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How to Make Caramel - Step-by-Step Troubleshooting Guide and Video!

How To Make Caramel (Troubleshooting Guide & Video)

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How To Make Caramel: Here are your best steps to success when making caramel!


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 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 crystalize 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.

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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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Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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20 Comments

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  1. Azeema on April 29, 2019 at 11:09 am

    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 ❤

    • Gemma Stafford on April 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      aw thank you so much! That is really kind :).

      We pride ourselves on that so thanks.
      Gemma.

  2. Faiza khan on March 10, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    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

    • Gemma Stafford on March 11, 2019 at 4:10 pm

      Hi there, this sounds like you might have taken it too far and over cooked the sugar, this can cause it to set. Im sorry to hear that but it happens to the best of us, me included!

  3. Julie woods on February 26, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Gemma I have tried to make millionaires shortbread and the shortbread was gorgeous but the caramel went to hard like toffee. Could you give me the recipe for the millionaires shortbread please as I can’t find it on your side and the ingredients please and by the way I have made lots of your recipes and they are all amazing and very easy to follow.

  4. Polly on January 13, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Gemma!

    Many thanks for the technique and explanation. I cook big quantities of caramel and still struggling with crystallization. The basics are 1 kg of sugar, 800 gr of maple syrup, then cream, vanilla and butter. If you think water will solve the problem here, then how much should I add please? I tried lemon juice as well, but that left me with a lemon taste…

    Thank you in advance!
    Polly

    • Gemma Stafford on January 14, 2019 at 3:12 am

      Hi Polly,
      A clean pan, no trace of the sugar crystals. If you use water, then it should be just sufficient to bind the sugar, like sand, to prevent the dry crystals from interfering with the caramel. Then slowly dissolve the sugar, very gently, you will know when it is dissolved as you will not feel the grains under the spoon. Only then will you increase the temperature. If you loosely cover the pan it will cause steam to keep the sided of the pan clean, but this is a tricky thing to control. Corn syrup can help to prevent crystallization, just a little, as well as the acid, such as lemon juice, or cream of tartar, but just a little.
      That is a lot of caramel, and I have a feeling that the temperature is the issue, you are raising the temperature before the sugar is fully dissolved. Wet the sugar, but only just, then proceed as above.
      I hope this is of help, it is so disappointing when it does not work out.
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Meena on November 12, 2018 at 7:29 am

    I love all your recipes but still unable to crack this caramel recipe as the caramel is not appearing and the sugar keeps boiling in simmer for more than an hour. Please help on this.

    • Gemma Stafford on November 13, 2018 at 2:58 am

      Hi Meena,
      Are you using sugar or a sugar substitute?
      It is impossible for this to simmer for that time without caramelizing as the water content begins to evaporate.
      Some sugar subs will never caramelize, is that it?
      Gemma 🙂

  6. Auddi on October 14, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    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.

    • Gemma Stafford on October 16, 2018 at 8:38 am

      Hi Auddi,
      I hear you! This was not so much a recipe as a technique for making any caramel sauce. (https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/ice-cream-sauce-chocolate-raspberry-butterscotch/) here is the butterscotch one, and there is a vegan version, and a salted caramel version too on the website. The method here is the beginning of any caramel sauce!
      Gemma 🙂

      • BarryFromEastenders on November 16, 2018 at 10:19 am

        Hello, I have the same question as Auddi. You didn’t answer about the quantities. How much sugar and water is needed for just making a basic sugar into caramel. Trying to add to hazelnuts to make a praline paste.?

        • Gemma Stafford on November 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm

          Hi,

          Are you making a praline? if so :

          1 1/2 cup (71/2oz/213g) slivered almonds
          2 cups (16oz/454g) sugar
          1 tablespoon (1/2oz/ 15g) butter, at room temperature
          1/2 cup (4floz/115ml) water

          a caramel sauce however is different. Here is a recipe for a sauce

          Best,
          Gemma.

  7. Rosepdx on October 8, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Just joined the site today, but have been enjoying your recipes & videos for a long time. Looking forward to trying some of your ideas, especially the homemade caramel. I too needed to know how to ‘save’ the tips.

    • Gemma Stafford on October 9, 2018 at 1:58 am

      Hi there,
      good to have you with us. Here on the website, just beneath the title of the recipe, there is a little black circle with a heart symbol. Right beside my name and the date of the recipe. If you select this the recipes will save to your profile. On Facebook there are also ways to save a video to your timeline. Check out the options there. Here you can also print the recipes, or copy and paste them to save to your own device. Lots of options for you,
      Gemma 🙂

  8. Lily Azimi on October 8, 2018 at 7:41 am

    It is such a basic recipe thanks👍

    • Gemma Stafford on October 9, 2018 at 3:21 am

      Hi Lily,
      yes, it is, and an important element of other things.
      thank you foe being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  9. Chrissie254 on October 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Help how do I save this recipe?

    • Gemma Stafford on October 8, 2018 at 1:22 am

      Hi Chrissie,
      The ‘save’ button is the heart symbol at introduction to the recipe.
      Thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

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