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

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).

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.

How do you beat fudge? ›

Beat the mixture

After letting the fudge cool, it's time to beat it. It is important to stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken and its surface starts to look dull or matte. Now is the time to stop beating and pour the fudge into a mould.

What does cream of tartar do in fudge? ›

If you add a teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to fudge this will inhibit the formation of crystals to a degree but please be aware THIS DOES NOT REPLACE THE BEATING PROCESS!

What makes fudge moist? ›

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 not to do when making fudge? ›

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels
  1. Using the Wrong Pan. All candy and confections start by melting sugar. ...
  2. Stirring the Sugar. ...
  3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer. ...
  4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining. ...
  5. Skipping the Cooking Spray. ...
  6. Scraping the Pot. ...
  7. Using a Cold Knife to Slice.
Dec 16, 2015

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.

How long do you boil fudge to get to soft ball stage? ›

How long does it take to make fudge:
  1. about 18 min to reach boiling.
  2. about 40 minutes to reach soft ball stage.
  3. 60 minutes to cool.
  4. 28 minutes to beat in a KitchenAid (your time for this may vary)
  5. 4 hours to set.

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.

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.

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.

Can you mess up fudge? ›

If your fudge is tough, hard, or grainy, then you may have made one of several mistakes: You may have overcooked it, beaten it too long, or neglected to cool it to the proper temperature.

What to do with failed fudge? ›

Good use of failed fudge: fudge that is too hard, too soft, too runny, too sugary, too chewy, etc. Proportions are as follows: for every 2 cups (roughly 1 pound yield) of any failed fudge that is not runny, you'll need 1 egg, ½ cup all-purpose flour, and ½ cup milk. If fudge is soupy, halve the milk (to ¼ cup).

Can I fix fudge that didn't set? ›

OPTION 3) Sieve together some powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and gradually work this into your unset fudge until it reaches the consistency of dough, then roll out and cut into squares, or shape into balls and then roll in powdered sugar (roll the balls in icing sugar, not yourself).

What should you not do when making fudge? ›

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels
  1. Using the Wrong Pan. All candy and confections start by melting sugar. ...
  2. Stirring the Sugar. ...
  3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer. ...
  4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining. ...
  5. Skipping the Cooking Spray. ...
  6. Scraping the Pot. ...
  7. Using a Cold Knife to Slice.
Dec 16, 2015

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.

Why does my fudge crumble when I cut it? ›

The ingredients for fudge are combined and cooked to 234 degrees, cooled to 110 degrees without stirring, then beaten until creamy. Candy that isn't cooked long enough will end up too soft; overcooking makes fudge crumbly or hard.

What would cause fudge not to harden? ›

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.

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