Baker’s Hours

March 10, 2009

Q&A: Sugar Pulling Equipment

I always enjoy finding questions in  my inbox. Aside from giving me ideas for posts, I like the idea of using my personal experiences to help others. That said, here is an e-mail question about Sugar Pulling Equipment.

Hey !
I have a question. What kind of tools do you recommand for pulling sugar? Right now I use Mafter products but I am not sure what else there is to use.
For example. I have questions like, what is better for measuring temp. when boiling sugar? The electric one or the mercury one? I heard the electric one isn’t good when measuring sugar because it’s not as stable? But I am not too sure, hope you can shed some light on this!  Before I go out and blow too much money and investing on the wrong products…  


Well Jack, sorry to say this, but unfortunately its unavoidable. Sugar equipment is very expensive. Matfer products are very reliable, and a lot of the personal equipment that I own is from their catalog. Other places you might want to check out are J.B. Prince and Albert Uster Imports. Stuff from these places, however, can be very pricy. I try to avoid ordering directly from the distributor whenever possible. You’ll almost never get any sort of discount if you try to order anything yourself. 

One thing you can do to save money is to get a group of people together to put in one large order so that you can save on shipping. If you’re unable to get enough people to pull together a big enough order to make it worth your wild, then see if you can put in your order through your work.  Food service establishments can get industry discounts through secondary wholesalers or direct from the company. Also, chances are whatever company that you may work for orders from one of those distributors so would could easily piggy back your order with theirs. 

Here are some equipment I use.

copperpotThe first major purchase that you should make is a copper pot. Copper is the best conductor of heat and will ensure the most even cooking of your sugar. When shopping for you pot, make sure that you et one with an open ended handle, it comes with a hole at the top so that you can insert a screw to secure a wooden handle. The one I have has a 12″ handle with a ring at the end to allow for hanging.

warmingcaseOf course if you are going to pull sugar you need a sugar booth. They usually cost about $450, however if you are a handy person, it is very easy to build one yourself. Pick up some press board, plexiglass, and a few hinges, and your in business. I was fortunate enough to get a deal through a local culinary school. They had one with a broken sheet of plexiglass. I bought it from them for a $100 replace the broken sheet, and it was good as new. 



Next thing you are going to need is a heat lamp. You can find these at any hardware store, and will run anywhere from $25-$30. You will also need a cord with a bulb socket to power the lamp. If you buy a sugar booth, then one will come with it. If not, you can just buy an extension cord (Preferably one of the insulated orange ones) a bulb connector, and wire it together. I’d try and find someone with some electrical experience, if you are not familiar with wiring.


lampYou’ll also need an Alcohol Lamp which will be very handy when assembling pieces like rose petals, figurines etc. You can find these at any candle shop along with fuel and replacement wicks. Chances are, you’re local candle shop will be a lot cheeper than ordering from a food service distributor, so take the time find one near you. Also make sure that you use alcohol fuel and not oil. Oil burns dirty and will get soot on your pieces. After spending all that time pulling a perfect rose petal, you won’t want to see it scorched by soot from your lamp.



Another helpful tool is a standing dryer. The best one in my opinion is the Super Duck (left) by LitterMaid. This product has, however, been discontinued , but can still be found. Probably easier to find (and the cheapest of the three) will be the Andis QuietAire Pet Dryer (center). Yes, these are pet dryers used to, of course, dry your pets after you bathe them. If the lamp is used to heat up your sugar petal to attach it to a larger piece, then these dryers are used to cool them down.

One thing that you SHOULD NOT do is buy a “Sugar Dyer” (right). These are basically the exact same thing that has been rebranded and price jacked up. Super Duck: $54.99, Andis Pet Dryer: $31.99, Venuance Sugar Dryer: $123.52. Which would you buy?


Silpats are also good to invest in. I own several sizes, and they all come in handy. 17” x 11″ (sheet pan size) are a must along with one of more 16-1/2” x 11-5/8” (half pan). Sizes I also find very useful are 11-3/4” x 8-1/4” (quarter sheet) which fits perfectly into microwaves, and a 24-1/2” x 16-1/2” (double size) which makes cooling and initial pulling much easier because you don’t have to worry about the sugar exceeding the size of your mat. With a larger mat, you are able to cook larger batches of sugar, or allow your standard batch to spread farther, hence cooling it faster.


There are many digital thermometers that range from $6-$40. The thermometer shown is the one that I personally use. It only costs $17, and is very reliable. Added features are a built in timer, preset tempuratures for different meats, and an alarm. One thing to keep in mind when using digital thermometers, is that they are not designed for cooking sugar. Most probes do not only have sensors just in the tip. They are spread out through out the shaft of the probe. Hence, you will not get an accurate reading if you only submerge the tip of the probe. If you are making a small batch of sugar, you have to make sure that you submerge the entire probe (up to the elbow) into the pot. When I do this, I wrap the cord around the handle to make sure that the part where the cord connects to the probe does not go into the sugar. 

In terms of mercury/alcohol thermometers, I like ruler thermometers. They are sturdy, and easy to read unlike the tubular types. Most of them also come with indicators of the standard sugar stages (Thread, Soft-Ball, Firm-Ball, Hard-Ball, Soft-Crack, Hard-Crack).

As for the the question of digital versus mercury/alcohol thermometers, I use both. I set the digital thermometer 5-8 degrees lower than what I want. When the alarm does off, I then watch the candy thermometer until it reaches the final temperature. This is a very helpful technique when you are not able to stand by the stove watching the thermometer. 

I hope that this post answered you questions Jack. If you (or any of you other readers) have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask.


Song stuck in my head at the time of this post: Kiss Kiss by Chris Brown featuring T-Pain


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