The only equipment you must have to make candy

Candy thermometers and dipping tools are essential to make homemade candy successfully and safely.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

In the same way people complain about baking being more regimented and exacting than cooking, candy making takes anal retentiveness to a whole other level. Not that it can’t be relaxing or easy, but candy making requires more patience and focus than baking. And while certain pans and stirring tools will help you out, the only essential equipment you need for making candy is a reliable candy thermometer.

Because I use a candy thermometer often — whether it’s for making candy, jam or using it as a deep-fry thermometer, a use it’s also labeled for — I keep about four thermometers on hand because many of them, in my experience, can malfunction when used too many times. You don’t have to have that many, but it’s best to have at least one backup.

Two easy recipes for candy bars show that making your own candy — just in time for Halloween and the holdiays — is a cooking project you’re ready for.

And don’t think you can just use a meat thermometer or instant-read thermometer for making candy. You want what’s called a paddle-style thermometer that’s built to attach itself upright to the side of a pan, with its mercury bulb positioned as close as possible to the base of your pan. There are also dial-style thermometers and glass tube thermometers, but I prefer the stick-style because they stay more flush with the pan and the numbers are easier to read.


Once you’ve made your candy, however, there is one other piece of equipment that comes in handy if you need to coat it in chocolate, caramel or another syrup. Often sold in “dipping tool sets,” three-prong wire forks are ideal for lifting candy from chocolate. Can you use a regular dinner fork for this? Sure, but the super-thin wires of the dipping fork allow for more efficient draining of the coating, are more lightweight and allow for easier transfer of the candy to the surface on which it will set. If you’re making truffles or other round candies, pick up a hoop dipping tool too, which will make it easier to handle them.

Homemade PayDay Bars

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Makes about 6 dozen pieces

Homemade Butterfinger Bites

Time 1 hour 15 minutes, plus 5 hours resting
Yields Makes 4 to 5 dozen pieces