Michael Laiskonis shows the various stages boiling sugar for everything from glazes to hard candy
Anyone who has never used, let alone seen a candy thermometer, knows it can be a mysterious and somewhat intimidating kitchen tool. What can you use it for and how do you use it? That's why The Daily Meal is here to help simplify things.
Candy thermometers are useful for anyone who is planning on cooking sugar or deep-frying food. Many candy thermometers can read a range of temperatures, which also makes them useful for measuring how hot a pot of oil is.
Sugar undergoes seemingly magical transformations when cooked, going from a crystalline solid at room temperature to a liquid that develops various stages of flavor as it melts, which is why it is technically referred to as a "wet ingredient" rather than a "dry ingredient" by many pastry chefs and bakers.
What do these various stages look like, and what are their uses? Terms like thread, soft crack, and hard crack are commonly used to describe sugar as it reaches certain temperatures. While verbal descriptions can be helpful, we feel that the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" applies here.
Before you delve in and start experimenting with hot sugar, though, we'd like to offer a word of caution: Sugar is definitely not a food to cook naked, and it burns worse than boiling water because it's extremely hard to remove from skin once it makes contact.
To put these new skills to use, click here to see How to Make Your Favorite Halloween Candy at Home.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.