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

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 secret to smooth fudge that is not gritty? ›

Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has come to a boil, do not stir it. If you do, the sugar can crystallize, giving your fudge a gritty texture. As you beat the fudge, pay attention to color and texture. Once the fudge loses its sheen and thickens, put down your spoon.

Why is my 3 ingredient fudge not setting? ›

Why won't my 3 ingredient fudge set? This often happens when the condensed milk and chocolate chip mixture isn't hot enough to start. Everything must be completely melted before it is transferred to the pan to cool.

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 ingredient makes fudge hard? ›

Too cooked

At this temperature, the sugar is too concentrated and there is not enough water left to form syrup around sugar crystals. The result is hard and brittle fudge. To save the fudge, put it in a saucepan with 45 to 60 ml (3 or 4 tbsp.)

Why won't my condensed milk fudge set? ›

Fudge Didn't Set

If your fudge turned out super sticky, or it didn't set as it cooled, it probably never got hot enough. This mistake is super easy to avoid if you use a candy thermometer and cook the fudge to the temperature specified in the recipe (usually between 234 and 239°F).

Does fudge made with evaporated milk need to be refrigerated? ›

Fudge typically contains dairy, but the high sugar content of this candy stabilizes it. If you intend to enjoy your fudge within 1 to 2 weeks, it can certainly be kept out at room temperature.

Is milk chocolate or semi sweet chocolate better for fudge? ›

Chocolate: you may use semi-sweet chocolate or dark chocolate. If you want milk chocolate fudge, I suggest using a combination of milk and semi-sweet, so that it's not overly sweet. But this is up to you! You could also use semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I suggest sticking to high-quality chocolate if possible.

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.

What to do with failed fudge? ›

Options for what you can do with your unset fudge:

OPTION 1) Depending on how runny it is, you can either use it as a frosting for cakes, or a sauce for ice-cream. OPTION 2) Freeze it overnight. Cut it into squares. Cover each square thickly in melted chocolate, ensuring no part of the fudge is exposed.

Can you reboil fudge that hasn't set? ›

If it doesn't set, or if it sets very hard, you can add more milk and boil it again. However, even if it doesn't set, it'll usually be a nice frosting-like consistency, so I sometimes just make a cake to put under it.

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.

How do you reset fudge? ›

If you let your fudge get too hot, the sugars will start to concentrate and the fudge will be crumbly, dull, and hard. To fix it, put it back into the saucepan and add about 3–4 US tbsp (44–59 ml) of 35% fat whipping cream. Stir the mixture as you heat it until the sugar in the fudge is melted.

How to make fudge more solid? ›

How do you fix fudge that is too soft? Bring the fudge back to a boil with 1–2 US tbsp (15–30 ml) of cream. If your fudge is soft or runny, it probably didn't come up to a high enough temperature while it was cooking. Put it back into the saucepan and add 1–2 US tbsp (15–30 ml) of 35% fat whipping cream.

Why hasn't my fudge set properly? ›

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.

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!

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