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10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Caramel

Making caramel from scratch is no easy task! Fortunately, there's an easy way to fix most candy making mistakes.

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Pouring sugar into saucepan with boiling water. Candied Orange Zest Cooking. Series.; Shutterstock ID 162244724; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHffolas/Shutterstock

Adding too much sugar at once

If you pour in all your sugar at once, your caramel is more likely to crystallize. Instead, add your sugar slowly, swirling the pan gently as you go. This should keep your caramel the right consistency. By the way, this is the essential tip you need to know when making caramel.

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Fearing a dark color


If you’re a chocolate lover, you know that the darker the chocolate is, the richer it tastes. The same can be said for caramel. So, as tempting as it is to get the caramel off the stove top and into your belly for a taste test, leave it to cook until it’s a darker, more flavorful color. Speaking of mistakes, here are some mistakes to avoid when making candy.

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Using a thin pot

Thin pots will heat unevenly, causing the edge of the pot to burn quickly before the caramel can cook to its full potential. Use a heavy, metal pot to create the perfect caramel instead. If you’re using stainless steel cookware, make sure you treat them right with these tips.

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Choosing the wrong sugar

White refined sugar is almost always the way to go—it makes the caramel super smooth, and it won’t clump together as much as other sugars do. Always opt for sugar that comes from sugar cane or sugar beets when making a new caramel recipe. Here’s more about when to use each type of sugar.

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Forgetting a splatter guard

While adding water, cream or any other liquids to doctor up a caramel recipe, a splatter guard or mesh strainer is make-or-break—and a huge safety precaution. Place the mesh strainer over the pot before pouring in any of these liquids, so that the steamy hot caramel doesn’t splash out. Take a look at these other kitchen tools you didn’t know you needed.

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Cooking with a dirty pot

Cleaning pots and pans is a dreaded chore, but it’s extra important to have a sparkling clean pot to work with while making caramel. If there are any leftover stray crumbs, they’ll be pulled into the caramel mixture.

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Stirring too often

Think like Goldilocks. If you’re making caramel with a liquid base of water and sugar, it needs to be stirred just the right amount. Simply turn the pot a few times from one side to the other to achieve the best results—and minimize the sugar crystallizing. These are the holiday baking tips you definitely need to know.

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Skipping the candy thermometer

Candy thermometers (like this one) are your best friend when it comes to cooking caramel, and a kitchen gadget that every baker should own. They measure the temperature of the caramel solution, so you know exactly what stage it’s at. Plus, a candy thermometer makes stirring up all kinds of candies way simpler.

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Pot on the gas stove; Shutterstock ID 28375165; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHUlga/Shutterstock

Overheating the mixture

Be very careful as you heat your caramel. Follow the recipe carefully—like with these amazing caramel desserts. Never melt your caramel on your stove’s highest setting—it will cause the caramel to scorch and taste burned.

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Adding too much butter

There’s a whole lot to love about butter, but don’t get carried away. For caramel recipes that do call for butter, be sure not to add a smidgen more than what the recipe requires. Butter can go from deliciously rich to burned in a flash, so keep an eye on your buttery caramel creations and their proportions. Ready to get cooking? Here are our top 10 homemade caramel recipes.

Taylor Murphy
Taylor is a food, parenting and health writer. When she's not writing about the newest Oreo flavor or her favorite kitchen appliance, she can be found searching for her next coffee fix or taste-testing recipes with her daughter.

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