Excellent question, reader Antuanete. That method simply involves putting sugar in a saucepan and turning on the heat. The bottom of the pan shoots up to 340 degrees Fahrenheit quickly, melting the sucrose into dark caramel, and there you have it.
Some people swear by it, but I’m not a fan for a couple of reasons. First, you have far less control over the process. Dry cooking gives you either dark caramel or extremely dark caramel with no light caramel stage along the way. If dark caramel is what you want then it’s a decent method, though you’d better have a plan to stop the cooking fast (butter, cream or a water bath) before the whole mass burns.
And speaking of burning, there’s always at least some burning with the dry cooking method. For many caramels lovers that’s a feature not a bug. I myself love dark, smoky caramels but they’re not right for everything. It’s further claimed that when sucrose melts at 340 without the interim “breakdown” step that creates a lot of caramelized fructose and glucose, you get different sorts of flavors. To that I say:…meh.
For me the “wet” caramel method is not only the easier of the two, it’s also the most versatile. I’ll keep it.