Caramelized Sugar Recipe - How To Caramelize Sugar

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Caramelizing sugar is a term most often applied to melting sugar until it becomes a caramel color liquid. Caramelized sugar is simply a mixture of sugar and water cooked until it becomes syrupy and darkens, and reaching a temperature from 340 to 350 degrees F.

Learn how easy it is to caramelize sugar for topping your flans, making caramels, and other desserts. The technique varies on what you're using the caramel for, so care should be taken to note in your recipe what kind of caramel is called for. For example, the caramel needed for caramel candies is much less cooked than what's needed for spun sugar.

Always caramelize sugar in small batches, starting with no more than 2 cups of sugar. The  recipe below is for a small batch, as would be needed for a flan. IMPORTANT: A cook must have enough time to stand right by the pot as the process is going on.

caramalized sugar

stages of caramelizing sugar

Check out Linda's Butters, Condiments, Sauces, Relish & Jelly Recipes for more great ideas.

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Caramelized Sugar Recipe - How To Caramelize Sugar:

Recipe Type: Condiments and Sauces, Sugar
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min


1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
Drop of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, optional


Always start with a clean pan and utensils, as any dirt or debris can cause crystals to form around it

Heavy-bottom, high-sided saucepan
Wood spoon or silicone spatula

Prepare Caramel:

In a heavy-bottom, high-sided saucepan over low to medium-low heat, combine 1 cup sugar, water, and drop of lemon juice (the lemon juice keeps the mixture from hardening). NOTE: I find that by maintaining a low heat on my stove, I have more control over the caramelizing process, as it is really easy to burn.

Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to simmer. Sugar melts at about 320 degrees F. and will turn to a clear liquid at that temperature.

After sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, without stirring. Hold handle of pan and gently tilt the pan off the heat to distribute color evenly as sugar caramelizes. NOTE: Boiling times will vary according to different stove tops and other factors.

If using a digital instant-read thermometer, the temperature on your cooking thermometer should register a final temperature of approximately 340 to 350 degrees F. and the syrup should have a golden brown (light amber) color. Watch the changing of the color and the temperature carefully as it can go past the light brown stage quickly and burn. If you think it’s close to being done but are scared of burning it, you can take it off the heat and it will finish due to the residual heat.

This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world.

Immediately remove from heat and pour into individual ramekins or custard dishes, coating the bottoms evenly (tilt the dishes so that the caramel coats the bottom).

Set aside and let cool. To stop the caramel from cooking, some recipes have you dip the bottom if the pot in ice water for 10 seconds.

Photos showing stages of the caramelizing process:

stages of caramelizing sugar
Stage 1

stages of caramelizing sugar
Stage 2

stages of caramelizing sugar
Stage 3

stages of caramelizing sugar
Stage 4

stages of caramelizing sugar
Stage 5 - Done - Remove from heat immediately.

Once the caramelizing process is complete, and if you will be making a caramel sauce and will be adding cream or another liquid, this should be done very carefully, as the liquid will hiss and sputter. Add the liquid at the edge of the pan, slowly, and stirring as it is added.


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