High heat is key. Also, no string.
Swirl instead of stir. I usually add a teaspoon of corn syrup. It prevents the caramel from seizing up.
Alice Waters's formula:
1 cup of sugar and 6 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to caramelize. Swirl the pan to make the caramelizing even. (Julia Child has you cover the pan with a lid so the sugar crystals on the side dissolve.)
I'd second the Julia Child advice. Sugar in, with just enough water to moisten it all. Leave the lid on until the liquid is completely clear, with all the sugar dissolved. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and bubble until you see hints of brown. Swirl a little to keep the colour even at this point, but otherwise there's no need to stir or swirl.
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Well played. You deserve a cookie.
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