The Biggest Candy Mistake You're Making, According To Gesine Bullock-Prado

Gesine Bullock-Prado — six-time cookbook author, owner of Sugar Glider Kitchen baking school, guest baking instructor at King Arthur Flour and Stonewall Kitchen, and host of Food Network's "Baked in Vermont," per her website — knows a thing or two about sugary treats. She's especially adept at candy making, which is notoriously tricky and rife with opportunities to mess up, perhaps even more so than baking.

While homemade confections involving cooking hot sugar, like peanut brittle or caramel, can be daunting, there are many tips out there to avoid major mistakes. According to Bon Appétit, some common candy errors are using the wrong pan, over-stirring the sugar, and not using a candy thermometer, which is pretty much a non-negotiable for any kind of sugar work. On that note, Bullock-Prado told Food Network that the biggest mistake in candy making, though, is not calibrating your candy thermometer. Such a tool may seem precise, but if it's uncalibrated, you can't always be sure that it's accurate.

How to calibrate your candy thermometer

There is only a few degrees' difference between cooked sugar mixtures that are stretchy and malleable and those that are brittle and rock-hard, The Exploratorium reports. It's easy to see, then, why an accurate candy thermometer is essential for anyone serious about making candy from scratch. If the device hasn't been calibrated, however, you can't really know if its readings are accurate.

What does calibration even mean? It's basically the process of making sure your thermometer is delivering accurate temperatures based on known values, such as the temperature at which water freezes or boils. Gesine Bullock-Prado revealed a super simple method to Food Network called the boiled water test, explaining that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. "Check your thermometer's reading in boiling water and then either calibrate the thermometer (if it allows you to) or do math to correct the misread," she said. Try this, and never again suffer from improperly cooked toffee.