Caramelized sugar is the basis for many candies, and if you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty simple. However, you must use caution because the sugar becomes very hot and will burn quickly.
For years I was curious about how to caramelize sugar in order to make homemade caramel sauce like the one above. I was intimidated by the process, but it’s really easy. I’ve laid it out below.Jump to Recipe
Easy Step-By-Step Instructions for How to Caramelize Sugar
There are two methods for caramelizing sugar: The Dry Method and The Wet Method. Both methods achieve the same end result, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Whichever method you choose, be sure to use a heavy-bottom sauce pan with a large surface area, and preheat it over medium-low heat, making sure the bottom is evenly heated. Also use a light colored pan in order to better see the process.
The Wet Method
- Easier for beginners
- Less likely to burn than the dry method.
- More likely to re-crystallize, causing a grainy texture, than the dry method so mustn’t be agitated too much
The wet method for caramelized sugar is very simple. Here it is:
The Dry Method
- Caramelization happens very quickly.
- Not as at risk for re-crystallizing as the wet method.
- Because it caramelizes quickly, it can also burn quickly.
The only ingredient required for the dry method is sugar. Here’s what you do:
Free Printable Recipe for Caramelizing Sugar
Caramelizing Sugar (How To)
Wet Method Ingredients
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
Dry Method Ingredients
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Wet Method Instructions
- Combine sugar and water in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium low heat, and stir together until the sugar is completely saturated and beginning to dissolve.
- Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat to high. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to swab down the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan, but do NOT stir. It must be left alone to cook.
- As the water evaporates off, and the heat of the sugar rises, the sugar begins to caramelize. The mixture will quickly go through all of the sugar syrup stages listed above. Be ready to remove it from the heat as soon as it gets to the desired stage, because it won’t stay there for long.
Dry Method Instructions
- Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan, and turn on medium heat. Do not dump all of your sugar in at once.
- As the sugar starts to melt, sprinkle more sugar over the layer that is melting. Gently shake the pan so that the un-melted sugar moves into the melted sugar. You are at less risk of re-crystallizing the sugar with this method but you still do not want to stir it. If necessary, you can use a wooden spoon to drag the un-melted sugar through the molten sugar to facilitate faster melting, but do NOT vigorously stir.
- As the sugar gets close to the desired stage or caramelization, remove it from the heat. The pan will still be hot, and the sugar will continue to get darker.