How To Measure Candy Temperature Without a Candy Thermometer

Copper pot and candy thermometer
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  • 01 of 09

    Measuring Candy Temperature Without a Thermometer

    Making candy at home is fun but not many people actually own candy thermometers. Because candy cooks at a much higher temperature than most meat you generally need a special cooking thermometer made for candy. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still make candy from sugar syrups by using the cold-water method.

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  • 02 of 09

    How to Use the Cold Water Method to Discover Candy Temperature

    During the cooking stage, remove your pan from the heat and drop a small spoonful of sugar syrup into a bowl of very cold water. Immerse your hand in the cold water, try to form the sugar into a ball, and bring it out of the water.

    By examining the shape and texture of the resulting candy blob, you can determine the approximate temperature of your sugar. This method takes a little practice and is not as exact as a candy thermometer, but it will do in a pinch!

    Follow along to find out exactly how...MORE to know what the temperature of your candy is based on how it reacts in cold water.

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  • 03 of 09

    Thread Stage: 223-235 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    The earliest candy temperature stage is thread stage. At this temperature, the syrup drips from a spoon and forms thin threads in cold water. Syrup at the thread stage is perfect for candied fruits.

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  • 04 of 09

    Soft Ball Stage: 235-245 F

    Elizbeth LaBau

    The syrup easily forms a ball while in the cold water but flattens once removed from the water. Recipes for fudge, fondant, and other softer candies should be heated to the soft ball stage.

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  • 05 of 09

    Firm Ball Stage: 245-250 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    In this stage, the syrup is formed into a stable ball but loses its round shape once pressed. This is also a great stage for molding, which means it's ideal for caramels.

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  • 06 of 09

    Hard Ball Stage: 250-266 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    The syrup holds its ball shape and deforms only slightly with very firm pressure. The candy will remain sticky but it's easy to mold. Divinity and marshmallows are made with syrup cooked to the hard ball stage.

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  • 07 of 09

    Soft Crack Stage: 270-290 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    The syrup will form firm but pliable threads when removed from the water.

    Many different recipes require cooking the candy to the soft-crack stage, among the most common are toffees, brittles, and butterscotch. Often, candies that are cooked to soft-crack stage feature a caramelized sugar flavor and a hard, pleasingly crunchy texture.

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  • 08 of 09

    Hard Crack Stage: 300-310 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    The syrup will form brittle threads in the water and will crack if you try to mold it. Brittles and lollipops are made from syrup heated to the hard crack stage.

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  • 09 of 09

    Caramel Stage: 320-350 F

    Elizabeth LaBau

    The sugar syrup will turn golden at this stage. Honey color produces a light caramel, while amber is a darker, fuller caramel. Anything darker than amber will result in a slightly burnt taste. Be careful at this stage because it's really easy to overheat and burn your candy once you've reached the caramelization stage. Cleaning up burnt caramel can be a sticky endeavor. But caramel made just right is a rich treat.