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Test Candy Thermometer for Accuracy before Making Holiday Memories

To test the accuracy of your candy thermometer, place the bulb in a pan of rapidly boiling water, keeping the bulb off the bottom of the pan. At eye level, read the temperature while the thermometer is in the water. It should read 212 degrees F, while the water is boiling.


I’ll admit that I only use my candy thermometer once a year and that is during the holidays. Making candy during the holidays was a family tradition that I grew up with. My grandmother, mother, aunts, and sister, all gathered in the kitchen to make candy to have around the house but also to give as gifts to family and friends.

For many of us, including myself, I rarely make candy unless it’s the holidays.  This means that many times, I have to try to remember the tricks that my grandmother taught me. I will share her tips so you can have great candy to give as gifts, or share with family and friends.

Her most important tip was to make sure the candy thermometer is in good working condition and accurate. A candy thermometer is inexpensive and used to test the temperature during cooking. Choose one that has a clip so that it can rest against the sides of a heavy-gauge saucepan.

Test the accuracy of your candy thermometer.

Place the bulb in a pan of rapidly boiling water, keeping the bulb off the bottom of the pan. At eye level, read the temperature while the thermometer is in the water. It should read 212 degrees F., while the water is boiling.

If the thermometer does not measure boiling temperature correctly, remember to adjust the candy thermometer during cooking to reflect the difference, or dispose of it and replace with a new one.

You also need a heavy pan to prevent your candy from burning or scorching. The pan you choose needs to be the correct size to prevent the candy from boiling over.

Choose the freshest and best ingredients.

If your recipe calls for butter, use salted or unsalted. Margarines or butter spreads may not always be a good substitute.  Sometimes they do not create the correct texture in the final candy product. Butter gives candy a creamy, rich taste and texture.

My grandmother always chose a dry day (not humid) for making candy. She knew from experience that weather could be a factor when making candy. If you choose to make candy on a humid day, you may need to cook your candy a degree or two higher than stated in the recipe.

Once the candy is made, store it properly.

It should be wrapped individually in waxed paper or plastic food wrap to ensure longer storage. Store individually wrapped candies in boxes, tins, or cartons with tight-fitting lids.

Avoid storing candies such as caramels, mints, hard candies, and toffee that absorb moisture in the same container as candies that lose moisture. That might include candies such as fudge, fondant, meringues, and divinity.  If you do mix these types of candy, you might end up with hard candies that are sticky.

When storing fudge, use wax paper to individually wrap each piece, or separate the layers in your storage container with wax paper.

Ship your candy correctly.

Once the candy has been made, and is being distributed, pay special attention to that which will be shipped. Wrap different candies in plastic food wrap and divide the layers with waxed paper. Use crumpled or shredded paper towels or bubble wrap inside the container for padding. Seal the container with heavy tape and ship. Put the container into a sturdy cardboard box, and use bubble wrap or newspaper to further protect the container.

Next, print the mailing and return addresses on the package in waterproof ink; mark the package “perishable food,” to ensure quick and careful handling. In many cases, overnight shipping may be the best option.

Pecan Pralines Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-teaspoon soda
  • 1-cup buttermilk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2-tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine sugar, soda, buttermilk, and salt. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes (or 250 degrees on candy thermometer), stirring often, scraping bottom of pan. Add butter and pecans. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, scraping bottom and sides of pan until candy reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees) about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Beat until smooth and creamy. Drop from tablespoon onto waxed paper and let cool. Makes about 18 two-inch pralines.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609