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Caramel in the Microwave

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2011

Many cooks shy away from making caramel. The process involves nothing more than melting sugar on the stovetop, but it can be tricky nonetheless. The sugar must be heated slowly and carefully to avoid overcooking—an all-too-easy occurrence even when you’re using a thermometer. And there’s always the risk of getting splattered by the molten syrup as you stir. We recently learned of an easier, virtually hands-off approach: Use the microwave. Stir 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup (added to help keep the caramel from recrystallizing), 2 tablespoons of water, and 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice together in a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup or glass bowl. Microwave on full power until the mixture is just beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes (depending on the strength of your microwave). Remove the caramel from the microwave and let it sit on a dry surface for 5 minutes or until it darkens to a rich honey brown. To make caramel sauce, add 1/2 cup of hot heavy cream a few tablespoons at a time (so the caramel won’t seize up), followed by 1 tablespoon of butter. Caramel doesn’t get any easier than this.

Starting to Brown

It's Done!