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Oct 14, 2010 10:35 AM

Replacing candy thermometer with meat thermometer?

I have a candy recipe I really wanna try tonight but I only have a meat thermometer. Can I use that instead of a candy thermometer? Or is there some other way to tell when the candy is at the "hard crack stage, or 300 degrees on a candy thermometer"?

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  1. Well, I use my candy thermometer as a meat thermometer sometimes, so it would probably work, but what you could do is the water test. Have a cup of cold water handy, and when you think your sugar is getting hot enough drop a little bit of syrup in the water, when it gets to the hard crack stage, it will form brittle threads that you can snap, but give it a few seconds to cool before you pick it out of the water. If the threads are still flexible, it's at the soft crack stage, before that is the hard ball stage, firm ball stage, and soft ball stage (pretty self explanatory I think) even before that is the thread stage, where the drop of syrup will pool into a liquid thread and not ball up at all, but I assume you won't run into that trying to get to the hard crack stage, unless you're really impatient, like I tend to be.

    1. Meat thermometers don't go high enough. The hard-crack stage is when you dribble some of the candy into cold water and it forms a hard lump that cracks when you bite it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        u can use any thermometer that goes high enough

      2. A dial meat thermometer usually goes up to 190'ish degrees F.

        However, if you have a digital meat thermometer, you might be able go as high as 400F. It depends upon the programming. Also, a digital meat thermometer tends to respond a little slower (lag) so don't crank up the heat too high. The reading on the thermometer may be two or three seconds old.

        1. Thanks! Actually I have a digital meat thermometer so I'll see how high it goes, if I can't use that I'll do the water test.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chocolatesa

            You can't leave the digital thermometer in the candy while cooking (and it probably doesn't have a pot clip anyway), so using a digital for candy becomes a problematic, if it indeed goes up higher than 300° (mine only goes up to 302°); you have to approximate when the candy has reached the proper temp for whatever stage of crack you're cooking it to, temp it and wait for the temp to max out. Those seconds of lag might mean the difference between just right or not. Hard crack is 300-310°, depending on the percentage of water in your syrup, if there is any. It's doable, given the individual thermomter's ability to reach higher temperatures than 300°, but certainly trickier than having a proper candy thermometer.

            I recommend using the cold water test, rather than a digital thermometer, which just may not be as accurate as you want. Here's a link for a handy chart, which describes the cold water test degree of doneness:


            1. re: bushwickgirl

              That's good advice. I've never used a candy thermometer but use the water test. It's how we were taught (way back when home ec was still called home ec). The only problem I've had is if I've gotten careless and dripped on myself.

          2. I did the cold water test and it turned out beautifully. Thanks!