate off and the heat of the sugar rises, the sugar begins to caramelize .

The Dry Method for Caramelizing Sugar

The dry method for making caramelize carbohydrate is besides identical simple, but has its advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage to the dry method is that the caramelization summons happens very cursorily. The major disadvantage to the dry method acting is, well, the caramelization process happens very promptly, meaning it can besides burn cursorily. The other advantage of the dry method acting is that it is not quite as at gamble for re-crystallizing as it is with the wet method acting .
The march of making dry caramelized carbohydrate requires barely one component : sugar ! In a clayey bottom sauce pan, sprinkle a thin layer of carbohydrate over the bottom and call on on medium heat. You do not want to dump all of your sugar in at once, equitable start with a flimsy layer. As the boodle starts to melt, sprinkle more sugar over the layer that is melting. Using a spoon or a spatula, gently drag the un-melted sugar into the dissolve boodle. You are at less hazard of re-crystallizing the sugar with this method but you still do not want to stir aggressively .
Showing the color contrast between the stages of caramel

The Stages of Caramelized Sugar

once most all of the water is evaporated off ( even if you use the dry method carbohydrate does contain some water that will evaporate off ), the sugar moves into the caramelization stages. A candy thermometer can be used to measure the exact temperature of the caramelize carbohydrate, but your eyes and nuzzle are your best tools to judge when it is fix. Stay close by and watch the process of your sugar caramelizing very close. Once it starts to brown it can move from balmy and rich to black and acrimonious very quickly .

Baking Science Fact : Granulated boodle is a very bare bond of glucose and fructose. As estrus is applied to the sugar this adhesiveness breaks and the two molecules separate out. As even more heat is applied, these molecules begin forming bonds with countless other molecules and the ending consequence is the building complex flavored brown liquid known as caramelize carbohydrate .

Light Caramel 340°F 170°C For Syrups, Light Caramel Color, Adds Flavor
Medium Caramel 355-360°F 180-182°C Spun Sugar, Sugar Cages, Medium Caramel Syrup
Dark Caramel 375-380°F 188-190°C Ice Creams, Caramel Sauce
Black Caramel 392°F 200°C Caramel coloring
Burnt Caramel Anything over 392°F Anything over 200°C Completely burnt and unusable for anything

Caramel Sauce made with caramelized sugar

Safety Tips

When cooking boodle you are working with very high temperatures and a substance that is very sticky and can easily cling to skin. Please consumption circumspection. I ’ thousand not here to scare you into not trying to work with boodle, because honestly it is not a chilling serve ! But I do want to urge you to use caution. As person who tends to lick the spoon when cooking, I urge you to use restraint during the cook carbohydrate work !
here are a few comfortable safety tips to put your mind at ease when working with cook carbohydrate :

  1. Keep a large bowl of ice water nearby. If by some chance you happen to get sugar splattered on your hand, you can quickly dunk it in the ice water.
  2. Use a larger pan than you think you need. When I am making a small batch of caramel sauce (about 1 cup), I use a sauce pan that is 3 quarts. You definitely do not want to use small pans when working with bubbling sugar.
  3. Use a spoon or spatula with a long handle. You do not want to use anything with a short handle here, especially if you are going to be adding cream or another liquid to your caramelized sugar. The addition of a cooler liquid to your boiling sugar will cause an increased amount of bubbling and steam once it is added to the pan.
  4. Stay close-by and mentally present. When working with molten hot sugar it is best not to wander away or be distracted by your phone. The process can happen quickly so continue to be mentally present so you can be aware of what is happening and do not feel frantic when the sugar begins caramelizing.

Required equipment

The process of cooking boodle is quite simple and depending on what you are making precisely, you may or may not need certain equipment. Below is a number of equipment you decidedly need when cooking sugar for any use a well as extra equipment you may need depending on what the carbohydrate will be used for .

Heavy Gauge Metal Pot, Required : Required for any of the cook sugar uses. The heavier the batch, the more evenly the boodle will cook. If you are making something that requires adding liquid into caramelize sugar, such as caramel sauce, than you need it to be much larger than the sum you are making because it will bubble quite a bit once the liquid is added. Non-stick or coated pans are not recommended for cooking sugar as the sugar can pull the coat off the pan .
Candy Thermometer, Highly Recommended : If you are cooking carbohydrate syrup for candies, a sugarcoat thermometer is highly utilitarian for accurate temperature. assorted kinds of candies call for the syrup to be at different stages and the thermometer is setting you up for success. If you are just making caramel sauce, you can get away without using a thermometer. You can rely on your eyes and nose a well as estimate time to get it right. however, sealed caramel creations such as soft caramel candy adenine well as caramel to coat apples require more accuracy with the final temperature .
Long Handled Spoon or Spatula, Highly Recommended: A spoon or spatula with a long treat is highly commend, particularly if you are going to be stirring melted into your caramelize carbohydrate to make caramel sauce. If you do not have a utensil with a farseeing wield, consider wearing long sleeves and an oven hand or gloves while working with the sugar to be extra safe .
Pastry Brush, Optional:  many cooked sugar recipes swear by the fact that you MUST brush down the side of the pan with a pastry brush. I would argue that I have never once done this with any of the caramelization endeavors and have not had any problems. rather, merely take manage to keep the sugar in the bottom of the pan. If you are using the moisture method of caramelizing your sugar than know that you CAN stir it before the boodle is dissolved. Do not be scared to do that. many recipes harp that you can not ever stir it and this is merely not true. Make sure all of the crystals are off of the side of the pan and dissolve in the body of water. This eliminates the want for the pastry brush .

now that you understand all the basics of caramelizing boodle, come back Thursday for my tutorial on making Caramel Sauce for dipping and coating apples ! Caramelizing sugar leads to actually fantastic things !
The process of how to caramelize sugar is quite a simple one and is the start of many dessert sauces and candies. The technique may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it it will open the door to many new recipes to master!  Continue to Content
Caramelized Sugar in pot

How to Caramelize Sugar

Prep Time

1 minute

Cook Time

10 minutes

Total Time

11 minutes

Caramelized sugar can be achieved through two different methods : The Dry Method & The Wet Method. This “ recipe ” details each method acting for How to Make caramelize Sugar to use in any recipe calling for it .


  • 1 cup (7 oz, 196 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz,  118 ml) water
  • 1 cup (7 oz, 198 gr) granulated sugar


  1. For the Wet Caramelized Sugar MethodIn a heavy gauge metal pot, at least 3 quarts in size, combine the sugar and the water and stir. Make sure there are no sugar granules on the side of the pot. If desired, you can use a damp pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pot to get all of the sugar crystals into the mixture.
  2. Turn the burner on to medium heat. Stir some at the beginning to make sure that all of the sugar is dissolving. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is beginning to bubble, stop stirring.
  3. Let the sugar and water cook together. The syrup will move through the various sugar stages as the water evaporates and will eventually begin to caramelize. You can gently swirl the pan to achieve even caramelization.
  4. Watch the pan closely as the process moves quickly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as your caramelized sugar has reached its desired color.
  5. For the Dry MethodIn a heavy gauge metal pot, at least 3 quarts in size, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the bottom of the pan.
  6. Turn the burner on to medium heat. Watching very closely, allow the sugar begin to melt. As it becomes liquid, sprinkle more granulated sugar over the melting sugar until it has all been added.
  7. Use a rubber spatula to gently drag the granules of sugar into the liquid sugar. Do not aggressively stir but gently move the sugar around to achieve even cooking.
  8. The sugar will begin to caramelize very quickly once it melts. You can turn the heat down to slow the process down.
  9. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as your caramelized sugar has reached its desired color.

Use your caramelize carbohydrate in your coveted recipe. Pure caramelized sugar, like this, will harden very quickly so knead quickly to use it in your recipe.


Your eyes and your scent are your best tools for measuring when your caramelized carbohydrate has reached its desire color. however, you can use a sugarcoat thermometer for more accuracy .

  • Light Caramel (For Syrups, Light Caramel Color): 340°F/170°C
  • Medium Caramel (For Spun Sugar, Sugar Cages, Medium Caramel Syrup): 355-360°F/180-182°C
  • Dark Caramel (For Ice Creams, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Candies): 375-380°F/188-190°C
  • Black Caramel (Used as Caramel Coloring)392°F/200°C
  • Burnt Caramel (Not usable, throw out and start over): Anything over 392°F/200°C

Advantages of The Wet Method:  Easier to control the caramelization process, less find of burning. Disadvantages of The Wet Method: Takes farseeing to caramelize, more risk of re-crystallization Advantages of The Dry Method: Very quick process, less risk of re-crystallization Disadvantages of The Dry Method: More unmanageable to control, more risk of burning

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: