I came to using candy thermometers late in life. So many recipes just gave visual instructions (candy should form firm ball when placed into water) that it was possible to complete the recipe without that tool
. However, it became obvious that successes were more the result of luck than skill in deciphering recipes. So, when I first got involved in making chocolate truffles, temperatures became critical as did the need to know precisely what temp the melted chocolate was at any given stage.
I found that the commonly encountered metal thermometer with the round dial was not accurate for my purposes (and before digital ones were available) so I found the ideal one: made by Cuisinart, with large numbers and narrow range so that the temps I would be working with would be very easy to read.
So, here’s what I recommend when using a candy thermometer:
Do a test to be sure your thermometer is accurate. Put it in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. If the thermometer doesn’t read 212 degrees F, then you need to figure the difference and add or subtract to make the temperature measurements correct for your candy recipes.
·Cook the candy as directed. Some recipes will give you a temperature to aim for, while others may use one of the following terms: “thread,” “soft ball,” “medium ball,” “firm ball,” “hard ball,” “very hard ball,” “light (or soft) crack,” “hard crack” or “caramelized sugar” stages. The temperatures for some or most of these terms should be indicated on your candy thermometer.
Place the candy thermometer in the pan with the cooking candy. Be sure the bulb of the thermometer never touches the bottom of the pan, or the temperature will register too high. You want to find out the temperature of the candy mixture, not of the pan.
Clean the thermometer after each use. And, if you are working with chocolate, never re-insert it into the mix with any water on it. That will cause the mixture to “seize” as it’s called. If it does, you will have to start all over, so don’t do it!!