Caramel Questions Answered!

  Posted on   by   58 comments

Each year at Christmas, and many other times through the year, we see a lot of people cooking Slow Cooker Caramel 🙂
What’s not to love about it right?
It’s a can full of deliciousness on every level!

The method is easy 🙂

Take one (or more) can/s of sweetened condensed milk
Place them in your slow cooker 
Cover it WELL with regular tap water, ideally up to an inch over the top of the cans at all times during cooking (very important)
Cook on high for around 6hrs, lid on (see note below)
Cool FULLY before opening (very important)
Eat by the spoon full or add it to your other recipes 🙂

That’s it.  How easy and not to mention yummy does that sound right?

Note:  Everyone has their own preference on cooking time in their slow cookers.
 My preferred timing of choice that NEVER lets me down >>
This is 6hrs high starting from regular tap water temperature + 2hrs left in the same cooking water in the then turned off slow cooker as it cools down 🙂
But it’s really up to you what you prefer 🙂

But people still have a lot of questions about the topic.
Including questions about old stories of exploding cans and worries over how to do it safely to avoid this happening.
And understandably we want safe slow cooking to be our priority!






So let’s run through some of the common questions together 🙂

How do I place them in the slow cooker to cook them?  And will they explode!?
Cans can be placed either way up in your slow cooker or even lay on their sides.
I like to remove the paper labels from my can before I cook just for less mess to clean up at the end.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing about cooking caramel is that the cans stay well covered with water at all times!  This is the most important step to minimise any risk of exploding cans which could happen if they were cooked without water fully covering them.  I like to add an inch or so water over the top level of the cans to be sure.
Many might recall stories from their childhood of exploding cans on the stove top.  These cans most likely boiled away their water and became dry/uncovered before exploding hot caramel all over the kitchen.
The best thing about slow cooking caramel is due to the condensation of slow cooking you are almost certain not to lose water level and if anything you may in fact gain it during cooking.
However do keep an eye on them to be sure and don’t leave them cooking unattended.


Can I do more than one can at a time?
Yes – you can do as many cans at once as you can fit in your cooker
I still cook multiple cans for the same amount of time – 6hrs on high

Do I need to put anything in with or under them to protect my cooker?
I like to place a sheet of baking paper on the base of my slow cooker before placing the cans on top of that – just to ensure the surface of my cooker is protected.

What kinds of cans can I use?
You can use regular cans or ring pull cans
My experience with ring pull cans has been no different to regular cans
However I do place the ring pull cans ring side down or on their side, rather than ring pull facing up
This can also be done with skim sweetened condensed milk, and the chocolate sweetened condensed milk as well as the regular variety.

I think my can is leaking/rusting?
Sometimes during cooking you may notice a little bit of rust coloured bubbles around the can – this is ok and is just the can reacting in the water.
If however you ever noticed any bulging of your can or leaking of caramel out of it I would personally stop the cooking immediately at this point and try not to disturb the can until it has cooled.  Personally I’ve never seen or known of this to happen though.

How do I know when they are done?
In short – not until you open them 🙂  However I find that 6hrs on high, then leaving them to cool in the cooking water another hour or two before removing them from the water and into a cool water bath until fully cooled always provides consistent well cooked results.
There is however another method to cook them in a jar – CARAMEL IN  A JAR METHOD – which does allow you to see the cooking process as it goes along if you are really worried that your timing could be out.
The Jar method is also great if you’ve cooked it in the can, opened it, and found it not cooked enough – transfer to a jar and finish it off that way 🙂



When can I open the can?

NB: Only when fully cooled!
This is very important as the contents of that can are under pressure and opening of the can before it’s fully cooled could have you coated in burning hot caramel.  I know it’s tempting to want to see early but don’t.
My guide is that if I cannot hold the can in my hand easily then it’s not cool enough!
I tend to leave it to cool in the slow cooker water for a while, then I move it to the bench if I’m no hurry to open, or to a sink filled with cold tap water (as pictured above) if I’m in a hurry to speed up the cooling process. Just make sure that you don’t take your can out of cold water and mistake a cold surface for cold inside.  It’s better you wait then rush into opening it and be sorry you did so.

What do I do with the caramel once I cook it?
Eat it with a spoon? hahaha  I’m only half joking about that 😉
However there are so so many options to use your caramel in and many recipes to do so.  We have a great post on our FB group where members have gathered together their recipes and ways to use their cooked caramel.  You can read them HERE
It can also be used to make some slow cooker fudges like Dulche De Leche, Caramel Maple Brown Sugar Fudge, and Soft Caramel Fudge when used in place of the Top’n’Fill canned caramel.



How long will it keep for and where?
So long as the tin remains sealed it will keep in your pantry as long as it’s original use by date on can says.
After opening the can it needs to go in the fridge and I would use it within 2wks – if it ever lasted that long in my fridge 😉

Why don’t I just buy the ready made caramel in a can?
You could – but it doesn’t taste ANYWHERE near as good as the real thing! That pre made can version is like the poor cousin of the REAL thing!  Try it and you’ll see 🙂
It’s also much cheaper to slow cook it at just 4c an hour vs your stove.  Who doesn’t like to save money right 😉
And how good will it feel to tell others you actually made it yourself!
Not to mention the fact it’s MUCH less likely to ever boil dry and explode all over your kitchen like those stove made versions too often do.  I’d go for slow cooking safety any day 🙂

Important safety notes!

All that’s left now is to go cook yourself some caramel and ENJOY!!! 🙂



  1. Alaina says:

    Have you made the caramel in a breville fast slow cooker?

  2. Andrea taylor says:

    Lid on or off 😬

  3. Isla Ieraci says:

    When making the caramel in a jar what is the best way to store it. Does it need to go in the fridge? I made 2 jars, 1 I opened and used. I noticed that the jar was very well sealed, made a popping sound when I opened it so was wondering if it can just be stored in the pantry. Wanting to make some as Christmas gifts and decorate the jars. Would be better if they’re not cold from the fridge. Thank you in advance

  4. Derek says:

    When slow cooking caramel this way, is it possible to OVER cook it?

    • You can do yes it will be very dark and not as nice tasting 🙂

      • Sondra Hodgkinson says:

        I cooked two cans (with ring pull tops) in my slow cooker covered with warm water for 8 hours kn low. They were very dark and tasted burnt. Always used to cook covered in water on the stove for 2-3 hours, but this was before the advent of ring pull tops. Always perfect for pies or tarts as it was thick enough to hold its shape and was not runny. Are there any brands (Australia) without ring pull tops?

  5. Amy says:

    Do you have to take the pull ring off the tin

  6. Shari says:

    Can uou please tell me how to cook in jars if you want to give them as gifts and how long they would last.
    Thanks in advance

  7. Trudy Thatcher says:

    I’ve just realised I’ve had my caramel on for 4hours but on the low setting. I’ve adjusted it to high now, but I was wondering how long I would need to leave it for now?

  8. Care says:

    Can you caramelise sweetened condensed coconut milk?

    • Becca says:

      I don’t see why not, the caramelization occurs due to the high sugar content, as long as the coconut condensed milk has the same high sugar content as normal sweetened condensed milk it should work fine, you wont know if you don’t give it a try.

  9. Shaye says:

    I have a phillips all in one cooker and was wondering because i can’t see to make sure it’s covered in water, will it make much difference if i open to lid a few times?
    And also would you leave it on the seal option?
    Also i think even on the low slow cooking level it still cooks fast as my fudge was ready after 15-20 mins….
    So maybe just 4 hrs on high?

  10. Stacey says:

    Hi when cooking time if finished can I leave it in the cooking water until fully cooled down or do I have to take it out after and hour or two and do I take the lid off when allowing to cool down? Mines is just coming up for 6hrs but this is my first time ever using the SC so not 2 sure and can’t find any information on it either x

  11. Linda Stapleton says:

    Ok I have filled the slow cooker with cans (paperless) and water and put a cookie sheet at he bottom of the cooker because I have no baking paper. wish me luck as I have never made caramel before.

  12. mercedes says:

    hello, when the caramel is cooked but not opened, do you store it in the fridge or pantry cupboard?

  13. Steph says:

    Doing it in the jar sounds great, it would also seal the jar (if you used preserving jars), wouldn’t it? Great gift from the kids. Thank you

  14. Lavinia Ewing says:

    How long can I leave the caramel after it is cooked?

  15. Vicki says:

    Have been making caramel this way for so long, and has always turned out perfect, but this last time the caramel is grainy, not sure what went wrong, does anyone have any answers?

    • That will be sugar crystals in the caramel. I find I get this more often with inexpensive condensed milk? Did you perhaps use that this time and not the others?

      • Vicki says:

        Thanks for your reply Pauline, I used Nestle as I normally do, so I am not sure what is going on. I did 3 cans, so will check them when I use them next. Could it have anything to do with the length of time it was cooked ?

        • It shouldn’t do really. If I cook mine too long on occassion they go a really dark brown and taste different but they don’t crystalise

          • Mads4it says:

            If there was some tiny piece of dust, or other contaminant, in the can before it was sealed in the factory, that can sllow crystals to attach to it and then the crystallisation will grown and grow whilst heat is a factor.

            If you get s can like that but it still tastes good you could try whipping or sieving. If it tastes bad throw it away… it’s not like it cost much to buy! 😉

  16. Courtney says:

    I made caramel tarts 2 days ago with the caramel and didnt refrigerate them. Will they still be Ok?

    • Dominic says:

      Sugar is somewhat a natural presertive, if people say 2 weeks max when open in a can or jar, 2 days at ambient (room) temp should be ok I would like to have had them covered though.

      Being so delicious i am surprised that they are not gone already, if your the only one eating them a quick sniff al colour check should tell you. If I was serving to friends or a date then fresh is best.

  17. Candace says:

    When you do the jars is it like canning and can last in pantry …And when open how long will it last ? And will it get harder in fridge ?
    Thank you

  18. Julia says:

    Hello how are you. I have a question. I cooked my condensed milk in to caramel and I forgot got
    The caramel is in the original can and never been opened do you think it’s still good.

  19. Diane says:

    hey, we have made these pies also many times. we are having to make several at one time and we have been trying different ways to see how are in advance we can make them? We boiled the cans and then let them cool some, put in pie crust and refreg. Left one for several days and when we cut it, it was loose, it didn’t set up. Should be have let it complete cool, not open it and let it sit for a few days, and then would it be firmer? Just wondering how to make sure it isn’t runny. thanks

  20. Smith says:

    I left my cans in the crock pot for to long. Is there any way to salvage the caramel or should I just trash it and start over? It is a darker color and the consistency of jelly.

  21. Leanne Hortin says:

    I did my cans in slow cooker for 6 hrs as i usually do and it is always perfect but this time when i put the caramel into the biscuit base it went a bit liquidy.. and runny a bit.. any ideas as to why this happened.. thanks leanne

  22. Angie says:


    Just opened my can and there seems to be sugar crystals in it. I have not had this before. Is there anyway to fix it?

    Thank you

    • Not really possible to remove them at this point
      Sometimes they settle to the bottom of the can in storage so you could just scoop out all but that bottom layer?
      I find it happens most in inexpensive brand sweetened condensed milk.
      But we enjoy it either way and don’t worry too much about them 🙂

    • Vicki says:

      Angie, I have had this happen as well, no change in the way I slow cook them or in the brand that I buy, and I have never used the cheap brands of condensed milk. I have no idea why it happens. Sometimes it has sugar crystals & sometimes it doesn’t, although I have found that the crystals have only been in the ones that I have stored, never in the ones that I cook & use straight away. You really can’t tell they are in there when I put them into my tart cases, so all in all, I don’t worry about it. 👩‍🍳

  23. Kris Gibson says:

    Any suggestions as to how long to cook for for a runny caramel not firm? Thank you

  24. Andrea Dyer says:

    Hi I like to add sultanas and other dried fruit roll into balls then roll in coconut I can t leave them in the fridge so leaving them out they are not firm is there anything I can add to the caramel mix without ruining the taste to make the.m
    Firm and keep the ball shape

  25. Joanne Spunner says:

    I also have a Phillips all-in-one cooker and I was also wanting to know the answers to these questions put up by another lady.

    “I have a phillips all in one cooker and was wondering because i can’t see to make sure it’s covered in water, will it make much difference if i open to lid a few times?
    And also would you leave it on the seal option?
    Also i think even on the low slow cooking level it still cooks fast as my fudge was ready after 15-20 mins….
    So maybe just 4 hrs on high?”

  26. Lisa says:

    Hi can someone help please I have cooked caramel in the slow cooker 6 hours on high and let cool in the water and in keep it in the cupboard texture of the caramel is grainy
    Y is this

  27. Sue says:

    I have just done 4 cans but accidentally did them on low. Should I just do them again in the morning one high for the 6 hrs again ?

  28. Kim says:

    I’m trying this now and after 2.5 hours my tins are rusty. Not just a little rust, there is a lot. Is this still ok?

  29. John says:

    Can you put a can or two in with a meal and cook at the same time?


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