Is there any noticeable difference in taste and texture when making caramel on a non-stick pan versus a normal pan? I have seen a few cooks making caramel on a stainless steel saucepan and others on black frying pans most probably non-stick. But, is there a difference?

Surely, the most annoying thing is cleaning up the mess of caramel afterwards, any fast tips?


You ask about coating, but it is actually not very important. There are other criteria with much higher priority when you are making caramel or other types of candy. The important thing about pan when making caramel is even heating. Especially when making your caramel dry, you cannot afford hot spots, because you cannot stir. But if you are taking the candy into the later caramel stages, even heating becomes important for syrup-started candy too.

You need a responsive pan if you are making caramel. Sadly, the most evenly heating pans are also the least responsive and vice versa. I would never make caramel on a resistive stove in iron, but I use a small enamelled Dutch oven for caramel on my induction plate. A good sandwiched steel with an aluminum core should offer a decent tradeoff between evenness and responsiveness on most stove types.

You also need the correct size pan. If your caramel is less than 1 cm deep, it is very hard to handle without burning it. If it is deeper than 5 cm, there is too much of a heat gradient in the depth. Choose the pan diameter such that your caramel depth will be between 1 and 5 cm roughly.

If you are going to add any kind of liquid to the caramel (or butter), you'll experience lots of foam. You need a deep walled vessel to catch this foam. Use a deep sauce pan or a small pot instead of a frying pan. You want 10 cm wall above the caramel level.

Aside from a seasoned cast iron pan, I haven't experienced a coating adsorbing flavors. PTFE, ceramic, enamel, anodized alu or no coating - none of them matters. Use whatever you have handy. For cleaning, follow Elendil's advice for dissolving the smears in hot water.

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    Great answer, though I don't agree about the distinction between "even heating" and "responsiveness." A pan that responds faster will even out its hot spots faster, so the two tend to go hand-in-hand. The least hot spots will be found in a copper or aluminum (or aluminum core) pan, which are my preferences for sugar work. I imagine your cast iron pans heat quite evenly on an induction stove, but with an uneven heat source like a gas burner, cast iron will be both unresponsive and display considerable hot spots. – Athanasius Aug 15 '14 at 14:29
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    @Athanasius a thin alu pan will respond almost immediately, but if you have the slightest unevenness in the heat source, it will be very noticeable on the pan inner surface. A thick, slow-warming pan's inner surface will be much more even heated than the outer surface, because it evens out while the heat diffuses through the pan, but the same mechanism slows the reaction to quick temperature changes in the source. If you have a heat source which heats very evenly, thin highly conductive pans will do a very good job indeed. – rumtscho Aug 15 '14 at 14:35
  • "A thick, slow-warming pan's inner surface will be much more even heated than the outer surface, because it evens out while the heat diffuses through the pan" - That's absolutely true, and it's why chefs use 2.5-3mm copper pans rather than the 1.5mm display pieces you often see at cooking shops. But to achieve the same heat diffusion and evenness as in 2.5mm copper, you'd need about 7mm of aluminum, but a couple inches of cast iron (which would make the pan weigh hundreds of pounds). Thickness can make pans more even, but it can't change the conductivity numbers for the material. – Athanasius Aug 15 '14 at 14:51
  • @Athanasius agreed. What I wanted to warn against are the very thin noname alu pans sold in discounter supermarkets, they are thin, responsive and uneven. I have never had the money to play with copper pans. – rumtscho Aug 15 '14 at 16:11
  • Ah, I understand now. I absolutely agree that trying to cook sugar in a very thin pan is probably a bad idea. I'm not advocating copper specifically, by the way; I was just using it as an example for a highly conductive metal. Your idea of a stainless pan with a thick aluminum disk or core is a good one; the price and design are not as important as the thickness of the aluminum. – Athanasius Aug 15 '14 at 16:24

The only difference I can think of this that some non-stick pans can absorb flavours from whatever you've previously cooked, so you'd need to be careful those didn't affect the flavour of the caramel.

The best way to clean a pot used for making caramel is to fill it with water and put it on the stove to simmer - this will melt and dissolve the sugar allowing easy cleaning.


I wouldn't make caramel in a non-stick pan because the high temperatures ruin the non-stick coating and can release toxins into the food. For the same reason, I never sear anything in a non-stick pan or cook anything above medium-high heat.

I do all my candy-making in stainless steel pots and have never had any issues. Cleaning up caramel is easy. You just run hot water into the pan and it dissolves.


I just tried to make a carmel sauce for my cheese cake and it did not colour, it just went back to lumps of sugar.This is a recipe I have made lots of times and only had problems when using a non stick pan. So I would say that you should not use nonstick pans for caramel.

  • Hello Ruth, I hope your cheesecake was nice in the end. Our site is not a forum, and all new posts are expected to answer the question. It seems you meant to tell people that a nonstick pan never works for you, and advise them to not use it, so I will try to edit the post in that direction instead of deleting. You can also re-edit to make clear what your suggestion is, if I misrepresent what you meant. – rumtscho Jan 25 '17 at 17:46

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