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I made caramel on my induction cooktop. The temperature was correct, but the caramel texture is grainy, like all of the sugar didn't dissolve properly. Do I need a different thermometer? I used a Wilton clip-on stainless steel mercury thermometer. Or does the cooking time need to be adjusted?

The recipe I am using is: 1cup butter,2 1/4cup brown sugar, dash salt,1cup light corn syrup,1can sweetened condensed milk,1teaspoon vanilla. Melt butter in heavy 3 qt. saucepan. Add brown sugar and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in corn syrup and mix well. Gradually add milk stirring constantly. Cook and stir over med. heat until candy reaches 245F remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into 9x9 pan. Let set 24 hours. Cut into squares, wrap in wax paper.

I am close to sea-level.

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I just tested 2 thermometers. They both reached boiling point at 205F. Since I am using an induction cooktop, which cooks faster, could it be that the cooking time isn't long enough to break down the sugar? I think I have good technique,I've made them perfectly creamy for years,using an electric cooktop. –  Sherri Dec 20 '13 at 18:34
    
The cooktop can't possibly make water boil at 205F, water boiling at a lower temperature than 212F can only happen under less than normal pressure (a vacuum environment). Is your water at a "full boil"? The first bubbles indicate a "simmer", "boiling" is lots of bubbles, bursting and making more bubbles rapidly. What happens to the temperature readings if you continue to boil plain water until it gets as hot as possible without a lid? Are you at high altitude? –  Jolenealaska Dec 20 '13 at 18:43
    
A boiling point of 205F would be normal in Denver, Colorado. So your altitude could really play a role here. –  Jolenealaska Dec 20 '13 at 18:51
    
I'm in Iowa.Yes it was a full rolling boil.I just did it again,same result. The longer it boils the highest the temp. Gets is 210F. The cooktop is keeping it at a consistent temp. Water is splashing out of the pan. Thermometer off a few degrees? Still wondering what the role of the induction cooktop plays in this. Water will boil in 90 seconds. –  Sherri Dec 20 '13 at 19:26
    
I am going to edit your original question to include that information and ponder it for a while. 210F is close enough. The critical stage is most likely "Cook and stir over med. heat until candy reaches 245F". Is this stage happening faster than you're used to? –  Jolenealaska Dec 20 '13 at 19:58

3 Answers 3

Your thermometer should be fine, the graininess probably has more to do with technique than temperature. There's quite a bit of controversy as to when and how to stir and what to do about sugar crystals that form along the sides of the pan.

Just to be sure about your thermometer, test it with boiling water. If you're at or near sea-level the thermometer should read 100C or 212F. If your thermometer is fine, then we need to take a harder look at technique.

Edit: Looking at your recipe and considering your change in cooktop, I can only see a possible problem if the candy reaches 245F more quickly than you are used to. Try lowering the temp a bit at that stage so that it takes longer for the candy to reach 245F. It may take some getting used to, but induction should perfect for candy making.

It pretty much goes without saying, so I am assuming no considerable change in your ingredients.

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Given how easily sugar dissolves in water, especially hot water, the rate of heating is extremely unlikely to be the culprit. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 20 '13 at 20:44
    
@SAJ14SAJ The time required at that stage as it relates to stirring (her recipe calls for stirring during that stage) could very well be the problem. Since she says that the cooktop is the only thing that has changed, I think time is the issue (as it relates to stirring). Melting the sugar is only a tiny part of good candy-making. If making good caramel were only a matter of melting sugar, a whole lot of professional candy makers would be without a job. –  Jolenealaska Dec 23 '13 at 14:16

I noticed that you're stirring constantly. Generally with candy you want to stir as little as possible, since it causes sugar crystals to form in the syrup. In addition to making the candy grainier, they reduce the overall lifespan- even after the candy has cooled the (larger) crystals will continue to grow, causing the candy to slowly revert back into flavoured sugar.

Once the sugar is fully dissolved, you want to disturb it as little as possible. You will still have to do some stirring, otherwise the milk solids will burn. It'll help a bit to mix in the corn syrup at the same time as the sugar. Corn syrup is an invert sugar, meaning it gets in the way of crystallization and slows it down. If your caramel is still coming out grainy, try adding half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Your candy will be slightly gummier, but the acid in the lemon will inhibit crystallization and reduce the graininess.

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I think you're right, that the stirring is central to the issue. Since the only thing she has changed is the cooktop, and the only thing the cooktop could really affect is the amount of time it takes to get from one point in the recipe to another, what's really being affected is the amount of stirring relative to time. So, she either needs to adjust the cooktop so that amount if time it takes to get from one step to the next is what she is used to, or she needs to adjust the frequency of stirring to better fit the new time schedule:) Good answer (+1), welcome to Seasoned Advice! –  Jolenealaska Dec 22 '13 at 1:58

I own a bakery and made Caramel weekly. I finally purchased an induction burner for the back of the bakery so as to not have to carry boiling sugar down a long corridor. First my staff and then myself experienced repeated failures, i.e. graininess every time we used the induction burner. We finally went back to the gas range and everything went perfectly well. Not once was it possible to reproduce the smooth dark, rich caramel we used at the bakery when using the induction burner. I wish I knew why, I used the same pot, the same technique, same temperature, and ingredients. A mystery till this day but also a very dependable result- unusable grainy mess. I hope you find your answer. If you had previous success making caramel, and changed nothing other than the induction burner it may well be something with the way an induction burning heats the sugar crystals not anything you did incorrectly. I can only speak to my own experience but I will never attempt caramel with an induction burner again. I hope this helps.

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An induction burner does not cause caramel to fail by itself. I have myself made caramel on induction, gas and resistive heaters with equal results, in my current kitchen I only have induction and haven't had issues with caramel. A possible explanation for your observation is that maybe the burner was heating your caramel either too quickly or unevenly, causing part of your sugar to burn before another part was melted. This should have been possible to overcome by changing the heat setting, the chosen pot (material and size) and/or the amount of sugar used at one go. –  rumtscho May 4 at 14:47

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