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! For an easily printable guide to...MORE candy temperature, check out the  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still make candy from sugar syrups by using the cold-water method. 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! For an easily printable guide to candy temperature, check out the  Candy Temperature Chart.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.