#AtoZChallenge: #Cooking Terms – C is for Caramelize

CI’m sure many of you have had (or at least heard of) caramel or caramelized onion.

What does the word Caramelize mean?

The word Caramelize come from the root word Caramel.  A french words, from 1725, meaning literally – “Burnt Sugar”  When making caramelizing, you are literally (or as my son would say, ‘quite literally’) burning the sugars”

The first known usage of the word Caramelize is from 1842

Caramelization is the browning of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. As the process occurs, volatile chemicals are released, producing the characteristic caramel flavor.

In cooking, to caramelize something means to cook it slowly until it becomes brown and sweet.

Here is a handy table of the stages of caramelization (unfortunately the images didn’t translate, but you can click on the link to see the full table).


Table 2 : Stage of caramelization of saccharose (table sugar)


Step Temperature°C Description and use Image
1 Evaporation of water 100 Sugar is melted and impurities rise to the surface;
2 Small Thread 102 No colour; soft cooling; no flavour change. Used in frostings.
3 Large Thread 104 No colour; soft cooling; no flavour change. Used in preserves.
4 Small Ball 110 – 115 No colour; semi-soft cooling; no flavour change. Used in cream candy fillings, Italian meringue, fondants, fudge, and marshmallows;
5 Large Ball 119 – 122 No colour; firm cooling; no flavour change. Used in soft caramels;
6 Light Crack 129 No colour; firm cooling; no flavour change. Used in semi-hard candies.
7 Hard Crack   165 – 166 No colour; hard cooling; no flavour change. Used in butterscotch and hard candies;
8 Extra-hard Crack 168 Slight colour; shatters like glass during cooling; no flavour change. Used in hard candies;
9 Light Carmel 180 Pale amber to golden brown; rich flavour.
10 Medium Carmel 180 – 188 Golden brown to chestnut brown; rich flavour;
11 Dark Carmel 188 – 204 Very dark and bitter; smells burned. Used for colouring, but lack of appropriate sweetness;
12 Black Jack 210 Also known as “monkey’s blood.” At this point, the sugar begins to breaks down to pure carbon. Burning flavour.


Some ways in which caramelization is used in cooking

  • Caramelization is used to produce several foods, including:
  • Caramel sauce, a sauce made with caramel
  • Confiture de lait, caramelized, sweetened milk
  • Dulce de leche, caramelized, sweetened milk
  • Caramel candies
  • Caramelized onions, which are used in dishes like French onion soup. Onions require 30 to 45 minutes of cooking to caramelize.[3]
  • Caramelized potatoes
  • Cola, of which some brands use caramelised sugar in small amounts for colour

Foods that can be caramelized are Sugar, Onions and Apples.  Apparently Leeks, Shallots, Carrots Fennel has also been tried with success



Join me on an A to Z Journey of Cooking Terms throughout the month of April.


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