Stages of Sugar Syrups

I found this chart on the King Arthur Flour website and thought it clearly spelled out the various stages of cooking sugar.  When combining sugar and water and cooking it to various temperatures, the sugar reacts in different ways and serves as the basis for making any number of candies.  As the holiday seasons approach, I thought this would be a handy chart to have in the kitchen as you make those special candies and fudgesYou can identify these stages by using a candy thermometer or by certain physical characteristics that the sugar will display will cooking.



Physical Properties

Commonly Used For

Soft Ball Stage

235 to 240 degrees F

When ¼ teaspoon of sugar syrup is dropped into a dish of cold water, it can be shaped into a pliable ball.

Fudge, pralines, seven-minute frosting, classic buttercream frosting and cooked meringues.

Firm Ball Stage

245-250 degrees F

When ¼ teaspoon of hot syrup is dropped into a dish of cold water, it will form a firm ball that doesn’t flatten when removed from the water, but will compress when squeezed.

Soft caramels

Hard Ball Stage

250-265 degrees F

Hot syrup will form thick threads when dripped from a spoon

Marshmallows, divinity, rock candy, nougat

Soft Crack Stage

270-290 degrees F

Hot syrup dropped into ice water can be separated into hard threads.  When taken out of water, they’ll bend slightly before breaking


Hard Crack Stage

300-310 degrees F

Hot syrup dropped into ice water separates into hard, brittle threads that break without bending

Toffee, nut brittles, stained glass cookie filling or lollipops

Caramelized Stage

338 degrees F

¼ teaspoon of hot caramel will make a brittle ball in cold water.  The clear syrup begins to turn brown and more complex flavors compounds begin to form.  The sugar gets less sweet as it continues to cook.

Hard caramels