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Some Caribbean recipes, such as this Jamaican oxtail stew, ask for browning sauce, which is essentially burnt sugar:

Heat a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add brown sugar to pot and melt, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it darkens and starts to smoke — about six minutes. When sugar is nearly black, add 2 tablespoons boiling water. (It will splatter.) Stir to mix.

This does add a lot of smokey-sweet flavour, nice bitterness, and rich dark brown colour to the stew, which I'd like to keep. However, this also results, after a couple of hours on the stove, in the bottom of the pan being covered by what amounts to charcoal that's almost impossible to clean by non-abrasive means.

Since the recipes also often include acidy ingredients, I'd prefer to use enamel pots instead of stainless steel, which makes cleaning the burnt sugar residue without damaging enamel a multi-day challenge.

Is there a trick for removing burnt sugar from enamel surfaces? Alternatively, how can I achieve the browning sauce effect without it sticking to the pot?

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I would do this in a non-stick pan, then throw this into the stew/pot, usually with some meat or something else first in the pot you are stewing in. The reason it sticks, is b/c sugar tends to stay together, so if sugar is at the bottom of a pan it draws more sugar to the bottom, along with all the browned meat bits. I also like to de-glaze the pot you brown the meat in for more flavor and less cleaning.

  • Thanks, this makes sense. I'll give it a shot next time. – mustaccio Apr 18 '18 at 17:04
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Once you've caramelized the sugar, remove it from the pan and add some water (carefully and slowly! Trust me, you do NOT want to spatter yourself with hot caramel!), then keep stirring it until all the caramel is re-dissolved. Even if the water gets quite dark, you'll generally be able to feel undissolved caramel on the bottom with your spoon.

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