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Do I need a candy thermometer?  6/30/2010 post:  A field guide to Caramel and the CDN ProAccurate Quik Tip
Posted: 28 June 2010 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Thanks for the tip, Matthew!

May I ask—when you are, say, making caramel, 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?

Many thanks!!

—ak

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Posted: 28 June 2010 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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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. I don’t think I’ve used this one for caramel, but if I did, you just dip the tip in towards the center, or if there isn’t enough content, then you have to tip the pan to the side a little. I have a metal probe thermometer I have used for caramel, the kind Rose recommends for ovens. But as I mentioned, 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.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 05:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Matthew, thanks so much!  Can I ask you another question, as you are so very helpful on this matter!!!! 

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.  For example, 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.

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?

Do you use your thermometer for the “regular” candy temperatures (up to, say, the 335 hard crack stage)?  Do you just test it periodically?

I really appreciate your experience here, as I am somewhat perplexed by it all—and yet I LOVE making this kind of thing!

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Posted: 28 June 2010 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Matthew, I was exactly thinking about it!!! I saw the designer (at amazon) and I was trying to figure out how to use it!!

In this case, can not mistakes happen more frequently? I mean, we can burn whatever we are doing. Well, I’m worried!!!  gulp

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Posted: 28 June 2010 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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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.

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

For example, 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.

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.

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?

Yes, I would use a thermometer for these.

Do you use your thermometer for the “regular” candy temperatures (up to, say, the 335 hard crack stage)?  Do you just test it periodically?

No, definitely use the thermometer—much easier than any of those water tests.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Vanie - 28 June 2010 08:33 PM

Matthew, I was exactly thinking about it!!! I saw the designer (at amazon) and I was trying to figure out how to use it!!

In this case, can not mistakes happen more frequently? I mean, we can burn whatever we are doing. Well, I’m worried!!!  gulp

Unfortunately, many commercial thermometers are inaccurate—same thing with other measuring devices, such as cups and spoons—why do they even make them?, I guess since people will still buy them.

Since sugar is cheap, I think it is best to practice plain caramel a few times by eye—in fact, just let it burn once so you can see it go through the different stages. The secret is hitting the right spot before it burns so it will have the most flavor. Get this practice out of the way before you start needing to add in more expensive things like cream, butter, etc.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Matthew!  You are wonderful!

Thank you so much!

The final, final, final questions—I promise!  When you are doing the “regular” non-amber candy ranges:

1. Do you just test periodically or do you suspend the thermometer over the middle in some way (maybe 2 chopsticks across the pan and the thermometer between them or something)?

2. If you test periodically, do you clean the thermometer between each test so you don’t get crystallization?

You are a wellspring.  I have been haunted by all of this for some time now, and, Matthew, you have made it so wonderfully clear.  Many, many thanks!!!

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I’m really worried about to test it only periodically.
How do I know, how long do I have to wait until to test again?
Maybe, this thermometer is not the right one for me. I don’t fell confident.
Could you help me, please?

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Yes, 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.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Vanie—what is it you will be using this for mainly?

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Since sugar is cheap, I think it is best to practice plain caramel a few times by eye?in fact, just let it burn once so you can see it go through the different stages. The secret is hitting the right spot before it burns so it will have the most flavor. Get this practice out of the way before you start needing to add in more expensive things like cream, butter, etc.

I did it, Matthew! I noticed my very first caramel buning and let it go. I was upset, of course, but then I did it again, and I believe it was right. My concern is when I’m going to make another thing.

Thank you so much!! You’re great!!!

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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To tell you the truth, Matthew, I have nothing in mind right now. I’m just worried, because I’ll need this any moment. I only don’t know exactly when. oh oh

I don’t like the idea to want to do something and don’t know how to use my tools.. That’s why I’m here…I need to learn.

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Posted: 28 June 2010 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Matthew, if there were a bowing and scraping smiley, I would repeat it here 100 times.
I wish I could paste my dancing banana emoticons in here!!!

I can’t tell you how helpful you have been and how much I appreciate it!
Luckily, I have been through the burn stage….numerous times…..and now I know how to avoid it, plus everything else I need to know.

I am very, very appreciative of all of your thoughtful, helpful replies!!!

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Posted: 30 June 2010 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Anne in NC - 22 June 2010 09:24 PM

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.

Thanks, everyone!

—ak

————————————————————————————————————————

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

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