Let’s face it, we love our caramel. But what do we usually decide to do with our giant loaf of Peter’s? Melting! The melted caramel works so well when combined with other flavors (ahem! apples, and chocolate, and salt, oh my!). And you can use melted caramel in countless treats and desserts. We honestly can’t resist it. And at Gygi’s, we get so many questions about melting caramel every year. Just like with melting chocolate, there are several different methods that can work. Which one is the very best? Does it really matter which one you use? We are here to find out. These are the methods we have used in the Gygi Kitchen, and the two tried-and-true methods we have come to rely on.
Melting in the Microwave
The absolute easiest way to melt just a bit of caramel is in the microwave. Place the desired amount of caramel in a plastic or silicone microwave-safe bowl (we love these silicone bowls for so many things, but especially for quick and easy melting). Cook it on high for 30 seconds and then stir it. Put it back in the microwave, cook for another 30 seconds, and stir. Continue heating like this in small increments until the caramel has fully melted to the desired temperature. Note: always, always watch your caramel and stir gently between each microwaving interval to avoid scorching it. Also note, not all microwaves heat at the same temperature and you might have to adjust the power for more even melting.
Melting in the Oven
Are you looking to melt a ton of caramel (we are talking about one or two whole loaves)? Then the microwave may not be the best solution. Instead, we offer this low and slow method. It is the perfect, hands-off way to melt caramel if you want to get the process started and then walk away for a while. Place the caramel in your favorite enamel-covered Dutch oven (we absolutely love the Staub Cocotte 5 quart for half a block or one full block of caramel. We recommend a Staub Cocotte 7 quart only if you are trying to melt two blocks of caramel). Set the oven to 200℉, put the lid on the pot, and let the caramel melt for 90-120 minutes. No need to stand over the stove constantly checking and stirring.
Melting on the Stove Top
Another way to melt Peter’s Caramel is over a burner, though this method usually takes a little more care and attention. Just use a heavy-bottomed pot, turn the heat on low, and start melting. You will want to occasionally check on and stir the caramel to keep it evenly distributed and prevent burning along the bottom of the pot. If you don’t have a heavy-bottomed pot to use, you can always substitute it with a double-boiler. Set up the double-boiler as normal and add the caramel to the top bowl. Start with heat on low, stirring occasionally for the next 5-10 minutes, and only increase the temperature as needed to get the water to boil. This method will take a little longer, but will help prevent the caramel from burning and from cooling off too much while you are working with it.
Melting in the Crock Pot
So many people believe that turning a crock pot to the “warm” setting is the absolute easiest way to melt caramel. What they may not understand is that though most crock pots have three settings, a crock pot is either on or it is off – there is no other way to adjust to a specific temperature. And the warm setting on a crock pot is approximately 165℉. That is hotter than you might expect. So yes, you can technically melt the caramel in the crock pot, but you will need to act fast and stir, stir, stir. And once the caramel is melted, you will need to turn the crock pot off to keep it from burning.
In the Gygi Kitchen, we melt little bits of caramel in a silicone bowl in the microwave. If we are melting a lot of caramel (and we mean a lot when it comes to some of our classes), we always use the oven method for the perfect consistency every single time. These are some of the best practices for melting, whether you are preparing Peter’s Caramel to dip pretzels, make caramel apples, or drizzle caramel over popcorn. The other ways of melting caramel are fine, but require a little extra effort to make sure nothing scorches. What do you think? Are you ready to get melting?