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© Randal Oulton

Caramel is sugar syrup that has been heated between 180 and 210 C (356 - 410 F.) The heating causes the syrup to thicken a great deal, and to gradually change colour from golden to dark brown as the temperature increases.

Caramel can refer to a candy made with this heated sugar syrup, or, to the substance when used as a flavouring and colouring for desserts and sauces, breads, beverages, etc.

When it sets, it can set quite hard -- as in for instance the burnt sugar topping on a crème brûlée.

Caramel is also one of the mostly widely-used and longest-used food colourings in the world. The colouring is now found in almost everything, as it is cheap and safe to use, and provides a pleasing eye appeal. It is water soluble.

The E number assigned to caramel colour is E150. There's subnumbers a through d (e.g. E150c) assigned to it based on what it's most appropriate for.

Caramels, Butterscotch, Taffy, Toffee

  • Caramel and Taffy are soft; they are cooked to a firm-ball stage of 123 – 125 C (245 – 250 F);
  • Butterscotch is harder; it is cooked to a soft-crack stage of 132 - 143 C (270 - 290 F);
  • Toffee is hardest of the four candies; it is cooked to a hard crack stage of 150 to 160 C (300 to 310 F.)

A further difference between Taffy and Toffee is that Taffy is pulled; Toffee is poured into a mould.

Cooking Tips

The best way to clear a pot in which you've made caramel (by accident or on purpose) is to put lots of water in it and boil it.

See also:


Amasake; Caramel; Honey; Must; Sorbitol; Stevia; Xylitol

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Oulton, Randal. "Caramel." CooksInfo.com. Published 06 June 2005; revised 02 December 2007. Web. Accessed 03/20/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/caramel>.

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