10 common mistakes to avoid when making caramel

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Caramel is delicious. The simple combination of sugar & water, cooked until it has a golden brown color, is great by itself & also the basis for all sorts of interesting dishes. Add vinegar và you've got a gastrique, in addition to lớn lots of other fancy sauces. Showroom butter và cream & you've got a caramel sauce that's a perfect ice cream topping. Pour it over popcorn for caramel corn. Heck, you can even do what Andrew Zimmern does & make a fish sauce caramel sauce for pork or seafood.

But for something that has such a simple ingredient list—sugar & water, really, that's it—caramel can be tricky to make. There are two basic methods: dry, where you địa chỉ cửa hàng sugar directly to the pan to lớn melt it; & wet, where you địa chỉ cửa hàng water khổng lồ the sugar, allow the water to evaoprate, và then the caramel starts. Either way, you can run into problems. Here are a few things that could go wrong, and how to fix them.

Caramel sauce requires more space than the ingredients would have you believe. That's because sugar và water can bubble up furiously, particularly when you showroom ingredients khổng lồ it in the last step. Và you know what is a real pain to lớn clean off your stovetop? Sugar syrup. Plus, if it gets on your skin it can cause a serious burn. Use a pot that's bigger than you think you'll need, and make sure it heats up evenly. I usually use my 4-quart Cuisinart pot, và it works like a charm. This is not the time for thin-walled or nonstick pots. If you need to, break out the Dutch oven.

Even when you've cleaned a pot, it can be easy khổng lồ miss a stray bit of peppercorn or leftover herb hiding in the bottom of the pot. Make sure you give it a good wipedown before using it for caramel. This isn't only because the flavor might infuse into the caramel in a weird way, but also because any little bit left in the pot encourages sugar to lớn crystallize, which is the enemy of good caramel.

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Why bother with a bowl of ice water? It's not an extra ingredient. It's just a safety precation. If you get any caramel on your hands, immediately plunge them into ice water. Hot sugar burns you và then sticks lớn your skin until it cools, making the burn that much worse. Ice water is also useful if you start seeing crystals khung on the side of your caramel. You can use a pastry brush khổng lồ brush down the sides of the pot and it will halt the crystallization process. You can also use the ice water khổng lồ cool the caramel once it's at the point that you want—with a big enough bowl, or a sink full of ice water, you can put the pot in the water to cool it, making sure no water gets into the caramel itself.

This is the most annoying part about making caramel. If your sugar has any impurities in it—and most does—it can cause a chain reaction that makes the whole pot crystallize. This means you khổng lồ have to lớn start all over again. That's annoying! There are a couple things you can vị to halt the process, though. If cystals start khổng lồ form—they look grainy & they'll start to size around the sides of the pot—either brush down the sides with ice water or put a lid on the pot for a minute or so. The condensation should halt the crystallization process. As long as the whole mixture isn't crystalized, you should be able to pull it back from the brink.

With the wet method, you showroom sugar to lớn water in the pot, turn up the heat and... Wait. Unless you see crystals forming, that's all you do. Don't stir it! That encourages those pesky crystals. Plus, have you ever tried lớn get phối caramel off a whisk? It is really hard! Dry caramels allow you khổng lồ stir, but the process also goes much faster, so wet is a little easier for beginners. The problem is just watching the pot until the sugar begins lớn darken into that telltale caramel color.

Caramel isn't one of those things you can set & forget—once the sugar starts to lớn brown, the caramelization process happens quickly. If you're not careful, the sugar can burn & take on a bitter, unpleasant taste. If you're nervous, another good thing to have on hand is a candy thermometer. You're looking for a temperature of 340 degrees. Once your sugar syrup hits that mark, you're safe to showroom the cream and butter, or cool it off however you like. You can go a little longer for a darker caramel taste, but watch that it doesn't burn.

This is the worst part of making caramel—cleaning up. Luckily, there's an easier method than scrubbing off all that hardened sugar syrup. Just fill the pot with water and let it come lớn a boil. The sugar should dissolve again. Once it cools, you should be able to lớn just toss the water down the drain và clean the pot as usual. This will also work for any metal implements that accidentally got all crusted in sugar syrup.