How to caramelize brown sugar and butter? (3+ ways)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “How to caramelize brown sugar and butter?”, discuss answers to other related questions like what are the ways of caramelization and what can go wrong during the caramelization process.

How to caramelize brown sugar and butter?

A delightfully sweet syrupy liquid can be obtained by caramelizing brown sugar and butter, which can be used in small amounts to make desserts taste best. As we know that, sugar is very high in carbohydrates, but when caramelized with better, it should not concern you because a little goes a long way.

To caramelize brown sugar and butter, follow the directions given below:

  1. Take a saucepan and place it on the stove over medium heat. 
  2. Add sugar and butter to the saucepan.
  3. As the butter melts, stir the sugar and butter together to thoroughly combine the two ingredients.
  4. Occasionally scrape the slides and the bottom of the pan with the spoon as you stir the ingredients to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
  5. Keep cooking the mixture until it becomes thicker and tackier, and starts to stick to the pan if you stop stirring. Continue to let the mixture cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture gains a texture similar to that of molasses.
  6. To make sure if it is done, hold the spoon up and allow the caramelized sugar and butter to drip into the pan. If it is not too watery, you can remove the pan from the heat, and caramelized brown sugar and butter are READY!

The science behind caramelization

During the caramelization process, sugar is cooked until it turns brown. One thing you need to know before digging into the actual phenomenon is the fact that sugar has no smell and it just tastes sweet, but when you heat the sugar or sucrose, it melts and darkens, developing complex aromas and flavors that taste decreasingly sweet and increasingly toasty.

The science behind this phenomenon is that the heat causes sucrose to break down into its components sugars, glucose, and fructose. Eventually, these molecules break down into other molecules that react with one another to create hundreds of new compounds, such as bitter-tasting phenols, fruity-smelling esters, and others that taste buttery, sour, nutty, and malty. These are the delicious flavors and aromas of caramelized sugar.

In the end, when you caramelize sugar with butter, the butter gives the melted sugar a creamier texture that enhances the outlook and taste if drizzled over the cake or fresh fruit.

Other FAQs about Sugar which you may be interested in.

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2 ways of caramelization

As described earlier, caramelization is a process in which sugars are melted at a temperature that makes the thermal decomposition of the glycosidic bonds possible. This process is chemically termed pyrolysis, which is a broad category of changes that a substance undergoes when exposed to certain temperatures. There are two ways for making caramel; dry caramelization and wet caramelization. Read on to see the difference between these two ways.

Dry caramelization

The dry method requires simply heating sugar in a dry pan until it liquefies and browns. This demands careful attention, as the sugar tends to darken quickly and less evenly due to hot spots in the pan or the heat source.

It is recommended to use a pan with a wide surface area for dry caramelization so the sugar is in a thin layer that heats and browns more evenly.

Wet caramelization 

The wet method requires moistening the sugar in the pan with a little water. The water dissolves and distributes the sugar to promote even browning. As the sugar caramelizes, the water boils off and so the wet method also helps to prolong the total time that the sugar is heated, allowing more complex flavors to develop. 

In wet caramelization, the sugar browns more slowly. So, it helps you to create a light or medium caramel instead of a dark brown one.

What can go wrong during the caramelization process?

Though the process of caramelization seems to be very easy, certain things can take place if you do not pay attention. Like in wet caramelization, the sugar tends to recrystallize more easily than it does with the dry method.  When the sugar and water boil, sugar syrup may splash onto the wall of the pot, where it evaporates quickly and forms back into sugar crystals. If even one of these crystals falls back into the syrup, it can seed a chain reaction, turning the clear syrup opaque and grainy. So, it is better to keep recrystallization from occurring in the first place.

Click here if you want to read about how to prevent recrystallization to occur.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “How to caramelize brown sugar and butter?”, discussed answers to other related questions like what are the ways of caramelization and what can go wrong during the caramelization process.


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