How to Make the Perfect Caramel

morecaramelstirring.jpg pouringcaramel.jpg

Here are my tips and step-by-step instructions for How To Make The Perfect Caramel.

(You may also wish to read Ten Tips for Making Caramel, which preceded this post.)

Ice Cream

This post is about the technique of caramelizing sugar. It’s meant to demystify caramelizing and there are some great recipes in the previous post with tips for you to try, as well as on my Recipes page.

Dry vs Wet Caramel

There are 2 different basic kinds of caramel: a wet caramel, where sugar is melted with water then cooked, and a dry caramel, where sugar is cooked by itself until it liquefies and caramelizes. Because sugar is partially water, heat liquefies it. That’s why many of low-fat desserts are full of sugar. Sugar makes things moist. (Something to remember the next time you’re thinking about reducing sugar in a recipe.)

For our purposes here, I’ll be talking about making a dry caramel, which is less-temperamental. The most important thing to know about making caramel is to be sure to cook it to just the right color and flavor. Undercooked caramel just tastes sweet, and burnt caramel tastes…well, burned and will be unusable. So you want to get it to the right point.

In the previous post, a few asked about using a thermometer. I once used a probe thermometer and blew out the device. So I think it’s better just to learn to rely on your nose and your eyes. Like grilling a steak, a thermometer can be useful, but there’s nothing like your senses to tell you when food is prepared to your liking.


Here are a few safety precautions you should take:

  • Wear oven mitts and a long sleeve shirt. Caramel is hot and can splatter, especially when adding other ingredients to it.

  • Use a sturdy large pot or pan that won’t overflow.

  • Keep a deep bowl of icy water nearby to plunge your hand into if caramelized sugar lands on it.

  • If you have glasses, wear them.

    When Is It Done?

    Not having the sugar become a grainy mess is your second biggest-challenge when making caramel. The first is getting it to just the right color; no more, no less.

    The color can be best described as that of an old copper penny. Perfect caramel should be cooked until it’s dark, reddish-brown, and just past the point where it starts to smoke. Some recipes advise cooking caramel until it ‘starts’ to smoke—but that’s too soon. The picture above, of me pouring caramel, is exactly the right color.

    I take a sniff once it begins to turn amber-colored, and darken; if you keep smelling it, it’s fairly easy to gauge when it goes from being slightly-cooked…to almost-there…to deep, rich-caramel perfection. If you screw it up, a cup of sugar is pretty cheap in case you overdo it (cheaper than that thermometer…) and after you make caramel once or twice, you should get the hang of it.

    addingbutter.jpg addingbutter1.jpg

    Butter or cream are often added to a “dry” caramel to make a simple sauce

    If your recipe calls for adding liquid, re-check my previous tips for advice. If your recipe calls for using the hot caramel straight, as advised by your recipe, you may want to put some icy water in a sink or a very large bowl so when the sugar reaches the right temperature, you can set the pan in the ice, which will stop the cooking quickly.


    Lastly, you don’t need any fancy equipment like a giant copper kettle. A good saucepan or skillet will do. (I use this pan for almost everything.) Whatever pan you use, make sure it’s light-colored, heavy-duty and solid. And any utensils, like spatulas you’ll be using to stir should be able to withstand the heat. Most of the new silicone tools and mats are fine since they can take it up to at least 400F (200C), although you might want to check with the manufacturer if you’re not absolutely certain, to avoid any meltdowns.

    Making The Perfect Caramel

    1. Start with an even layer of sugar in a heavy-duty pan, such as a deep skillet.

    • Heat the sugar over moderate heat, keeping an eye on it. The main trick at this point is that sometimes it'll start burning in a spot beneath the surface, especially if the sugar is pretty deep. But in general, it should start to liquefy at the edge first with perhaps a few blips near the middle.

    2. Once the caramel starts browning at the edges, begin to drag the sugar towards towards the center to prevent any burnt spots. Once burnt, caramel can’t be saved so don’t let anything get to dark.

    It will usually start to take on a nice, mellow brown color….

    At this stage, it will quickly turn darker, so pay attention!


    3. If your caramel looks very lumpy and grainy, don’t worry. Just lower the heat and keep stirring. Any stubborn chunks should melt. If not, they can be strained out later and should be such a small quantity that they won’t likely won’t affect the outcome of the recipe.

    4. Help!

    Ok, what happened here was it got stirred too much and the sugar lumped up before it had a chance to melt and liquefy. I know, you were trying to hurry up. But all is not lost…


    Continue cooking over very low heat, stirring as little as possible.

    It will come right back to being smooth. Any stubborn bits can be strained out.

  • At this point, if you’re using the caramel to line a mold, such as for a flan or crème caramel, immediately pour the caramel into the molds or ramekins.

  • For making spun sugar, you should dunk the bottom of the pan in ice water to stop the cooking so it doesn’t continue to cook past the point of doneness. It’ll keep cooking once you take it off the heat, unless you ‘stop’ it somehow, or by adding something to it.

  • If you’re stopping the caramel with something, such as cream or butter, add it right when the caramel reaches the desired color and depth-of-flavor. Note the warm cream will incorporate more smoothly in the hot caramel than cold cream.

  • You can cheat and use straight caramel (with no cream or butter added) to top a solid custard to turn it into a crème brûlée by pouring a small amount over the custard, turning it to create a thin layer, and letting it cool at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate them or you’ll risk them becoming soggy.

  • Make an easy praline by adding an equal amount of toasted nuts (equal to the sugar by weight or volume) during the last moment. Stir them in quickly with a bit of salt, then pour the mixture on a lightly-greased baking sheet. Once cool, crush and fold into ice cream, scatter over desserts, or enjoy as candy.

    Related Recipes

    Salted Butter Caramels

    Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Butter Cups

    Chocolate-Caramel Tartlets

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    • Olivia
      January 29, 2008 3:49pm

      This post is extremely easy to follow. Thank you for making carmelizing understandable. :)

    • jennifer
      January 29, 2008 4:25pm

      i’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but you are awesome! i’ve been reading your site for a couple of days now, going further and further into the archives. i’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of it!! this post was incredibly helpful!!

    • January 29, 2008 5:15pm

      that caramel ice cream photo is staring back at me! i am slowly working my way through your ice cream book. i may have to make ice cream tonight. thanks a lot! :-P

    • January 29, 2008 7:59pm

      this pictorial is just what i needed – i almost always get gun-shy and take my caramel off the heat way too early, or end up with something so burnt tasting that the complexity of the bittersweet sugar is lost.

      also, the picture of the caramel ice cream is making me want to haul out the ice cream maker despite the current temperature of 29 degrees.

    • Suzanne
      January 29, 2008 8:36pm

      Oh my gosh, I’m totally with Marni and Michelle–I’ve been dreaming about that caramel ice cream! I have The Perfect Scoop but missed the 60-degree “heat wave” we had here in upstate New York in the beginning of January, and I just haven’t been quite brave enough to try that ice cream. I got an ice-cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid for Christmas (and The Perfect Scoop) and will, with the help of your blog, David, try making caramel ice cream soon! Thank you for your careful instructions and wonderful pictures. Being able to see what the caramelizing process looks like is essential for me.

    • Connie
      January 29, 2008 9:00pm

      Are you telling us that your next book will be on Caramel ?? yum

    • victoria
      January 29, 2008 9:49pm

      i hope you always have a blog to share your great writing and pictures!

    • teal
      January 30, 2008 1:14am


      Thanks for all the great posts! I really look forward to reading you blogs and always get excited when your RSS feed updates. =)

      Tonight some friends and I were discussing the possibility of making caramel with things other than sugar. I haven’t quite figured this one out yet – is it possible to make caramel with date sugar? What about with honey? Or agave? I imagine that it might be possible to make something similar to straight up sugar-caramel, but not identical. Have you experimented with non-(table)-sugar caramels?

      In reading through a few of my cookbooks it seems that caramel (in the sugary sense) happens when sucrose is being broken down – is it possible to make caramel when that sucrose is mixed with all sorts of other types of sugars (like fructose)? Are there some compounds that inhibit the formation of caramel (i.e. if there are other non-sugar complex carbohydrates present will that cause a problem?)

      Have any of the rest of you thought about or experimented with making caramel with different sugar alternatives?

    • January 30, 2008 8:23am

      thanks for the post david and the enormously informative pix.

      would have loved to learn how you use various enrichers and how thin you like a sauce. if i recall you use slightly more cream than sugar in your caramel sauce in the book. spirits and extracts can flavor caramel, but would you ever use juices? but you’d have had to have written 30 pages.

      coincidentally, bittman’s recipe column today has what he calls a French walnut tart–which is caramel sauce poured into a shell with walnuts

    • January 30, 2008 11:05am

      Hi Michael: Each sauce recipe I have is different, and I don’t have a standard formula. I have used fruit juices in my books, but you have to be careful with citrus juice since, as you know, it can get bitter if overheated.

      I did see Mark Bittman’s recipe for Caramel Walnut Tart that was in the NYTimes, and I watched the video. Will all respect, it didn’t look very caramelized to me. The mixture was pretty light when he added the butter and cream, and then he just put it in the refrigerator.

      I’d take it darker myself, but I like my caramel very rich and deeply-colored.

      (He also said “If they had pecans in France I’m sure they would use them”. We do have pecans here; noix de pecan.)

    • January 30, 2008 12:32pm

      Caramel scared me. It did. It is my favorite candy but the thought of making it freaked me out… no longer my friend…. no longer.

    • Alexa
      January 30, 2008 2:11pm

      I just want to thank you so much for your blog, which I read avidly. I made my first batch of ice-ream with your vanilla recipe. I do not own an ice-cream machine, but it was the weekend and I was at home cooking anyway, so I set a timer and stirred. I added 200 ml of elderflower cordial to your recipe and made elderflower ice cream. It was heaven and I would never have tried it if it weren’t for you! Can caramel ice cream be far behind? I think not!

    • January 30, 2008 2:15pm

      Great info, I’ll use it when I dare make some.

    • January 30, 2008 2:46pm

      “sugar is mostly water” ??

      Ben: Don’t know the exact proportion of water, so modified wording in post. -d

    • Steve G
      January 30, 2008 3:13pm

      I think sugar is hydrophilic, which means it loves water and will pull humidity out of the air to keep things moist. That causes problems with caramels, which if they aren’t wrapped in a waterproof paper or plastic will absorb water and get softer over time.

      David, thanks for reminding us that however daunting caramel may be, unlike twitchy recipes that may go wrong at the end, with caramel if you burn the sugar, starting over is easy. You’ll have only lost some cheap sugar, not raw cream, single-source chocolate, or the custard you made with your last vanilla bean.

    • January 30, 2008 4:59pm

      Great picture explanation David.

    • Judy in SATX
      January 30, 2008 6:04pm

      Thanks for the tips David! I’ve never tried a dry caramel before, but it doesn’t look to much harder than the wet method. You had said in the previous comments that you’d talk about using additions like corn syrup to a wet caramel – is there another caramel-making post coming?

      Anyway, I’ve always made my caramel sauce with cream. How is the sauce with butter different? What kind of butter:sugar ratio do you use?

      I’m loving all the caramel posts!

    • January 30, 2008 6:29pm

      Thanks for all the info on Caramel. It’s one of those things I’ve always been scared of. I used to work at Pix Patisserie in Portland. Lots of time when we made dry carmels we used a conbination of sugar and glucose. Do you know how glucose changes the end product?

    • Christy
      January 30, 2008 8:24pm

      I made caramel for the first time last night – the espresso caramels from 101Cookbooks. Really incredibly good. They’re a little soft, but honestly who cares? And I’ve decided that I’m going to cook the caramel a little less done and keep it as a syrup to add to Italian Meringue Buttercream and then I’ll have the most amazing caramel coffee icing known!

      I’ll be interested to try your method with sugar (the one from yesterday used honey)!

    • January 31, 2008 12:09am

      Chocolate, port and an afternoon with Olivier…I’m sooooo jealous.

    • February 4, 2008 1:32am

      Hi David
      Visting your blog for the first time and i must say, i can a learn a lot from your posts. Thanks for sharing your culinary sklills.

    • Susan
      February 4, 2008 11:22pm

      Okay, so I just had a wondering here…

      I have always been taught that you do not want to change the temperature of a metal too quickly. For example, if I have a hot pan that I need to cool to use for something else, I was taught to run it under hot water, gradually adding cooler water, then turning the hot down until eventually the water is running cold, and the pan was cooled slowly.

      Something about the metal not being able to take the rapid changes in temperature and having a tendency to warp or bend…

      So, I was wondering about that when you said to put the pan in ice water to stop the cooking when the caramel is at the perfect state…would that not potentially damage the pan???

      By the way, I do enjoy your writing…always very entertaining!

    • February 5, 2008 2:10am

      Hi Susan: You’ll notice I mentioned to use a heavy-duty piece of cookware. I use my All-Clad pan for this, and never have any problems.

      But any thick, solid pot or pan shouldn’t warp.

      (Thanks for your compliment too!)

    • February 6, 2008 7:19am

      This is marvellous David! Oh, and I SOOOO think books should have 6 pages on making caramel. Absolutely.

    • February 6, 2008 4:19pm

      On my list of things to do tonight: make caramel…and Ive been drooling over your caramel ice cream recipe for ages, I really need to bite the bullet and make some.

    • Susan
      February 6, 2008 8:24pm

      Okay, that makes sense that a heavier pan would not be as much of a problem. Thank you for the clarification.
      I did look at your link for the pan and…well…Good Lord, I should hope it wouldn’t warp at 200 bucks a pop!!! It does look like a really wonderful pan though, so I guess I will have to start saving my nickels…lol
      I do have some nice stuff, but still have to work on getting a few of the better quality items…unfortunately for me, cooking is only a hobby and bills have to come first…
      But yeah, I will definitely be trying this sometime soon.
      Have a wonderful day.

    • February 7, 2008 1:35am

      Hi Susan: Yes, that pan is pricey. But that’s what I use, and love it. And I didn’t want to recommend something that I hadn’t personally used.

      KitchenAid offers a line of inexpensive cookware that seems similar, like this 4.75qt pan for just only $49 (or the whole set for $159)

      You can sometimes find deals in discount stores, although a cheap pan is not necessarily a good deal if it burn things : )

    • February 7, 2008 4:49pm

      Hi i am visiting ur site for the first time and i am really happy to have come across this post.I have had bad experiences making a good caramel but now seeing this post i am sure i can make it better.Thanks for sharing ur culinary skills with us.I will be visiting ur site often now and add u to my blogroll.have a nice day!!!

    • Jack G
      February 29, 2008 10:43am

      Thanks for these tips and photos…most helpful! I’ve been struggling with the “wet” method in a dark, non-stick saucepan…not good. I have one really good piece of cookware, a Demeyere 9.5″ frying pan, which proved invaluable for this process. With such a heavy pan and great heat distribution, I can avoid stirring too much and just let the pan do the work. In fact, since it retains so much heat, I have to start pouring a bit before it’s done as it will burn while I’m putting the caramel in the ramekins. I’ll never go wet again!

    • March 2, 2008 4:31pm

      Thanks so much for writing this as a method. I’ve been looking all afternoon for a decent spun sugar recipe, and they all have the most insane proportions. How much spun sugar does a girl need?! By absorbing the “science” behind it I can make it any amount I need. Yay.

    • April 1, 2008 12:23am

      Wonderful article on caramel – I’ve never seen it so dark! Probably because mine has a hefty dose of cream, honey, and of course, butter.

      Teal – I’m currently experimenting with using cane sugar, honey, and agave nectar (trying to get rid of corn syrup). Email me if you want an update. As regards to not using white sugar at all, I believe it’s fairly unique in the way that it caramelizes: thoughts?

    • maisa
      July 20, 2008 10:58am

      i love your picture tutorial. i’ve made decent caramel to coat tops of cream puffs, my problem is it cools down so rapidly, that towards the last puffs, the coating is too thick, how do i warm the caramel up again to make the candy coat thinner without running the risk of burning the caramel?

    • Adrianne
      September 10, 2008 10:23pm


      I made a wet caramel tonight which was a complete disaster. I was trying to make caramel covered apples. The caramel was a hard mess and was no where near the beautiful color you show in your pix.

      Can you explain what I did wrong, and can you provide a caramel recipe to be used to dip apples for caramel apples?


    • Nathaniel
      October 10, 2008 2:29pm


      Thank you for the pseudo-recipes. I’ll be sure to take some of this information and use it soon.

      I’m a little bothered by the comment regarding sugar being water,however. I do agree that the atoms could be reorganized into water, but I think the reason that the surgar melts is because it reaches the point at which it drops from a solid state to a liquid state…just like many other solids.

    • monica
      December 27, 2008 8:29pm

      just a quick note to chime in with the many who have thanked you for this ridiculously helpful tutorial. i am preparing to make my first batch of homemade caramels, and this has given me the much needed boost of confidence. i also believe this will help me to avoid the usual burnt finger(s) thanks to your warning/suggestions. thanks for your thorough and detailed information with us–i’m bookmarking this!

    • Jennifer Goodman
      January 7, 2009 12:38pm

      I just made caramel from agave syrup. It came out tasting really good! I wanted to make caramel but had no table sugar in my home so I mixed agave syrup a little water in to a sauce pan. Whisked for 5-10 minutes until I got that great caramel smell from the pan. Let sit for 5 -10 minutes and Whow!! Great Caramel. This is the first time I have made caramel and decided to bake some apples so I can pour on my caramel sauce. Very Easy recipe. Does not stick to pan. I could try other sugar alternatives but this one came out so good I think I’ll stick to agave.

    • kyle mclaren
      February 5, 2009 7:01pm

      It was helpful, but no site has yet to tell me how to make it harder, like the cubes you can buy at the store.

    • Viki
      March 12, 2009 5:16am

      Hi David,

      I have been trying to make caramel several times to make flan caramel but I have always failed. Then I stumbled upon your tips yesterday and decided to try again. And I did it! I’ve successfully made the perfect caramel on my first attempt after reading the tips. Smooth and glossy without any clumps.
      Thank you so much! Yours is the one that’s most helpful for me.

    • April 9, 2009 3:25pm

      Thank you for this valuable information! I have made horribly burnt caramel twice, and mediocre, and now I suspect undercooked, caramel once.

    • Mohamed
      April 24, 2009 10:27am

      Hello David,

      I followed your method and when it reached deep brown color, I added a table spoon of salted butter and stirred until homogenized. the problem is that after a while it became rock-solid :(

      How can I make it stay a liquid after cooling it?

    • April 25, 2009 3:49am

      Hi Mohamed: It sounds like you didn’t have butter in it to make it smooth. You could add more butter, or more liquid, like cream, to smooth it out–depending on what you’re making with the caramel or the recipe.

    • Caroline
      May 25, 2009 9:20pm

      Just wondering if you are the David Lebowitz who used to write a newspaper column and have a radio program in Phoenix.

      Could it be……..???????

    • May 27, 2009 4:35am

      Thank you so much for this – totally invaluable, especially the photos. I had never made caramel before and it came out wonderfully (well, with a few little shreds of solid caramel, but they were delicious…)

      I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to this and your other caramel post in my post about making caramel for the cakes I was making.

    • pchu
      June 11, 2009 10:32pm

      Chef David

      I usually like to do Dry Caramel Method when making it for flan. Lately I’ve been experiencing some problems with the caramel sauce. There are some darker films in the caramel sauce that cause the flan sauce to appear not perfectly “clear” and not attractive. It looks like as if some residues string like all over the caramel sauce. Have you ever had such problem and please advise if you have any suggestions. Please send your suggestions to my email. Many thanks! /pchu

    • Candace
      July 28, 2009 12:27am

      THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! My caramels never work and your dry method worked perfectly. I can’t believe how easy it was. Thanks again!

    • Helena Spurr
      August 12, 2009 9:28am

      Hi, I have justed tried your caramel method to line the ramekins for creme caramel and once i tipped them out ( once the creme was cooked) half of the caramel stayed glued to the bottom of the ramekin rock solid. What am I doing wrong??? I never stirred the caramel, only tilted it ocasionally. Thank you

    • August 13, 2009 6:52am

      Helena: That’s inevitable and you can rewarm the ramekins and try to scrape it out, but there’s usually enough (depending on the recipe you’re using.) In my books and recipes, I normally make a water-based caramel so it’s more liquidy when upturned.

    • Blanca
      August 20, 2009 4:07pm

      How can i make the caramel less gooey or stick less to your teeth when eating it?

    • August 21, 2009 12:45am

      Excellent article, thanks so much for posting.

    • shirley hansen
      September 13, 2009 11:05am

      I have a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law for Caramel, chocolate, nut ice cream. I call it Turtle ice cream. We use pecans, real fine milk chocolate. Getting the caramel right is the hardest part of this one. But if you can get it right it is to die for.

    • Tamarah Johnson
      September 22, 2009 7:47pm

      This was perfect! So easy to understand and remember.I bookmarked this link.I agree with everything you wrote.I usually use brown sugar for the caramel but will switch now that I read about the impurities.

    • tinea
      October 5, 2009 9:08pm

      well my caramel is kind of diffrent. it doesnt look like that in the picture ; it has what it looks like floating milk . and i dont know what to do . it was a kit i brought from the store . i dont know how to fix it . CAN YOU HELP .?

    • Sara
      November 2, 2009 10:18am

      Hi David-
      Thanks for the info. It was very helpful. I made wet caramel last night for caramel apples and I thought it turned out perfectly. But this morning the caramel was rock solid and had changed into a cloudy color. Was this a cooking issue or should it have been stored a certain way? How do you keep it gooey?

    • November 2, 2009 10:25am

      Sara: Because it’s just melted sugar, plain caramel will revert to it’s hard, crunchy stage, once cooled. So you’ll need to add something to it, generally butter or cream, usually some sort of fat, to keep it a bit gooey once cooled. Most candy apple recipes call for crunchy caramel, but I’m sure a quick search on the internet will yield a recipe for a softer one.

    • TRACY
      November 18, 2009 8:05pm

      Hi –

      I stumbled upon this post when I was attempting to make caramel apples. I used the recipe and my caramel tasted amazing….however, it didn’t really get firm enough to stick well to the apples. Am thinking i didn’t cook it quite long enough. I have another question regarding your caramel. As a child, my mother used to make us caramel covered popcorn as a treat. The caramel became hard and crunchy once it cooled on the popcorn, and was delicious. I’ve tried to make it since she passed away, and I’m always left with a grainy, sticky, not particularly appetizing covering on my popcorn. Any thoughts on preparing the caramel to cover (and harden) on popcorn? Would your recipe above work do you think?

      Many thanks!


    • November 19, 2009 1:52am

      Tracy: This should be very crisp when cool, as there is no water in it. (Check Sara’s comment, just above.)

      There is a caramel corn recipe on the site, which you might want to give a try. It comes out nice and crisp when I’ve made it.

    • November 23, 2009 6:30pm

      Thanks for this! I have made caramel a few times, with varying results. I thought that part of the problem might be the non-stick pan, do you think so? I was able to make dry caramel in a ceramic pan, but wet has generally crystallized. How do you make wet caramel work?

    • November 24, 2009 1:37am

      Needed to make 4 Tarte Tatin’s tonight for my son’s French class. I have made this recipe tons of times. 1st batch of “caramel” sauce – 3 tbsp water and 1/2 cup sugar – perfect. 2nd, 3rd, 4th – did exact same way and they clumped up and lost all moisture. What happened? Did I stir too much? Have on too high heat? I am so frustrated as I didn’t do anything different that I know of. Why would this happen? The sugar got rock hard and never caramelized.

    • November 24, 2009 6:50am

      Daphne: If making a water-based (“wet” caramel), you should avoid stirring as that encourages the sugar crystals to re-join and lump together.

      Jennifer: Ditto above. Plus I never use non-stick pans. Even though they say the finish is fine to cook to a certain temperature, I’m skeptical so I always use a heavy-duty skillet or saucepan.

    • Renee
      November 24, 2009 8:03am

      Hi David-

      What about using organic evaporated cane juice? Does it contain too many impurities that cause crystallization?

    • debra levitt
      November 30, 2009 9:54pm

      I have a huge crop of passion fruit and want to add the fruit to caramels and truffles. I’m not sure how to add the juice. i cooked the juice down for quite a long time and got a thicker puree. I know that water is the enemy of chocolate, but how can the puree be added to cream for truffles and at what point would i add the puree to make caramels as in caramel candy, not sauces. Is there a process that I have not done to make the passion fruit more solid? What proportions would I add the puree to the cream for truffles or the sugar/butter/cream for caramels?
      Thanks for your help.

      I made your French pear tart for Thanksgiving and it won “best taste at the table”.

    • December 1, 2009 1:27am

      Renee: Having not tried it, I can’t say for sure. But if it’s evaporated already, it’s likely already cooked down, I assume? But you could probably cook it some more if you’d like. Let me know how it works out if you do.

      debra: You can add liquid, although the result with be a runny caramel sauce, not hard and crackly. That can be added to a ganache or perhaps a caramel, but because there’s so much variation in recipes and proportions, it’s not possible to give exact amounts without devising a specific recipe for that. Perhaps you can find a recipe in ai book on candymaking or confectionary. I’ve listed some favorites in baking books for professionals. Or if you live near a bookshop that specializes in such books, you leaf through them to see if there’s a recipe.

      Glad you liked the pear tart, too!

    • yanicca
      December 13, 2009 9:32am

      I love your recipe Mr. Lebovitz! I’m only 12 and this really works, thanks a lot! : ) You made it so simple and you are funny! LOLz! : )

    • rollie baldwin
      December 14, 2009 9:12am

      I’m working on making a caramel peach/apricot upside down cake…I think I have it now, thanks. Rollie the baker

    • anon
      December 16, 2009 2:10am

      Sugar is not partially water. It is simply C6H12O6, while water is H20. No offense intended, but sugar contains no water; it is a simply Hydrocarbon.

    • Jason
      December 16, 2009 9:58am

      please disregard my last – there is a wealth of good info on here already about caramel I was just being lazy.

    • Stormin
      January 1, 2010 9:31pm

      Thanks for the recipe, I tweaked it a little and it worked out great.

    • julia
      March 2, 2010 6:30pm

      What would you guess went wrong if I had a smooth, clear amber caramelized sugar (made with the wet method), but it turned grainy with the addition of cream/butter?


    • March 3, 2010 2:21am

      Hi Julia: Once you add a liquid to caramel, in most cases, it can lump up and become grainy. This can be mitigated a bit by heating the cream first, or making sure the butter is at room temperature.

      To smooth it out, depending on the recipe, in most cases you can bring the caramel back to a near boil, stirring it until smooth. If you’re using a specific recipe from someone else, you might want to contact them if you’re having further problems. Good luck!

    • michelle
      April 16, 2010 6:42pm

      This was simple and perfect! I added some heavy cream to turn into caramel sauce for a pear cake. Thank you! You are a genius for simplifying the most basic things.

    • May 24, 2010 2:57am

      Great recipe! I’ve never tried to make caramel before. Just a question not related to food, when you take those photos, do you use a tripod?

    • May 24, 2010 4:18am

      Glad you like the photos! I sometimes use a tripod. But for this, since the process is so quick, I hand-held my camera. You can check out my post on food photography, where I explain a bit more about how I take my shots.

    • rose
      June 15, 2010 4:09am

      I love you!! Goodbye to my kids commenting on how my upside down cake does not look like the one in the picture!!

    • September 6, 2010 2:02pm

      Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial… especially showing us what can go wrong, and how to fix it! I have linked to it, and recommend it to anyone making carmel for the first time, from my pressure cooker recipe for Creme Caramel – try not to cringe, please!!!

    • Suzanne
      September 7, 2010 8:53pm

      Thank you for this great website and beautiful photography you can tell it is is a labor of love.
      I have early memories of watching my aunt Simone make huge batches of pralines each summer when she would visit from France. We would eat them sparingly to make them last through the winter. I love anything caramel but admit making it is a little intimidating. Your photos are very helpful. You are right white sugar is much cheaper than cream….

      Any advice on converting egg based ice creams to Philadelphia style? Can you just omit the eggs or do you have to maintain a certain milk to cream ratio? If you have already answered this can someone point me in the right direction?

    • September 7, 2010 9:49pm
      David Lebovitz

      Suzanne: Yes, I’ve answered that questions in the comments of my post: Tips on How to Make Ice Cream: Questions & Answers. You’ll likely need to use the search feature of your browser to find it amongst the responses. thanks~

    • lacey castillo
      October 8, 2010 8:10pm

      OMG!! I tried this kind of caremal and it was like i died and gone to heaven

    • Kaitlin
      November 5, 2010 10:36pm


      About to make caramel for the first time in my life. I have no idea what it will turn out like and I really don’t want it to burn. Your tips have helped a lot and now I think I’m ready. Be back in how ever long it takes to make caramel.

    • Kaitlin
      November 6, 2010 1:13am

      Yeah, kinda burnt the first batch because I was writing a comment and it burnt while I was down here. The seconds batch looked great, but when I tasted it, it was burnt. What did I do wrong???

    • Abi
      December 1, 2010 10:27pm

      My caramel seems to go straight to dark brown and burnt tasting as soon as it melts without going through a golden colour. I have tried various temperatures on my gas hob – is the minimum still too high? I would think it was too hot but your recipie says medium heat and the minimum gas is supposed to be low.

    • Ollie
      December 6, 2010 10:16pm

      Hey, I’m making caramel for school to go in a chocolate bar. Any tips? :) If you could get to me soon that would be great!


    • December 21, 2010 4:59am

      Thank you very much, David! This was terribly helpful in making Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate covered caramel crack(ers!).

    • December 21, 2010 5:00am

      (Adapted from your own matzoh crunch, of course.)

    • elena
      December 30, 2010 10:16pm

      what if the caramel bitters? what can i do to fix it?

    • December 31, 2010 11:30am
      David Lebovitz

      Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do. Check out number #9 of 10 Tips for Making Caramel.