How to Measure Candy Temperature Without a Candy Thermometer

Copper pot and candy thermometer
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  • 01 of 09

    No Need for a Thermometer

    candy thermometer
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    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

    Using the Cold Water Method

    A glass of cold water
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    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!

    Follow along to find out exactly how to know what the temperature of your candy is based on how it reacts in cold water.

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  • 03 of 09

    Thread Stage (223 to 235 F)

    Testing candy 223 to 235 F
    The Spruce / Elizabeth LaBau

    The earliest candy temperature stage is the thread stage. At this temperature, the syrup drips from a spoon and forms thin threads in cold water. Syrup at the thread stage is perfect for candied fruits.

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  • 04 of 09

    Soft-Ball Stage (235 to 245 F)

    Testing candy 235 to 245 F
    The Spruce / Elizbeth LaBau

    The syrup easily forms a ball while in the cold water but flattens once removed from the water. Recipes for fudge, fondant, and other softer candies should be heated to the soft-ball stage.

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  • 05 of 09

    Firm-Ball Stage (245 to 250 F)

    Testing candy 245 to 250 F
    The Spruce / 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, which means it's ideal for caramels.

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  • 06 of 09

    Hard-Ball Stage (250 to 266 F)

    Testing candy 250 to 266 F
    The Spruce / 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. Divinity and marshmallows are made with syrup cooked to the hard-ball stage.

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  • 07 of 09

    Soft-Crack Stage (270 to 290 F)

    Testing candy 270 to 290 F
    The Spruce / 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. Candies that are cooked to the soft-crack stage often feature a caramelized sugar flavor and a hard, pleasingly crunchy texture.

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  • 08 of 09

    Hard-Crack Stage (300 to 310 F)

    Testing candy 300 to 310 F
    The Spruce / Elizabeth LaBau

    The syrup will form brittle threads in the water and will crack if you try to mold it. Brittles and lollipops are made from syrup heated to the hard-crack stage.

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  • 09 of 09

    Caramel Stage (320 to 350 F)

    Testing candy 300 to 310 F
    The Spruce / Elizabeth LaBau

    The sugar syrup will turn golden at this stage. A honey color produces a light caramel, while an amber-colored syrup makes for a darker, fuller-tasting caramel. Anything darker than amber will result in a slightly burnt taste. Be careful: It's extremely 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.