Never make runny marmalade again with the marmalade setting point

Ever wonder about the setting point for marmalade? Or what temperature do you actually have to boil marmalade to? I investigated how the temperature affects marmalade set and I was really surprised by the results. Check it out! And if you are looking for a recipe, try my three fruit marmalade recipe.

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A palette of marmalades cooked to different temperatures to show the impact of cooking temperature on marmalade set

I cannot stand recipes that suggest that I cook my jam to the “desired consistency” or until it “passes the wrinkle plate test”. Say what? How do you know when marmalade is cooked enough?

Let’s be honest. If you are not a jam and marmalade expert and if you don’t make preserves very often, you will probably lack the experience to see the visual cues of the perfect set. I know that I can’t always tell!

I hate guessing games and, as you know, I love to measure everything. And that is how the marmalade temperature experiment was born.

three fruit marmalade

How do you know when marmalade is set?

You have three basic options for determining if your marmalade has cooked enough and will set properly after cooling:

  1. the bubbles: when the marmalade first comes to a boil, the bubbles are quite volatile, they form and pop almost instantaneously, whereas when the marmalade has thickened enough, the bubbles will be more stable and resemble blinking fish eyes. The visual cues are hard to see for beginners so if you are learning to make marmalade and jams, I recommend you observe the changes in the bubbles as you go, but you should rely on other methods to decide when your marmalade has reached the setting point.
  2. the wrinkle plate test: freeze a few small saucer plates in your freezer overnight. When you think your marmalade is cooked enough, retrieve a saucer from the freezer and place a dollop of hot marmalade on the plate. Put it back in the freezer for 1 minute, then take it out and push the dollop with your finger: if the dollop wrinkles nicely, your marmalade is probably done, if it’s still too fluid to wrinkle, keep cooking.
  3. the temperature: measure the temperature with a candy thermometer. You want to cook marmalade to somewhere in the range of 217ºF to 221ºF, depending on how fluid or thick you want it. Don’t overcook your marmalade because the peel will become chewy and the sugar will caramelize, so be careful how high you push the temperature before you stop cooking.

How long does marmalade take to set?

In general, once you achieve the right consistency according to your tests and then you have canned your marmalade in jars using a water bath method, you must set the sealed jars aside to cool and it will take 24 to 48 hours for the marmalade to thicken and achieve the final set.

Batches of marmalade cooked between 217ºF and 222ºF to determine the marmalade setting point

Experiment to compare cooking temperature to marmalade set

I cooked up a batch of three fruit marmalade, using the whole fruit method (no pectin). I measured the temperature as the marmalade bubbled away with an instant read thermometer, the Thermapen which is very fast at registering temperatures and temperature changes, but a probe thermometer with a longer cable like the Thermoworks Dot would be better because then you don’t have to hold it with your hands, which would be much less dangerous to use than my hand-held setup.

I took samples every degree, starting at 217°F and all the way up to 222°F. I chose this range because most of the recipes I perused recommended cooking to somewhere in that range.

As the marmalade boiled and I sampled away, I honestly thought my experiment was a flop. I could not have been more mistaken. Behold, the results!


A palette of marmalades cooked to different temperatures to show the impact of cooking temperature on marmalade set. Marmalade cooked to 217 are more runny while marmalades cooked to 220–222ºF are just right. Above 222ºF, marmalade becomes dryer and chewy

What is the setting temperature for marmalade (also known as marmalade setting point)?

It turns out there is a significant difference between marmalade cooked to 217°F and marmalade cooked to 220°F. Generally, the setting point of marmalade is 222ºF (which comes out to about 105ºC). Cooked to 220ºF, marmalade will be very thick and will set properly once cooled. But some people don’t like to cook marmalade that much and prefer a looser set, others prefer to go a little higher, up to 222ºF. That’s entirely up to you. Here’s the impact of cooking temperature on marmalade set:

  • marmalade cooked to the lower end of the range (217–218°F or 103ºC) has a bright citrus flavour like fresh citrus fruit, but it is more on the watery side of set. The peel is very tender. Marmalade cooked to this temperature dribbles off your toast and leaves a trail in your kitchen or on your keyboard, if you are like me, doing chores while eating marmalade on toast in the morning, without a plate to catch the drips. Delicious, but drippy.
  • marmalade cooked to the middle of the range (219°F or 104ºC) is not as drippy, but not overly set. The flavour is still bright and the peel is tender, but the preserve is just a touch thicker.
  • marmalade cooked to the upper end of the range (220–221°F or 105ºC) is set just right for me: 220°F is considered the setting point of jam, also known as the gelling point, and this is where things get really interesting. The marmalade is much thicker, but with a touch of dribble to it, the peel is firmer, and the flavour is completely different. The citrus flavour is still there, but it’s not as bright. The caramel undertone is coming through and there’s a bit of a bitter orange flavour that lingers.
  • marmalade cooked to the setting point, 222°F (105.5ºC), is chewy and very thick: this is the upper limit, in my opinion, as beyond this point, the peel gets really, really chewy. At 222°F, the peel is a “nice” chewy. Past 222°F (106ºC), the peel is bordering on tough, and not so pleasant.

Click to get

Do you need to add pectin when making marmalade?

Seville oranges have the most pectin, so a batch of Seville orange marmalade definitely does not require the addition of pectin. But that being said, citrus fruit vary as does their pectin content. As we can see above with my temperature experiment, the marmalade set has a lot to do with the concentration of sugar and the removal of water, and not as much to do with the pectin content.

If we compare a dollop of pectin-set orange marmalade from the store to homemade marmalade with no extra pectin added, you will notice the pectin-set marmalade is more jellied, seemingly dryer. The store-bought marmalade with pectin definitely doesn’t have my favourite texture. It smears funnily on toast, and I found the jiggle of the pectin-set marmalade unpleasant, and a little odd.

a palette of orange marmalades with varying thickness and set, some runnier others thicker, to show impact of cooking temperature on marmalade set

Achieving the perfect texture and set: troubleshooting marmalade

Is your homemade marmalade not setting or is the marmalade too runny?

After your batch of marmalade is canned and left for 2 days to cool and achieve its final set, if you open your first jar and find that the marmalade is runny, it means that you didn’t cook the marmalade for long enough or to a high enough temperature. Your batch of marmalade contains too much water still.

How can I fix runny marmalade?

You have two choices to fix runny marmalade if it’s not setting properly:

  • Live with the runny marmalade and enjoy it despite its flaws: Spread it liberally on toast or better yet, spoon it on vanilla ice cream. Serve it with cake as a sauce.
  • Reboil it: open up all the jars of marmalade, combine them in a pot on the stove, and cook it again up to 220ºF. You will have to go through the process of sterilizing the jars again and canning the marmalade in the sterilized jars in a water bath.

Homemade brioche brun split open to reveal a fluffy golden interior, served with butter and a knife A jar of marmalade served with a brioche bun

Is your homemade marmalade too thick and chewy? It’s overcooked!

As I mentioned, you can save and fix a marmalade that doesn’t set properly because it’s undercooked by reheating the preserve, bringing it back up to a boil and cooking to 220ºF–222ºF before transferring to sterilized jars and sealing. On the other hand, if you’ve overcooked a batch of marmalade, there’s not much you can do.

Overcooked marmalade has a few characteristics: chewy, tough citrus peel, possibly rubbery and a thick texture verging on dry. I have been guilty of overcooking marmalade when I was trying to determine the set with a plate test: I left the pot of marmalade on the stove, which continued to boil while I was fiddling with the plate test. In those few minutes, the temperature of the marmalade continued to rise, and I ended up with a rubbery marmalade.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to salvage a batch of overcooked marmalade. Of course, you can still eat overcooked marmalade and learn from this mistake. Remember to pull the pan off the heat while you determine if you’ve achieved the proper set and use an instant-read probe thermometer (like this probe thermometer with a longer cable: the Thermoworks Dot ) to make sure you are able to measure changes in temperature as they happen with little delay!

An open jar of homemade thick-cut orange marmalade

Is your marmalade gritty with sugar crystals? Find out why!

Undissolved sugar can cause crystallization

When making marmalade, each step serves a purpose and though it might seem tedious, it’s important to follow the steps carefully. For example, when you mix the chopped fruit with the sugar, it’s very important to stir the mixture on a lower heat setting in order to properly dissolve all the sugar.

The goal is to completely dissolve and melt the sugar. If you don’t take time to properly dissolve the sugar at the very beginning of jam-making in general, you risk ending up with gritty crystallized marmalade because sugar wants to crystallize and just a tiny amount of undissolved sugar at this stage can ruin an entire batch of marmalade.

If you didn’t properly dissolve the sugar, it’s likely that you will notice sugar crystallizing in all the sealed jars of the entire batch of marmalade, before they’ve been opened. When you open a new jar, you can transfer the contents to a saucepan and heat it on low to warm the marmalade and melt the sugar crystals. Then transfer it back to the jar and store in the fridge. 

Some people also suggest briefly microwaving the open jar of marmalade to warm and melt the crystallized sugar. 

Improperly stored jars can cause crystallization

It’s important to properly close open jars of marmalade to avoid evaporation. If you don’t close a jar of marmalade (or jam) properly, the surface may evaporate causing crystallization of the sugar. This isn’t surprising given how much sugar you use to make preserves. This concentrated sugary spread is likely to crystallize over time, especially if it dries out.


It’s honestly a matter of personal preference, but now I hope that you can better understand your options and pick your favourite marmalade set. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong. Well… there’s definitely no wrong when it comes to marmalade. I love them all. My favourite was definitely above 219°F. Probably 220–221°F. I love the flavour of the marmalade in this range, and I am happy that it will stay put on my toast. Then again, I cooked a batch of marmalade to 222°F and I love how it’s a little darker, with a deeper flavour. In a perfect world, I would have a jar from each temperature on hand, at all times, to suit my mood.

Which marmalade do you think you would prefer?

Further reading

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citrus, comparison, marmalade, new, tips and tricks

42 Responses to Never make runny marmalade again with the marmalade setting point

  1. Liz January 13, 2014 at 2:45 PM #

    A marmalade lover just like me! Great blog!

  2. Christelle is flabbergasting January 13, 2014 at 8:51 PM #

    I have ideas of packagings in mind… with beautifully lettered numbers! (just saying)(just my inner designer leaving a comment… don’t pay attention! ;p)
    Such an interesting post, Janice! I’ve already told you, but I Iooove it when you’re “Walter White-ing” pastry … or jam!

  3. seantimberlake January 15, 2014 at 12:26 AM #

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (, a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

  4. Anonymous January 16, 2014 at 9:27 AM #

    I think l like between 219 & 220, what l found intresting was that you say that you stir your marmalade when it has reached rolling boil stage… before it reaches setting point, where everthing l have read said not to stir at this stage. I found that my peel always burns at this stage even when only left for 5mins. I use all my peel so it is very chunky sliced quite thin. Still tastes good!!!!
    Will try stirring the next lot l make to see if it works, alsoread some where after softening peel removing it until after setting point feached then adding the peel so l will also try this to see which tastes the best.

    • Janice Lawandi January 16, 2014 at 2:25 PM #

      Thanks for your comment! Adding the peel at the end would be another interesting method to test! And please, if you have a chance to stop by and let me know the results, or by email, I would love to hear back!
      I have never burned the peel, but I know last year, I overcooked a batch of marmalade (by a lot, way past 222°F) and the peel became very hard to chew.

      • Julie Corbier de Lara March 12, 2018 at 8:47 PM #

        I have tried adding the peel towards the end it it works great. You can get a firm set without overcoming g the peel. Christine Ferber does this with some of her recipes. She’ll cook the fruit a bit, strain it out. Cook the usurp to set point and throw the fruit back in.

    • Chris January 30, 2015 at 5:12 AM #

      Stirring the marmalade when it has started to boil is a good way of making sure that you have reached rolling boil. If stirring stops the boil then you have not quite reached boiling. It is when you cannot stir it off the boil that you have reached rolling boil

  5. Jean | January 20, 2014 at 4:17 PM #

    Janice, I’m not going to be keeping my marmalade in January tradition this year — can’t squeeze in one more thing — but next year I’m going to try stopping at 219 degrees. That looks good to me. I usually make mine too thick.

  6. Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers January 25, 2014 at 2:49 PM #

    This is a great study in marmalade 🙂 Personally, I love the fresh citrus taste and a little dripping off my toast. I guess that puts me in the 219/220 range. Good to know!

  7. Lani Laskowski February 7, 2014 at 5:47 PM #

    I flew to Oakland and took a class from June Taylor and it is so true that the temperature is everything. I also learned to make my own pectin from the guts and leftover stuff. xoxo

  8. Rachel L February 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM #

    Those photos are enchanting. I must now attempt marmalade – thank you!

  9. Lasse B March 5, 2014 at 12:03 PM #

    You have a wonderful site.

    The advice on jam and marmalade is really good. I love the esperimental-scientific approach. Maybe pectin is overrated but temperature is underestimated as setting factors. The fact that boiling temperature rises as you cook along is due to the water evaporating. Do you think it is possible to shorten the time needed to obtain a proper temperature could be decreased by adding more sugar from the beginning and start the boiling with a higher sugar concentration?

    The photos are brilliant. Do you have any tips regarding food photography?

    • Janice Lawandi March 5, 2014 at 9:39 PM #

      Thank you for your comments! I hope this post will help many when they are making marmalade. I have struggled with the plate test for years, and I always wondered about the temperature so that’s how I got the idea for this experiment.
      About the sugar content. I absolutely agree that part of the cook time is spent boiling off the water, but by having all that water, it helps reduce the risk of crystallization later on, by ensuring that all the sugar dissolves/melts properly. I feel otherwise there might be a risk of unevenly dissolved sugar which could lead to grittiness down the road… Once most of the water has evaporated off, at that point what you are measuring is the temp of the boiling sugar.
      I have to admit though, if you use a big pot, the boiling time is quite quick and the jam is done in under 10 minutes. It’s entirely pot-size dependant (well and also dependant on the volume of jam you are making).
      For the photography: have you read “Plate to Pixel”? It is such a useful/informative book. I cannot recommend it enough!

    • Chris January 26, 2015 at 9:57 AM #

      I have a different approach. I like my marmalade to taste of fruit rather than sugar, so for many years I’ve been using much less sugar than most recipes suggest. The boil always took a long time, then one day I had a revelation. If you reduce the sugar, you also need to reduce the water, so that you are starting off with a sugar solution of a similar concentration. In doing this, I think I reduced it a little further than I need and now find 10 minutes is a long boil. But the shorter boiling time also gives, IMHO, a better flavour, so I’m kind of happy. So yes, I think you can reduce the boiling time by increasing the starting concentration, but do it by cutting down on water rather than increasing sugar. My recipe is at

      As for temperature, I like the bright citrus flavour and will put with it being a little runny to get that, so about 218°F, or 219°F tops for me.

  10. Karen Calanchini January 9, 2015 at 3:59 PM #

    How did you attach the Thermapen to the cooking pot? It seems towards the end you could miss your perfect set time if you are taking the pen in and out. thank you for your response.

    • Janice January 14, 2015 at 10:16 AM #

      Hi Karen, Thanks for your question!
      As far as I know, there aren’t any clip attachments for the Thermapen. Mine certainly doesn’t have a clip. So, yes, I was inserting and removing the pen as I removed aliquots from the pot of boiling marmalade, but I also took the pan off the heat to help avoid the issue you mention: missing the setting point and/or missing a degree. I wish the Thermapen had a clip! The Thermapen has a pretty quick response time so I find once you do put it back in the marmalade, within seconds, you know what temp it is (as opposed to old-school candy thermometers)
      But to be honest, when I’m making a batch of jam or marmalade, I just hold the Thermapen and I usually don’t constantly pull it in and out of the mixture. Sometimes I switch the thermometer from one hand to another so that I can then stir with a different hand too, but that’s about it. I don’t think there’s too much risk of missing the set point though because I find it does take a fair amount of time for the mixture to move up a degree when it’s above 215F.

      I hope that makes sense!

      • Mamabeat February 9, 2015 at 8:14 AM #

        I love your experiment! I will be making some for the first.time this year and I plan on not using pectin.

        Really why I am commenting is I love to use my digital meat thermometer instead 🙂 I dont even use it for meat haha. It has a nice long cord I can just insert into the big pot, and place the box on the stove, two free hands!! Works like a charm for yogurt and candy 😉

  11. Karen January 28, 2015 at 3:26 PM #

    Yes, it does and thank you.

  12. Bronwyn December 15, 2015 at 12:34 PM #

    No one adds pectin to marmalade, citrus peel is full of it, so there is no need. Jam setting is a bit more complicated than getting to the right temperature though. The temperature tells you the sugar concentration you have reached, which is one important variable, but you also need acid and pectin or it will never set, it will just turn into a very thick syrup. The acid also helps some of the sugar hydrolyse into glucose and fructose, and those molecules interfere with sucrose crystallisation, stopping the jam/marmalade from becoming gritty.. The wrinkle test is actually very easy, and has the advantage that you don’t need a thermometer, but I guess it’s one of those things you need to have learned from your mother.

    • Janice December 15, 2015 at 12:58 PM #

      Thanks for your comment! The “pectin” sample was one I had bought and it was from Fauchon. I was curious about it but it was much too set for my liking, and you are right, the citrus should be adding all the pectin needed.
      As for the acid, I agree that acid hydrolyzes sucrose and prevents crystallization. The pH is also important for pectin gelification. If the pH isn’t adjusted, the pectin won’t gel properly. Of course, in the case of citrus marmalade, the fruits provide enough acidity for this, but with other fruits, the pH can be an issue.
      Loved hearing from you! Thanks for stopping by!

  13. JugglingMom December 22, 2015 at 9:31 AM #

    Thanks so much for this article. I used my Mauviel copper preserve pan which is very wide, and allows a pretty quick boil off of the water in the mixture. I aimed for 220, but got nervous given the different readings I was getting off of two of my thermometers. I didn’t see anyone else mention this, but at around 219-220, the mixture starts to develop a very foamy bubble up to the top of the pan. It definitely was changing consistency at that point. The resulting marmalade is exquisitely silky and wonderful, Thick but not at a candy-like stage. Good set, equivalent to a pectin like jam. Texture much nicer than a pectin based marmalade.

  14. Ellen February 23, 2016 at 11:20 AM #

    My father, 97, taught me to use pectin when making calamondin marmalade. It has a soft texture much like the 218-219 pictures and a bright flavor.

    I really appreciate this test, the article photo! and the great comments. I plan to try the no-pectin 219 degree method today. Thank you so much.

  15. Heather in Maryland December 20, 2017 at 12:12 PM #

    Thank you for this!
    Extremely helpful. Like you, I am very particular about my marmalade!
    Heather in Maryland.

  16. Chef Heidi February 7, 2019 at 11:33 PM #

    Love it that you did this test! I like my marmalade on the runny side, but I have always struggled to give a bang-on temp recommendation for the texture that I like.

  17. l. September 8, 2019 at 5:15 PM #

    The outcome of the frozen plate wrinkle test – wouldn’t it depend on the temperature setting of your freezer, and resulting temperature of your freezing cold plate? wonderful web site name and article. thank-you.

  18. Dan October 6, 2019 at 5:00 PM #

    I know I’m 5 years late to the game, but this info is exactly what I’m after.
    Have been cooking to 105°C the last couple of batches and it ends up too thick for my taste. But I was worried if I cooked it to a lower temp it would fail to set at all. (all the confectionery recipes say sugar has to be 105 or it won’t thicken).
    So thanks! I’m glad you did the experiment for us.all. 🙂

  19. Thompson September 29, 2020 at 11:15 AM #

    Thank you, Janice, for your thorough study of marmalade temperatures.
    I have only made one batch, from Seville oranges from our tree here in Miami. I used a meat probe thermometer hanging into the boiling pot to reach and maintain 104 degrees celsius, which is just over 219 fahrenheit. My “marmalade” is still completely liquid a week later.
    I admire your scientific approach, but at this point all I want to do is redeem my six pints of “marmalade” to make them worthy of spreading on something or gifting to others. What can I/should I do to make a reboil successful? Add pectin? Add lemon juice? Add sugar?
    Thanks again!

    • Janice October 5, 2020 at 12:28 PM #

      Hi, I’m so sorry this has happened! It’s very frustrating when jams and homemade preserves don’t set, so I feel your pain! You can definitely take the marmalade out of the jars and reboil it. What recipe did you follow for the marmalade? Are you sure you used enough sugar for the weight of fruit? And one last question, are you sure your thermometer is registering temperature correctly because it sounds like you did everything right, but your thermometer perhaps wasn’t indicating the right temperature… just a thought!

  20. Jen Grant October 8, 2020 at 7:48 PM #

    This is a great post! Do you mind sharing what altitude you are at? I find that has affected my jam-setting point.

    • Janice October 14, 2020 at 3:23 PM #

      Hi, That’s a good point about altitude! I’m in Montreal and I think we are pretty close to sea level. If you are somewhere very high up, I guess the boiling point of water would be lower, so the jam would boil at a lower temperature, and maybe you’d have to boil marmalades and jam for longer? I’m not very experienced with altitude cooking and baking though. You probably know more than I do 😉


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