Why didn't my caramels set?! I thought I did everything according to the recipe! Am I not cooking them long enough?

kristin charpentier
Salted Pumpkin Caramels
Recipe question for: Salted Pumpkin Caramels


boulangere August 19, 2013
Taylor thermometers are my favorites as well. This is a dependable one:
Rebecca V. August 19, 2013
I went through a bunch before I settled on this one: http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Classic-Deep-Fry-Analog-Thermometer/dp/B00004XSC9

<$10, goes up to 400F, heatproof handle, glass bulb protected at bottom, tall enough doesn't fall in the pot, dishwasher safe.
Rebecca V. August 19, 2013
Rest of answer disappeared, hmmm... it said: <$10, goes up to 400F, glass bulb protected at bottom, heatproof handle, tall enough not to fall into pot, dishwasher safe.
marialissio August 18, 2013
Wow I just learned a valuable lesson. Thanks Cynthia. I had a go at making caramel once and only once. It was a disaster. I might have another go now.
boulangere August 18, 2013
If you are using a mercury-filled candy thermometer, it can't be calibrated the way you would a bi-metalic stemmed thermometer. What you can do is immerse it in boiling water, which if you live at or near sea level, boils at of course 212º F (every 500' increase in elevation means a 1º decrease in the temperature at which water boils, so know your elevation and do the math). See where your thermometer registers and adjust your cooking time and temp accordingly, much like taking a reading of you oven with an oven thermometer. If you're using an average $10 bi-metalic stemmed thermometer, which you can calibrate, it isn't going to do you a lot of good, as its upper register is around 160º, well below caramel range. Bi-metalic stemmed thermometers that register up to 300º to 500º are available, but for a price: $100 to $300. Clearly, boiling some water and testing your mercury-filled thermometer cuts to the chase much more affordably.

Caramel which doesn't set has generally been undercooked. In other words, not enough water has been driven off. Testing your thermometer will help you in that regard, but watching it for color and smelling its aroma will do achieve the same end. Once it takes on a deep amber color and begins to give off a deeply cooked scent, you're there. It takes vigilance. Don't step away to check email. If it smells scorched, it is. If it bursts into flames, call 911.
Lindsay-Jean H. August 18, 2013
Could your thermometer be off? Maybe try calibrating it if you haven't recently.
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