Chewy caramels and caramel sauce, we love. Cleaning the sticky pot shellacked with sugar residue after making those caramels, we love not so much. Here's a trick that will save you some time and save your poor arms a lot of scrubbing! (Hint: It involves laziness.)
Once you're done with the pot, just fill it with water until the water covers all of the sugar residue. If you used any spoons, thermometers, or other utensils in the process of making your candies, stick those in the pot of water, too. Then put the pot back on the stove and let the water simmer while you finish up your candies.
The warm water will gradually melt the sugar from the sides of the pot, leaving it syrup-free with absolutely zero work on your part. The water will also dilute the sugar, so even if you turn off the heat and put off rinsing the pot until later, the sugar won't re-crystallize onto your pot. This even works for super-tough bits of sugar syrup that have burnt on to your pan — see more on that process here: How To Clean Tough Burnt Stains Off Stainless Cookware.
If you're trying to clean sugar off of something that can't go on the stove top — say the caramel residue left from a batch of sticky buns — try filling the pan with very hot water and letting it sit in your sink for a half hour or so. Very often, hot water and a little time will dissolve most of the sugar all on its own, making the clean-up of these sticky pans a breeze.
This post has been updated. Originally published December 8, 2009.