Serious Eats: Talk
Caramel: Stir or don't stir?
I've been making caramels for almost 20 years and the recipe says "Stir continuously over moderate heat with a long-handled,
wooden spoon or a long-handled candy thermometer" and "Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 250º." It also says "Using a pastry brush dipped in warm water, brush down the side of the pan twice to prevent crystallization." The claim is that, if you stop stirring or even change directions, the caramel could stick to the bottom of the pan. With this recipe, my caramels have always been perfectly creamy and smooth, without even a hint of crystallization.
Whenever I watch cooking shows on TV (ranging from simple, instructional shows to shows such as MasterChef) or look at recipes on the Internet (including recipes on Serious Eats), the instructions say NEVER to stir caramel, since that would cause crystallization.
Of course, there are different kinds of caramel, but I encounter the same warning even on other recipes for the same types of caramels that I make.
Why do the different recipes contain such apparently contradictory instructions?