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Candy Temperature

A good candy thermometer is very important for successful candy making. In selecting a candy thermometer, look for one that has 2° markings since 5° markings are not accurate enough for candy making, a stainless steel back, and a clip to attach to the saucepan. A Fahrenheit thermometer is recommended since the wide ranges between degrees on the Celsius scale is not accurate enough for candy making. Store your thermometer in a safe place and handle carefully.

A thermometer indicates how much water has boiled out of the syrup. If you boil plain water, it will not increase in temperature above the boiling point (212°F). When a sugar solution is boiled, the temperature will rise as the water is boiled out and the sugar solution concentrates. Since candy temperatures will exceed boiling water, caution should be used when working with candy.

Temperature readings may vary from day to day, so the thermometer should be tested before each use--especially before using it for the first time. There are a couple of reasons which can cause your thermometer to fluctuate in temperature. Each thermometer is slightly different, even the same brand, temperature is affected by altitude above sea level and air pressure changes from weather. Water boils at 212°F at sea level and decreases approximately 2°F for each 1000 feet rise in altitude. This is due to the difference in air pressure. Since water boils at a lower temperature the higher the altitude, the water is boiled out at a lower temperature causing your candy to reach the properly cooked stage at a lower temperature.

All recipes are written for sea level, including the ones on this website.

Some websites will tell you that you shouldn't make candy when it rains or snows. This is not factual. It isn't the humidity that causes problems, but the changes in air pressure. Simply retest your thermometer and adjust the recipe as indicated below.

Testing the thermometer

To test the accuracy of your thermometer, place it in enough water to cover the ball of mercury. Bring the water to a boil. Place the candy thermometer in the water and let the water boil for several minutes or until the mercury on the thermometer no longer rises. Read the temperature at eye level. If it reads 212°F, cook the candy to the exact degrees that the recipe calls for. If the reading is higher, cook the candy as many degrees higher as the thermometer reads over 212°F. For example, if the thermometer reads 214°F instead of 212°F (2 degrees too high) and your recipe calls for 236°F, cook the candy to 238°F (2 degrees higher than 236°F). If your thermometer reads low when tested, adjust accordingly. For example, if your thermometer reads 208°F instead of 212°F (4 degrees too low) and your recipe calls for 236°F, cook candy to 232°F (4 degrees lower than 236°F).

Cold water syrup tests for candy stages

Many recipes call for the candy to be cooked to soft ball, hard ball, firm ball, soft crack, hard crack, or thread stage. These terms describe the consistency of a small amount of cooked syrup when it is dropped into cold water. See the glossary for a definition of each stage.




Soft ball

234°F to 240°F

110°C to 115°C

Firm ball

242°F to 248°F

115°C to 120°C

Hard ball

250°F to 268°F

120°C to 130°C

Soft crack

270°F to 290°F

130°C to 145°C

Hard crack

300°F to 310°F

150°C to 155°C


230°F to 234°F

110°C to 112°C

Consistent results can only be obtained by using a thermometer. An incorrect temperature reading could result in extremely hard candy or candy so soft it cannot be handled or formed.

Cooktop settings

Nearly all candy cooking can be started on high heat. Candies containing basically sugar and water may be cooked on high the whole time. Candies containing milk, cream, milk products or nondairy creamer products may be started on high, but the heat should be gradually lowered as the mixture gets heavier, so in the final stages the candy is cooked on medium low.

Caution should be used when working with candy

Candy syrups can be extremely hot. The temperatures of the syrup can reach 310°F or more compared to boiling water which is 212°F. Just a speck of hot candy can cause blistering. The following cautionary measures should be used when working with candy:

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