As simple as fudge may seem, it needs an exact approach for a smooth and creamy end result. If you venture too far away from the cooking instructions, your fudge may be gritty or you might burn it. Burned fudge won't be edible and it may smell terrible, depending on how badly you scorched the mixture. Take your time through each stage of the process, and you should be able to avoid burning your fudge.
The first step to ensure your fudge doesn't burn is to measure out all of the ingredients precisely as stated in the instructions. If you begin with the incorrect proportions, the likelihood of burning the fudge at some point increases. It also helps if you base your fudge on a proven recipe that you've had success with before. Using different ingredients or a slightly different technique may result in burned and inedible fudge.
The Right Equipment
Using a saucepan with a heavy base or bottom helps prevent the fudge from burning on the bottom. If you have a pot or pan you've used successfully for fudge in the past, use it every time you make fudge. Also, take the time to rinse or wash down the sides of the pan when it calls for it in the instructions, even if they look clear. Even a few sugar crystals falling back in can cause the dissolved fudge mixture to re-crystallize. Use a proper candy thermometer to go with your saucepan, so you'll know what temperature the fudge is at each point of the process, to prevent burning.
Keep It Moving
When you get your ingredients together in the pot or saucepan, it's important to keep stirring them while they are over the heat. Leaving the mixture sitting can encourage burning and can allow the sugar crystals to continue growing, creating coarse or gritty fudge. When you have all the ingredients in the pan over medium heat, mix them steadily with a wooden spoon until the mixture is liquified and starts boiling.
Looking for a Soft Ball
Cook your fudge to the soft ball stage as another way to prevent burning it. The signal is when you are initially heating the mixture and it comes to a boil. Stir consistently until that point and then stop and set the candy thermometer in the pan. The soft ball stage is around 240 degrees Fahrenheit, and it signifies the syrup will turn into a soft, flexible ball if dropped into cold water. You can try it with a small amount to check, but the thermometer is a more accurate way to judge. It needs to reach this soft ball stage to set properly and become the right texture for fudge.