5 Tips (and 1 Cheat) for Making the Best Fudge (2024)

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Casey Barber

Casey Barber

Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator, and photographer;author of Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food and Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand Name Treats; and editor of Good. Food. Stories.. When she’s not road-tripping across the U.S., Casey lives in New Jersey with her husband, two hungry cats, and a freezer full of sour cherries.

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published Dec 15, 2021

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5 Tips (and 1 Cheat) for Making the Best Fudge (1)

Are you afraid of making homemade fudge? You’re not alone. For something so closely associated with simple, old-fashioned indulgence, this confection strikes fear into the heart of even experienced bakers and dessert makers. But it doesn’t have to be so intimidating.

The key to making amazing fudge is in the manipulation of sugar crystals as they heat up and cool down. The unique texture of fudge comes from sugar crystals — very, very small “microcrystals” that form as sugar goes from solid to liquid (molten liquid, at that) and then back to solid again. While that might sound scary and complicated, it all comes down to timing. Read on for the most important tips to perfect your fudge technique.

1. Use a candy thermometer.

This is the first — and probably most important — rule of fudge, as the sugar in fudge has to reach specific temperatures to create that signature meltingly smooth, rich texture. And unless you’re your grandmother who has made this recipe hundreds of times, no, you can’t eyeball it.

A digital candy thermometer ($5 from Amazon) that clips to the side of your pot helps you monitor the temperature as the sugar cooks. Before you start cooking, place the thermometer in a pot of boiling water to test it. If it reads 212°F, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to calibrate it or get a new one. (Read more tips for using cooking thermometers.)

2. Use a big, heavy-bottomed pot.

Because you’re working with a recipe that involves cooking sugar to specific temperatures, you want to use a good pot that heats evenly, so the sugar won’t scorch and burn in spots. You’ll also need the pot to be large enough to allow for the sugar to bubble up as it boils. A high-sided saucepan and Dutch oven work well.

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3. Don’t stir!

Add the ingredients to the pot and heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Once that happens, let it cook undisturbed (i.e., absolutely no stirring!) until the candy thermometer hits soft-ball stage: 234°F. If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, you can run a wet pastry brush over the crystals to dissolve them without stirring them into the mixture. At this stage, keeping large sugar crystals from forming is crucial to a smooth-textured fudge

Once the fudge reaches soft-ball stage on the candy thermometer, remove from the heat and let the temperature drop to 110°F. Keep that spoon or spatula out of the pot until this happens. If you stir too early in the process, you’ll make the sugar crystals too big and end up with grainy fudge.

4. And then DO stir! Like, really stir.

Once the thermometer reading falls to 110°F, it’s time to exercise your arm muscles. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon (the favorite kitchen tool of grannies everywhere) or a silicone spatula just until the fudge loses its glossy sheen. Avoid beating it for too long, or you’ll have fudge rocks — which, despite the name, definitely don’t rock.

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Transfer the fudge to a greased baking pan and let it set at room temperature (this should take about 3 hours). Don’t try to speed up the cooling process by stashing it the fridge or freezer; that can make it grainy too.

5. Fix it (if you need to).

No matter what happened — if your fudge didn’t set properly and is too soft, too grainy, or hard as a rock — the fix is the same.Melt it down and start over!

Chop up the fudge, if necessary, and return it to the saucepan. Add a little liquid — like water, milk, or cream — and bring the mixture back to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to make sure all the fudge melts.

From there, heat the fudge to soft-ball stage, then cool and beat again.

6. Cheat a little!

If making traditional fudge seems like a step too far for you, start out by using a fudge recipe that uses marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, or sweetened condensed milk. These ingredients will help ensure smooth fudge every time.

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5 Tips (and 1 Cheat) for Making the Best Fudge (2024)

FAQs

5 Tips (and 1 Cheat) for Making the Best Fudge? ›

You have to control two temperatures to make successful fudge: the cooking temperature AND the temperature at which the mixture cools before stirring to make it crystallize. Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

What is the secret to making good fudge? ›

You have to control two temperatures to make successful fudge: the cooking temperature AND the temperature at which the mixture cools before stirring to make it crystallize. Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

How do you beat fudge? ›

When the fudge cools to 110 degrees F/43 degrees C, beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it's no longer glossy. Then you can stir in the nuts, or any other extra flavorings, and transfer it to the cooling pan. Adding Butter to Fudge | Photo by Meredith.

What is the key to successful non grainy fudge? ›

While you ultimately want crystals to form, it's important that they don't form too early. The key to successful, nongrainy fudge is in the cooling, not the cooking.

How to make fudge creamy and not grainy? ›

By cooling the fudge prior to agitation (like in the recipes included in this article), on the other hand, you'll get much smaller, finer sugar crystals and a finished fudge with a smooth, creamy texture. Cool the mixture until it reads 120° F on the thermometer—no stirring. This can take 1 to 1/2 hours.

What does cream of tartar do in fudge? ›

Cream of tartar is used in caramel sauces and fudge to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while cooking. It also prevents cooling sugars from forming brittle crystals, this is why it's the secret ingredient in snickerdoodles!

What makes fudge softer? ›

If you don't heat your fudge to a high enough temperature, you'll end up with a soft product. And if you heat the mixture too much, your fudge may be harder than you'd like.

Why does fudge fail? ›

Homemade Fudge Doesn't Always Set

If your fudge doesn't firm up after a few hours, you either have too high an amount of liquid to sugar, or your mixture hasn't reached the soft-ball stage. Using a candy thermometer can help home cooks avoid this problem.

Why did my fudge turn out like taffy? ›

If the fudge is very soft and slightly chewy then it is possible that it did not quite cook to soft ball stage and next time the mixture should be cooked to a slightly higher temperature (soft ball is 112-116c/235-240F and a sugar or candy thermometer can help).

Should you stir fudge while it's boiling? ›

You should mix the cream, butter, and sugar when making your fudge, but put down the spoon once it has reached its boiling point. Stirring while your sugar mixture is boiling will only form sugar crystals and make your fudge crunchy rather than silky smooth.

What happens if you boil fudge too long? ›

If there is too much evaporation, when the cooking time is too long, there will not be enough water left in the fudge and it will be too hard. Conversely, if the cooking time is too brief and there is not enough evaporation, too much water will remain and the fudge will be too soft.

What to do with failed fudge? ›

My advice to you is to just pour it in a jar, call it something else delicious, and pretend you meant for it to be that way. The nice thing about my “failed” fudge is that it tastes absolutely delicious! A spoonful of the delectable treat will make you want for more.

How do you keep fudge smooth? ›

So, the key to smooth yet firm fudge, pralines, and fondant is to first bring the mixture to a high enough concentration and then let it cool off somewhat before starting to stir. And once you do start to stir, stir fanatically and without stopping for the finest, creamiest texture.

Why does my fudge fall apart when I cut it? ›

The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won't evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won't contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture.

What is the best pan to make fudge in? ›

Secondly, the pot's material should allow for good heat distribution hence your top choice should be copper cookware or a pot with a copper core. Copper's exceptional heat conductivity offers unparalleled temperature control, an asset when working with finicky ingredients like sugar.

What should you not do when making fudge? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

What keeps fudge from getting hard? ›

If there is too much evaporation, when the cooking time is too long, there will not be enough water left in the fudge and it will be too hard. Conversely, if the cooking time is too brief and there is not enough evaporation, too much water will remain and the fudge will be too soft.

How do you make homemade fudge firmer? ›

The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won't evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won't contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture.

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