The 10 Best Candy Thermometers
This wiki has been updated 10 times since it was first published in April of 2018. If your chocolates, caramels, and hard candies haven't been turning out quite right, the amount of heat you're using could be the problem. Precise temperature control is extremely important when making certain confectionery, and a good candy thermometer can completely transform your homemade sweets. Our list includes both digital and analog models, and a few that even double as spatulas. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best candy thermometer on Amazon.
April 30, 2019:
If you're looking for a simple, straightforward candy thermometer with no bells and whistles, the Taylor Precision is hard to beat. At 12 inches long, it can be used in deep pots and pans, and it comes at a budget-friendly price of less than $10. The Oxo Good Grips is a similar model, but its lens is made from glass rather than plastic, so it's a bit more fragile. The CDN Programmable has convenient alerts to let you know when your candy is getting close to the desired temperature, which means you won't have to stand over the stove the entire time, but the screen tends to darken and become difficult to read at high temperatures. While not the most traditional model, the Etekcity Lasergrip 1022 uses an infrared laser to measure temperature, so it never comes into contact with hot sugar or oil, making it safer to use than most others. The Gourmia Stirrer and Polder Digital are essentially spatulas with thermometers built in, which can be handy for candies that require a lot of stirring, but note that they tend not to be quite as accurate as traditional thermometers, so they're not great for recipes that rely on very precise temperatures.
Do I Really Need A Thermometer?
The trouble is, you can't look at a boiling pot of sugar water and know which stage it's in, which is where the candy thermometer comes in.
Novices to candy making often wonder if they really, truly need to invest in a special thermometer. After all, a new hobby can be expensive, and even seem overwhelming, when there are a lot of tools to buy. But a candy thermometer is almost always a good idea. Why? Two words: sugar stages.
Essentially, sugar passes through stages of concentration as you boil it in water. The texture and look of the final product depend on how concentrated the sugar is — which stage it is in — when you stop heating it and complete the recipe. The longer you boil the water, the more concentrated the sugar will be, because the water evaporates as it cooks. In more concentrated stages, sugar makes hard, brittle candies (toffee), while stages that are less concentrated (i.e., boiled for less time) offer softer candies (fudge).
There are six stages to know for making candy, and an additional three that occur after you've boiled away all the water that are important for making things like caramel. The trouble is, you can't look at a boiling pot of sugar water and know which stage it's in, which is where the candy thermometer comes in. You simply heat the water as the recipe directs, and your candy will turn out with the proper texture. You'll need a true candy thermometer that measures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to do this, not one for meat, as these usually only reach 200 degrees.
It's also possible to determine which stage the sugar is in by dropping a spoonful of the boiling water into very cold water, then looking at it and feeling it. Sugar stages have names that correspond to how they perform when dunked into cold water in this way: thread, soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, soft crack, and hard crack. But even experienced candy makers have trouble determining cooking times with this method, which makes a candy thermometer a good idea for all.
And even with this tool, staging sugar can be tricky, so don't be discouraged if it takes you a bit to get the hang of it. To boost your chances of success, you might start with some of the easier candies to make. Chocolate covered pretzels, gumdrops, sugared pecans, cream cheese mints, and even some types of fudge are all fine for beginners — and make great gifts, to boot.
Tips And Tricks For Success
Buying a good candy thermometer is a start on your candy making adventure, but there are a few other things you can do to ensure success. For instance, you should round out your tool kit with a few other must-haves. At the top of the list is a sturdy saucepan, one that conducts heat well and evenly. A wooden spoon is also a must; don't substitute this for rubber or plastic, because they usually can't take the high heat. A good kitchen scale will probably also come in handy, since it allows you to measure more precisely than measuring cups and spoons (although you should have those, too).
For instance, you should round out your tool kit with a few other must-haves.
Another thing you can do is to always measure your ingredients before you begin. When the water's boiling and you're trying to monitor the sugar stage, you will not have the attention or free hands to stop, dig in the pantry, open bags, and scoop out ingredients. Place everything on the counter, in the order called for by the recipe, in advance, which will also cut down on any stress you might feel during the process.
Before you start, you'll also need to consider the altitude of your home. This is because the higher the altitude, the lower the boiling point of water, which is 212 degrees at sea level. Experts suggest subtracting one degree Fahrenheit for each 500 feet above sea level. You could also heat a pot of water and measure the temperature at which it boils in your home, which will give you a reference point for adjusting the temperature called for in a recipe. Subtract your temperature from 212; the answer is how many degrees you should subtract from the temperature given in the recipe.
Finally, as a beginner, don't double a recipe or substitute ingredients, especially if you need the candy for some reason, like a bake sale. The chemistry of candy making is complicated, and the slightest change can throw the whole thing off. That said, you may want to experiment as you gain some experience, but know that the results may not always be what you want.
You're Going to Eat That?
Most sources note that the candy thermometer was invented in 1272 by Bennet Muzilla of Frankfurt, Germany, but you can bet he never imagined some of the candies people would make with the tool. After all, people from cultures around the world have different ideas about what constitutes a sweet treat; what seems good to one group of people can seem unthinkable to another.
The ingredient also causes it to taste bitter and strange, at least to those who haven't grown up eating it, making it an acquired taste, for sure.
Like the durian candies popular in Japan. They're made with durian fruit, which sounds tame enough — unless you've ever smelled one. To state the case mildly, they reek. Some have compared the smell to rotten eggs and putrefying flesh. Yet many people adore the taste and enjoy candies made from it, so to each their own, we suppose.
And then there's salted licorice, or "salmiak liquorice," popular in the Nordic countries. Instead of traditional salt, it's flavored with ammonium chloride, which is actually a mild expectorant. The ingredient also causes it to taste bitter and strange, at least to those who haven't grown up eating it, making it an acquired taste, for sure.
Of course, not all "weird" flavors arise from cultural differences. Some are just plain strange on purpose, like dill pickle candy canes, beer flavored jelly beans, and bacon gum balls. Perhaps one of the most famous, though, is Jelly Belly's Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, at first a fictional item from the Harry Potter universe, but now an actual product you can order, assuming you don't mind biting into flavors like earwax and soap.
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