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Candy Curiosities: The Science of Cooking Sugar

candy cooking temperature

When cooked at different temperatures, a mixture of sugar and water can produce your candy favorites.

Turning water and sugar into a delicious lollipop is no simple feat. Cooking sugar is a delicate art, and the process is quite involved. Different temperatures correspond to different sugary outcomes, and in order to be true master of all things syrup, fudge, and sucker, you’ve got to know your stuff. For candy lovers with a budding curiosity, or aspiring candy makers, here are the basics.

Things to Know

When you dive into your first sugar recipe, you’ll start with a boiling mixture of sugar and water, and you it’s your job to stop the cooking at the right point. As the mixture gets hotter, the concentration of sugar will increase because water will boil away. To ensure that you can keep a keen eye on the temperature of your sugar, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with a sugar thermometer. When you think your sugar is at the right temperature, drop a bit into cold water to cool and take a look at the result. This will give you confirmation that your temperature is right. Before you use your thermometer, check it’s functionality in boiling water. At sea level water should boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Stages of Sugar Cooking

Thread Stage – When your sugar mixture reaches 230 to 235 degrees, it is in the thread stage. Dropping this mixture into cool water will result in a thread like stream that won’t ball up. As sugar at this temperature will remain liquid, the thread stage is great for simple syrups or sauces.

Soft-ball Stage – Your sugar has reached the soft-ball stage when your sugar thermometer reads between 235 and 240 degrees. When you perform the cold water test, your sugar will form a squishy ball and when removed from the water, it will flatten. This stage is ideal for things like fudge and fondant.

Firm-ball Stage – The optimal temperature for this stage of sugar cooking is between 245 and 250 degrees. When you drop it in water, it will form a harder ball that won’t flatten but will remain malleable, much like a caramel candy. This sugar will flatten if you squeeze it.

Hard-ball Stage – Heat your sugar mixture to 250 to 265 degrees, and drop a bit in water. When you do, your sugar will form a hard ball that won’t flatten. You can still squish it and alter its shape slightly. This type of sugar is used in things like marshmallows and gummies.

Soft-crack Stage – At this stage there will be very little water left in the mix and bubbles start getting smaller and closer together. The temperature will reach 270 to 290 degrees, and when you drop it into water it solidifies in flexible threads. This type of sugar is good for things like butterscotch and salt water taffy.

Hard-crack Stage – You’ve reached this stage when your sugar mixture reaches 300 to 310 degrees. There will be almost no water left, and when dropped in cold water, the sugar will harden in solid, brittle threads. This sugar will be extremely hot and can be used in creating lollipops, toffee and hard candy.

Wockenfuss Candies

At Wockenfuss, sugar is a vital part of what we do. If you have any questions about our products, please contact us at Wockenfuss Candies: call 1-800-296-4414 or email When you’re not savoring our specialties, satisfy your sweet tooth by following us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest!


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 3:13 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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