Candy Making 101

Let’s face it; unless you have been making candy for years, you are going to want to use a candy thermometer. Even though your grandmother and countless generations of cooks before her never had access to one and still managed to prepare batches of sweet delights, that doesn’t mean that you want to go down that road.  

However, there are reasons why you might need to. Maybe you don’t own a candy thermometer or maybe yours just broke and you don’t have time to replace it. Whatever the reason, once you understand what the hard/soft ball stage is you will be able to produce many sweet treats without having to resort to your mercury helper.

Cooking sugar

When you are cooking sugar, it goes through several stages. When a small amount of the mixture is dropped into a cup of cold water it hardens up. How hard it gets determines which stage it is at. If it flattens out in the bottom of the cup it is way soft, if it turns into a brittle ball it is probably over cooked. You need to learn what a soft ball is and what a hard ball is. It’s that simple.


One of the simplest things to make without a candy thermometer is fudge. Fudge comes in a great many varieties from fudgy chocolate to luscious flavors like peanut butter and the seasonal favorite pumpkin. When using the ball method of cooking, it is important to choose a recipe that can help you to have a successful result. But, fudge can be without any resorting to cold water and testing the hardness of a ball of sugar. There are many recipes especially for chocolate that are very simple to make and very satisfying to eat.

Peanut brittle

Another simple candy to make without a thermometer is peanut brittle. All it requires is peanuts ad sugar, it is that simple. It doesn’t have to be just peanuts either, how about walnut or almond brittle or  the family favorite, pistachios. The nuts are so good for you that you can even convince yourself that this is a somewhat healthy snack and in moderation it is great.


When looking for recipes to make candy, it is easy enough to find ones that combine both the temperature that the mixture needs to reach and the ball stage. Once you understand what temperature represents soft ball stage, you can adapt recipes yourself.  Pralines are the next level of candy to try, more ingredients and a little more difficult but still easy enough for a beginner to tackle. Just follow the recipe as closely as possible for the best results. 

These are just a few of the many delicious candies that you can make even if you have never owned a candy thermometer. But as a side note, owning one does make your life a lot easier and is well worth the investment if you want to try lots of candy making.