How to Caramelize Fruit in a Pan

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Combining the rich fruity sweetness of fresh fruit and sugar, caramelized fruits turn an ordinary dessert into a flavor sensation. The term "caramelize" means to cook fruits and veggies to golden brown to enhance their natural sugars. While veggies are caramelized without added sugar, when you use fruit, a dash of sugar and a little added butter create a delicate caramel sauce that coats the fruit and enhances its natural flavors.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Brown sugar
  • Butter
  • Heavy saucepan
  • Spatula
  • Choose fresh, firm fruit for caramelizing. Soft or over-ripe fruits may break down during caramelizing, ruining the appearance of your caramelized fruit. Firm ripe fruit holds its shape better.

  • Pare and slice the fruit into 1/3-inch slices or cut fruits such as pears in half to caramelize and serve them in larger sections. Thicker portions or larger slices require more cooking time.

  • Select a heavy, light-colored pan for caramelizing fruit, says "Cooking Light." Lightweight pans often heat unevenly and develop cool and hot spots, compromising the golden richness you desire in caramelized fruits. In addition, dark pans make it difficult to judge the degree of caramelization.

  • Check that the pan is large enough to layer the fruit in a single layer over the bottom of the pan, as over-crowding prevents even cooking.

  • Measure equal amounts of brown sugar and butter. You will need about 3/4 cup each of butter and brown sugar per pound of fruit. Use white sugar if you want, but brown sugar helps add flavor and contributes to the rich brown caramelization.

  • Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat until it becomes foamy. Sprinkle the sugar over the melted butter and stir until it dissolves.

  • Layer the fruit over the butter and sugar mixture, leaving 1/4- to 1/2-inch space between each slice of fruit, creating a single layer of fruit.

  • Cook over medium heat for approximately 7 or 8 minutes, or until the fruit is golden brown on the bottom. Flip the fruit slices and allow them to cook for another 5 or 6 minutes until the second side is browned.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bananas can also be caramelized but require a quick cooking time. Follow the same procedure, but watch them carefully for browning as they may brown within 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Do not leave the caramelizing fruit unattended as the sugar burns quickly.
  • Do not stir the mixture while cooking as it may cause crystals to form in the sugary caramel sauce and may break up the sections of fruit.
  • Do not taste the fruit until it has cooled. Caramelized sugar can reach temperatures of 340 degrees Fahrenheit.

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  • Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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