Called CDN (also emailed the Amazon seller).
They are now recommending the DTQ450X – PROACCURATE® QUICK-READ™ THERMOMETER. They said the only changes from the Quik Tip are as follows: (1) they got rid of the red paint on the tip, as once the red paint is gone, the thermometer is no good and (2) they have tapered the probe. Otherwise, it is identical. There is also on one a rope.
I’ve distilled and sort of reorganized the many questions to Matthew into a sort of Q&A Field guide to this thermometer and caramel, generally, if it’s helpful to anyone.
Note: First, make sure you only use this as a literal quick-tip, don’t let it rest on the side or touch the pan as it will melt/warp. Now, some Q&A with a man who knows his caramel and thermometers!
Q: When you are, say, making caramel (the really hot stuff, not caramels), and you’re getting close to temperature, how do you use the thermometer? Do you sort of just hold it in the (say) caramel or do you pop it out, clean it, and pop it back in every few seconds? Would it work if I got one of those clips to clip it on the side of the pan like the non-quick reads have?
A: I never bother with a thermometer for caramel anymore as I find doing it by eye works the best, and you need to be able to move quickly once the caramel hits the right stage. As soon as you get that deep amber and see little whisps of smoke it is ready to go. No, I would not clip this one to the pan, plus I think that method is suspect in general anyway because the edges of the pan are always hotter.
Q: I have seen recipes where it says to take it to 340 and others to 370—some for caramel for ganache some for caramel for caramel corn, etc. You get the feeling—and I am not so experienced here—that these are all “amber” stages.
A: Yes, they are. 370 is the darkest right before starting to burn (you will see the smoke start), but it has the best caramel flavor. The other is lighter and less flavorful.
Q: Also, sometimes recipes call for brown sugar or molasses, which makes looking at color more difficult. Do you use visual cues or a thermometer for these circumstances?
A: Yes, I would use a thermometer for these.
Q: One recipe has the caramel corn at 360, but not up to 365 or it will be too crunchy (something like that) where there are rather minimal, high temp, variations.
A: At this high a temp, I don’t think you would notice a difference in texture between 360 and 365. Cooked sugar is going to be hard at anything over 300, after that point you are just adding flavor.
Q: Do you use your thermometer for the “regular” candy temperatures (up to, say, the 335 hard crack stage)? Do you just test it periodically?
A: No, definitely use the thermometer—much easier than any of those water tests. I test periodically and then as it gets closer to temp, hold it in the pot with my hand—keeping the thermometer from touching the sides of the pan. It is easy enough to hold while you stir with the other hand that I don’t think you need to rig anything, but you can see what you think. Yes, I would rinse for anything with a risk of crystallization