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How To Make Caramel (Troubleshooting Guide & Video)

How To Make Caramel: Here are your best steps to success when making caramel!
How to Make Caramel - Step-by-Step Troubleshooting Guide and Video!

Hi Bold Bakers!

I think we are all in agreement that making caramel can be stressful. After years of working in kitchens I have crystallized and burnt my fair share of caramel (and then washed the pan really quickly so my chef didn’t see it). So, I understand the stress as well as anyone when trying to figure out how to fix crystallized caramel, or avoid it altogether.

I even remember when I was young my mum would make caramel squares every so often, and while she was making the caramel layer we weren’t even allowed in the room. We had to wait behind a closed door. From then on I knew that making caramel was serious stuff.

Below are your steps to success, and a base caramel that can be turned into sauces, caramels, and more (like my Caramel Apple Tarte Tatin). However, making caramel is not just about following the steps — it’s also about control. Be in control of the heat and be patient, and I guarantee you will succeed.

[ What can you make with this process? How about my Salted Caramel Sauce recipe! ]

How To Make Caramel: What Are The Steps?

In this post, I have given a step by step guide to successful caramel making. I highly recommend that you also watch the video so you can get a good visual of what to do and most importantly what not to do.

How To Make Caramel: Step 1

Use a good quality, heavy-bottomed saucepan when making a caramel. Thin, cheaper cookware heats unevenly and will make your caramel process very difficult. Also, do not use a non-stick pan as it is not ideal for this job. Make sure it’s a medium size pan too, as your caramel will likely bubble up during cooking. 

How To Make Caramel: Step 2

Make absolutely certain the pan is clean AND your sugar is clean and free from impurities like dirt or residue. Sugar crystals can hook up with those impurities causing your caramel to seize and crystallize.

When making caramel, start with a clean pan.

How To Make Caramel: Step 3

Over LOW heat, let the sugar dissolve without letting it simmer! If it starts to simmer and your sugar is still in granules and has NOT dissolved, that can crystalize your caramel. You can swirl the pot — or at this point, you can go in with a clean spatula and stir it. Once all the sugar is dissolved, THEN you can turn up the heat and allow the mix to simmer.

When making caramel, let the sugar dissolve before simmering!

How To Make Caramel: Step 4

Once your mix is at a steady simmer, no more stirring!!! NO MORE! Putting a spoon or spatula in there now once it’s simmering can crystalize your caramel. If you’re following my steps and tips there really isn’t a need for you to put a spatula in there from here on in.

Once your caramel starts to simmer, stop stirring.

Ok. Sometimes, if not all the sugar was completely dissolved, you can get sugar crystallizing around the caramel. You don’t want these because during the simmering they can fall back into the caramel and that can crystalize your caramel further.  

How to avoid this: Using a wet pastry brush (dipped in water), wash down/dissolve the sugar crystals which collect on the side because this will stop them from building up around the edge of the caramel.

Using a brush to avoid crystallization while making caramel.

How To Make Caramel: Step 5

Be Patient. Caramel takes time to happen, maybe 20 plus minutes. If you think “forget that, I’m going to crank up the heat and make it caramelize faster,” then you are out of luck. Take your time and be patient. then you will get the best results.

Why is My Caramel Crystallizing? 

There are a few different reasons sugar can crystallize while making caramel, which are all addressed in the 5 steps above. My short video also gives you a visual of what to look for and what to avoid.

Avoid crystallizing caramel.

How To Fix Crystallized Caramel?

Sorry for the bad news, because there is no coming back from crystallized caramel. Just clean your pan and start over. It can’t be used or saved. So. How do I respond when asked how to fix crystallized caramel? Avoid crystallization in the first place — and I hope this article on How To Make Caramel helps you do just that!

What to do With Burned Caramel

If you burn a caramel, there’s not much you can do but toss it. It’s impossible to hide the taste of something burnt—so don’t even think about it. The best thing to do is to add more water to the pan and let it simmer, which will release the caramel and make the pan easier to clean.

How do I Clean the Pan After Burning my Caramel?

If you burn your caramel DO NOT POUR IT DOWN THE SINK!

Remove it from the heat and pour a big glass of water into the pot. Stand back as it will bubble up once you add water. Then, over low heat, let the pot simmer away for 5 to 10 minutes. This will dissolve the sugar and dilute the caramel. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a watery caramel you can then pour it down the sink without worrying about it setting in your drain.

Do I Need a Candy Thermometer?

You only need a candy thermometer when actually making candies, sweets, marshmallows, etc. and the recipe requires you to bring the sugar to a certain temperature, like soft or hard ball stage. They are inexpensive and very handy to have in your kitchen drawer. However, you don’t need a thermometer for making a basic caramel.

Recipes To Use The Perfect Caramel You Just Made!

If you made it through the process of How To Make Caramel, that’s wonderful! If you didn’t, I hope you won’t give up — you’ll get it, and when you do, you’ll be ready to make some of my absolute caramel favorites, like my Signature Salted Caramel Sauce recipe.

If you want that caramel taste in the easiest way, though, be sure to try my Microwave Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe! And if you’re vegan, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered there too: my Vegan Caramel Sauce.

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Dawn Robertson

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2 years ago

I read everything about how to make perfect caramel, also watched the video, but I can’t find anything that says how much sugar and how much water is needed to make the Perfect Caramel.

2 years ago

Hi Gemma kudos to u for such informative tips
I have nt seen anyone giving such elaborate explanations n advice
Kp it up
Stay blessed ❤

Faiza khan
Faiza khan
2 years ago

Hi Gemma! How are you.. this is the first time I’m commenting on ur site.. recently I made caramel pudding for the first time..(steam version of it).. but while making the caramel it was not of that pouring consistency..
As soon as my caramel got ready.. when I transfered it to another tin.. it didn’t spread evenly on the pan and got hard at one place… What do I do… Pls help.amd give some tips

2 months ago

Hey Gemma!! I wud be really grateful if you’d reply to this fast lol….. My caramel is ready it has a nice color to it but don’t know why it tastes kindof bitter..? Can I fix this also is it okay to use this in a banoffee pie if it’s still a little bitter??

3 months ago

Would it be possible to use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar to make lollipops or make caramel?

Would the powdered sugar burn?

Thank you for replying and taking your time to answer so many people!

Last edited 3 months ago by Naomi
Nenie Mae Sinoben
Nenie Mae Sinoben
3 months ago

Same my questions with Auddi how much is the sugar and water need to make a shiny caramel. Am planning to cook leche flan .

Nakiyemba Shafuulah
4 months ago

Could you be having some recipes on treacle and golden syrup making

Nakiyemba Shafuulah
4 months ago

Caramel really needs patience thanks for the recipe. What could be the difference between caramel treacle and golden syrup.

5 months ago

Hi Gemma! Do I have to wait for the caramel to cool before I can add cream and butter since I cant touch it while its boiling?

8 months ago

Hello Gemma,
I intend to try this caramel. It sounds delicious. I searched for a recipe where you mention thermometers and that is my concern today. How many thermometers does a good cook need these days? Now that I’m going to be a baker too, is there a no-mercury thermometer out there that will work for candy, meat and baking? Some people have thermometers in their ovens? Do you have a preference? A digital suggestion is just fine but I have no idea what to look at or how many I need?
Please help.

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere! No matter your skills, I have you covered. Sign up for my FREE weekly emails and join millions of other Bold Bakers in the community for new recipes, baking techniques, and more every week!