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? ›

Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy. By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals.

What is the secret to perfect fudge? ›

Tips for Making Fudge
  • Monitor the Temperature with a Candy Thermometer. If you end up with soft fudge that turns into a puddle in your hands or hard fudge that is a bit reminiscent of a crunchy candy, improper temperature is likely to blame. ...
  • Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer. ...
  • Beat Thoroughly.
Mar 8, 2023

What is the secret to smooth fudge that is not gritty? ›

Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy. By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals.

Is evaporated milk or condensed milk better for fudge? ›

Evaporated milk doesn't have sugar added. The sweetened condended milk is needed as no extra sugar is added to the fudge. If evaporated milk were used then the fudge would not be sweet enough and also would still be too soft unless the fudge is frozen.

What is the best utensil for stirring fudge? ›

A candy thermometer is the best way to ensure your ingredients are at the right temperature in each stage of making fudge; many candy thermometers are marked with the recommended temperatures for each kind of candy you make. Wooden or silicone spoon: Choose one with a long handle for stirring.

What not to do when making fudge? ›

Never stir the mixture during cooking or sugar could crystallize again. The mixture may seize and become grainy. Use a candy thermometer or conduct a cold water test to check if the fudge is done. Do not rely on the cooking time indicated in your recipe.

What makes high quality fudge? ›

Candy that isn't cooked long enough will end up too soft; overcooking makes fudge crumbly or hard. High-quality fudge has many small crystals. If the process of crystallization begins too early, fewer crystals form and they become much larger.

Should you stir fudge while it's cooking? ›

Don't stir!

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.

What makes fudge softer? ›

Undercooked. This fudge was cooked until the temperature reached only108 °C (226 °F). At this temperature, the sugar is not concentrated enough... there is too much leftover water in the syrup and the resulting fudge is soft.

When making fudge, what is the soft ball stage? ›

For example, at 235° F, the syrup is at the "soft-ball" stage. That means that when you drop a bit of it into cold water to cool it down, it will form a soft ball. Most candy recipes will tell you to boil your sugar mixture until it reaches one of the stages below.

Can I use half and half instead of evaporated milk in fudge? ›

Half-and-half has less protein and more fat than evaporated milk, but you can substitute the same amount of half-and-half for evaporated milk in a recipe. You won't get the same note of caramelized flavor that you would from evaporated milk, but the creamy consistency makes this an excellent substitute.

Why is my fudge not setting condensed milk? ›

The main reason is that your Fudge has not reached the optimum temperature. If your mixture only reaches 110 or 112 degrees Celsius it will always be soft. That's why we recommend investing in a sugar thermometer. Another reason your Fudge is not setting is that the ratio of liquid to sugar is too high.

Do you have to refrigerate condensed milk fudge? ›

No, the only reason the fudge is put into the fridge to begin with is to help it set faster. This fudge is completely safe at room temperature.

How do you beat fudge? ›

Once the fudge has cooled, you can choose to make the fudge easily, or you can “elect the way of pain”. Stirring fudge by hand is hard, tiring, and can break your wooden spoon. Fudge can be beaten successful with a mixer. It is okay to stop the mixer periodically (it won't set immediately like ice cream does).

Why do you use a wooden spoon to make fudge? ›

In his book On Food and Cooking, food scientist Harold McGee writes, “A metal spoon can induce crystallization by conducting heat away from local areas of the syrup, cooling them and so leaving them supersaturated [causing crystallization].” He recommends using a wooden spoon, which doesn't conduct heat.

What is a fudge maker called? ›

A chocolatier (/ˌtʃɒkələˈtɪər, ˈtʃɒkələtɪər/ CHOK-əl-ə-TEER, -⁠teer, UK also /ˌtʃɒkəˈlætɪər/ CHOK-ə-LAT-eer, French: [ʃɔkɔlatje]) is a person or company who makes confectioneries from chocolate.

What gives fudge its firm texture? ›

The key to creamy, luscious fudge is controlling crystal formation. If the sucrose (table sugar) crystals are small, the fudge will feel creamy and smooth on your tongue. But if the crystals are large, the fudge develops a crumbly, dry, or even coarse texture.

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 keeps fudge from getting hard? ›

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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