How to Make Caramelised Sugar

Learn the art of caramelising sugar with Dr Oetker. Discover our wet and dry methods, best tips to melt sugar and make your favourite dessert with it.

-Caster sugar 
-Water (if using the wet method) 

Equipment needed

-Wooden spoon or rubber spatula with a long handle
-Heavy pot or a wide-based pan Candy thermometer (we highly recommend using one of these)

Dry method

The dry method of making caramel only involves sugar. You do it like this: 

Picture - Pouring Sugar

-Use a heavy bottomed and high sided pot on a medium-high heat. Pour the sugar into the pan and start stirring. Wait until it starts to melt before you add more. (As it’s the only ingredient, you can use as much sugar as you want.)
-Once the sugar has melted, lower the heat and observe both colour and temperature – use the thermometer to be more precise and find the desired texture. You want your caramel to be gooey and runny, but not too runny or watery. The temperature should be at least 160°C. Immediately use the caramelised sugar.

Picture - Caramel Thermometer

Wet method

This caramelisation method is used to create sugar syrup and it requires sugar and water.

Picture - Caramel Water Pour

-Using a heavy bottomed and high sided pot, combine 200g sugar and 150ml water, over a medium-high heat until they start to boil. 
-Once it has started to boil, turn down the burner to a low heat and allow the syrup to get darker and reduce. Don’t stir, but you can tip the pot to distribute the mixture. Use the candy thermometer to check the perfect temperature and colour for you. Once cooled, the caramelised sugar is ready to be used.

Picture - Caramel Stiring

Top tips for caramelising sugar

When you’re caramelising sugar at home – whether for the first time or the hundredth, it’s important to remember these top tips.
Crystallisation: Don’t use a pastry brush to keep caramelised sugar off the edges of the pan, try to simply keep it at the bottom of the pan. If you move things around too much, you can potentially start a crystallisation chain reaction – you don’t want this as it will likely ruin your caramelised sugar.
Safety tips: Remember, you’re working with hot bubbling sugar, so it’s important to be as safe as possible at home. Always:
- Use a spoon or spatula with a long handle to avoid your hands getting too close to the bubbling mixture.
-Use a larger pot than you think you need. A small pot with bubbling sugar really isn’t ideal.
-Keep a bowl of ice water nearby, just in case anything bubbles up onto your hand.
-Stay close and don’t get distracted. Always keep an eye on your mixture, don’t wander off and check your phone. 

Frequently asked questions about how to make caramelised sugar

Can I use brown sugar instead of white sugar?
You should stick to caster sugar when making caramel. Other sugars like brown sugar and unrefined sugar can contain impurities which affect the caramelisation process. This can cause the sugar to burn before it caramelises.
What is the difference between toffee and caramel?
Caramel has a more liquid consistency than toffee, and is just made with sugar or sugar and water. Toffee is harder in consistency and is also made with butter, alongside sugar and water.
What should I do if my caramelised sugar becomes too hard or thick?
If it becomes too hard or thick, remove your caramelised sugar from the heat and pour a big glass of water into the pot. This will cause it to bubble up, so stand back. Over a low heat, let the pot simmer away for five to 10 minutes, which will dilute the caramel.
Can I make salted caramel?
Yes, you can make salted caramel, and it’s super delicious. Salted caramel sauce is made in much the same way as the wet method, but with the addition of a few other ingredients. Salt of course, and some recipes will also ask for cream or butter.
How long does caramelised sugar last and how to store it?

Once your caramelised sugar has cooled, you can store it in a sealed container in the fridge for around two to three weeks. When you want to use it again, simply warm it in the microwave to make it smooth again. 

More Handy Baking Tips

Now you know how to make smooth and delicious caramel sauce, why not check out some more of our handy baking hits and tips? Discover how to soften butter and how to melt chocolate

Related Tips & Tricks