Using honey or sugar syrup can enhance your dishes with divine sweetness.
Mostly used for glazes and baked goods, they add a silky texture to desserts and curries. However, cooking with either honey or syrup means lots of sticking.
If you’re not careful, it can be very easy to burn honey and sugar syrup in a pan. And, if you’re working with copper cookware, the risk is even greater. The result? Blackened, burnt pans that are excruciatingly hard to clean.
The key to keeping your pans from being ruined when cooking with honey or syrup is sticking to a gentle simmer. Here’s how to prevent your cookware from burning.
How to Prevent Your Cookware from Ruining When Cooking with Honey or Syrup
Honey shouldn’t be heated above 40 degrees C. Heating at a very high temperature can cause chemical changes that result in a very bitter taste.
On the other hand, when sugar is heated, it gradually melts into a liquid called “caramel”.
The caramelization process begins at 320 degrees F. This is when the crystalline sugar slowly dissolves into a molten liquid. At around 350 degrees F, the color changes from crystal white to pale caramel brown.
If not used up quickly, the caramel can re-crystallize and stick to the bottom of the pan.
When either of the two is over-heated, they can burn, crystallize, and stick to the pan. Here’s how to cook smart with honey and syrup.
Using the Right Cookware
When making caramel, candies, or anything that involves honey or sugar, it’s crucial to use stable cookware. Unfortunately, copper cookware is an unwise choice.
Most copper pans are highly reactive, which is why they are lined with tin or steel. Tin, however, wears out quickly and needs to be replaced so often.
They also tend to corrode easily and require a good cleaning. Since cooking with honey or syrup will result in some sticky residue at the bottom of the pan, copper might not be a fit choice. So, what should you use?
The key to preventing your pans from burning from honey or syrup is even heating. A pot or pan that conducts heat well and distributes it equally across the surface is what you need.
The most stable cookware choice is stainless steel. The color of the steel also helps you monitor the sugar syrup or honey so that you know it’s not burning yet.
Multi-ply stainless steel is durable and has excellent heat absorption. It readily heats up the surface evenly to prevent any hot spots when cooking with honey or syrup.
This cookware can also tolerate high temperatures and is extremely easy to clean. If you want, you can choose non-stick stainless steel to avoid any sticky residue altogether.
Another great choice is aluminum as it has excellent thermal conduction. It heats up faster, which is great for cooking syrup, as you only need a few minutes to make the caramel. No matter what cookware you choose, make sure it has good depth.
Frying pans run the risk of burning too quickly when cooking with sugars. A deep saucepan has a great heat gradient, which allows the sugars from the honey or syrup to heat up nicely.
Oiling the Sides of a Pan
Brushing the sides and bottom of your pan with some oil will prevent the sugar from sticking. When you heat up sugar or honey in a dry pan, the ingredients are more likely to burn.
However, glazing with a bit of oil can create a protective coating, which will prevent both sticking and burning.
Another great tip when cooking sugar is to cover the pot with a lid. This will create additional steam that will dissolve any sugar crystals on the sides of the pot.
During the caramelization process, you can also wash the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush. This will also help in dissolving any sugar crystals that may have crystallized or burnt on the sides of the pan.
Being Careful About the Temperature
As aforementioned, honey quickly changes its taste when overheated. Therefore, always use a cooking thermometer to keep the temperature below 40 degrees C or 104 degrees F. On the other hand, the caramelization of sugar happens around 340 degrees F.
If you heat the liquid above this number, the caramel will burn. Therefore, it’s extremely important to monitor the temperature closely.
When the sugar starts melting, it will produce lots of bubbles and foam. Turn down the temperature when it turns to a pale color. This will help you control any excess heat from causing the sucrose to stick or burn at the bottom of the pan.
When cooking with honey, it’s very important to slow down. Baked goods with honey will always brown faster. Therefore, you need to bake them for a longer time period but at a lower temperature.
The same rule goes for cooking. When cooking with honey, reduce the temperature by 20-25 degrees F from whatever the original recipe calls for. This will help you prevent any burns or scorches.
All in all, keep the temperature low so that you have more control and ample time to stir your sugars in the pan. This will also protect your pan from any sweet, sticky residue, which is even harder to clean off.
Not Stirring Too Much
Frequent stirring can alter the temperature of the sugar or the honey in the pan. This is because it disrupts the heat distribution, which is needed for the sugars to dissolve. When the temperature changes, it will take longer for the caramel to cook, which can burn your pan.
In fact, stirring too much can cause the sugar to splash to the walls of the pan. This will cause the water to evaporate quickly and cause the sugar to crystallize and stick.
Therefore, the rule with cooking honey or syrup is to only stir occasionally. You can try stirring the liquid by giving the pan a gentle shake from the handles.
Using wooden or metal spoons can be detrimental as they trigger crystallization, followed by burning. Choose any other spoon apart from these if you really have to.
Adding Baking Soda to Honey
This rule applies exclusively to recipes that include honey. Since honey is a little acidic, cooking it too much can cause your food to over-brown.
This can increase the chances of burning and a sticky mess at the bottom of your pan.
A quick tip is to add a dash of baking soda to simmering honey to tone down the acidity. This will readily prevent over-browning and help you make a deliciously sweet dish every time.
Use a Bowl of Cold Water
When the sugar syrup turns brown, 80% of the water evaporates from the liquid. If you keep it over the heat any further, the sucrose will burn.
To avoid this, set aside a bowl of cold water. As soon as the desired color of the syrup is reached, quickly submerge the bottom of the pan into the cold water. This will immediately cool down the liquid and prevent it from sticking or burning your pan.
Following these tips will help you nail just about any dish with honey or syrup. Above all, it will prevent the sugar from burning or ruining your pan.
However, if you did end up burning your pan for some reason or the other, read on for some quick remedies.
How to Clean Burnt Honey or Syrup from a Pan
Here are some simple tips to clean burnt pans because of honey or syrup:
The Soaking Method
Before trying out anything, your first call of action should allow the pan to soak. If the coating of the burnt sugar isn’t too thick, the water will soften it and make it easier to scrub off. You can allow the pan to soak overnight in soapy water.
This may be surprising, but try adding a layer of ketchup to the burnt coating. The acid in the kitchen will do a good job of eating away the burnt sugar and ease the next day’s cleaning.
Use Baking Soda
If the pan looks like it has been burnt beyond repair, you should definitely try baking soda. After you’ve burnt syrup or honey on the pan, heating it further may not seem like a good idea. But it may just be what the pan needs.
Sprinkle a bit of baking soda over the burnt layer. Next, pour enough water to cover the scorched bottom. Bring it to a boil and gently simmer for 20-30 minutes.
This will allow the crystallized sugar to soften and loosen from the surface of the pan. If you don’t have baking soda, you can also use white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
When you re-heat the sugar, your kitchen might smell unpleasant for a while so make sure to turn on the exhaust.
Use a Stainless Steel Scrubber
Stainless steel scrubbers are corrosion resistant and anti-rust. After soaking the pan in warm water, use the scrubber to slough away the burnt sugar bit by bit. However, this should be your last resort as aggressive scrubbing can leave scratches on the pan’s surface.
So, don’t shy away from whipping your favorite glaze or caramel dessert. Cooking with honey or syrup is fun and easy as long as you follow these few tips to protect your pans from burning!
You may also like the following articles about cooking pans: