What about the “dry cooking” method?

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.

8 thoughts on “What about the “dry cooking” method?”

  1. Your posts are always so relevant! I just made a caramel filling for a cake and I always follow the recipe and instructions as listed the first time. It called for 4 cups of sugar and only a 1/4 cup of water with a touch of corn syrup to be heated on high. Needless to say the pan heated the sugar at different rates where there was more/less water content (since 1/4 cup into 4 cups does nothing but give you a few damp spots) and I ruined the first pot as there were several burnt spots and several spots where the sugar was still in its original form. So I tried again, but I “took a risk” and used more water (like 1/2 cup) and lowered the heat until all the sugar had dissolved. I’m glad to read now that it was NOT a risk and that the extra water didn’t matter. What a relief! When it was done and cooled off, it turned out to be the best caramel I had ever made. Thanks for the post Joe!


  2. It all depends on your application! I *love* making dry caramel, simply because I, like you, are mentally unhinged. Simply dry caramelise the sugar, and have your cream boiling, ready to deglaze. I make a lot of artisan chocolates (*cough* *cough*) and as you’re probably aware, best way to have a longer shelf life is to have less water in the filling. So starting out with none in the caramel is a great start 😉

    The easiest way to control the ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrapit’sburning is to add your sugar in three batches, as the first batch is turning golden, you dump the next third in, then repeat once more.


    1. Fascinating. Thanks CfDU!

      And I had an inkling you were in the confectionery business down in Ozzieland, nice to finally see it!


      – Joe

  3. I must be the luckiest guy in the world. I almost always do the dry method on a moderate heat, and once the sugar starts looking clear I stir it around with a silicone spatula. Then you get melted sugar which proceeds through the stages of color.

  4. i am, too a dry method fanatic, as every single time I have tried to make caramel with the wet method, the syrup crystallizes before it caramelizes. I have tried all methods (stirring, not stirring, etc) but it doesn’t work for some reason. I know a little glucose will do the trick, but this thing is a little pricey here so…I keep the dry method- and the glucose for other uses 😉

    1. Hey Lisa!

      Hey, if it works it works! I’ll say that crystals aren’t a problem with caramel…you just keep the heat on until they melt!

      If you decide to try the wet method again, just swirl the pan over high heat as opposed to medium-high. That should do the trick!


      – Joe

  5. Thank you, Joe, for explanation! So I will stick to method which I find more convenient and foolproof 🙂

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