I take candy seriously. Steve Almond’s Candyfreak: A Journey Through The Chocolate Underbelly of America is my gospel, and one summer I spent too much of my disposable income trying to keep my neighborhood’s vintage sweet shop open. (They closed, but not before I’d grown addicted to Boyer Smoothies.)
This reverence for candy is not original or unusual, but perhaps my methodologies are. I submit to you a unifying theory I have developed across decades of serious candy consumption: Sucking, not chewing, is the best way to coax the optimal flavors and textures from almost any candy.
This is such a profoundly important statement I am compelled to repeat the sentence once more bolded and italicized: Sucking, not chewing, is the best way to coax the optimal flavors and textures from almost any candy.
But the basic suck-chew dichotomy only scratches the surface; sometimes it’s more complicated, with multiple steps involved. So please, bookmark and print out this very important article, wherein I lay out my best practices for eating any candy varietal. By employing them, I guarantee your confectionary experiences will henceforth improve.
My love of Whoppers was so notorious in college that people would bring cartons of them to my dorm like a hostess gift (or a toll). But chewing on Whoppers is unfathomable; they’re chalky and grating on the teeth. Instead, make only one incision, with the edge of your back molar so as to leave no malted residue in your teeth. Ease the two halves apart and place them malt-side-down on your tongue while you suck them. The dissolution of the center feels almost like gentle Pop Rocks on your tongue. You’ll be left only with a surprisingly silky layer of chocolate to finish off—even silkier if you opt for Maltesers.
While we’re on the subject of Pop Rocks: don’t bother opening your mouth when you’re sucking on Pop Rocks. The feeling as you press them between your tongue and the roof of your mouth is much more satisfying than grossing out your friends by opening your mouth to expose their snapping and crackling. (The sound is better, too.)
Consume only one at a time, sucking on each in turn to erode the outer shell until the soft center remains. Once released from its hard casing, the candy imparts a much more intense flavor; chew only at the very end, as a reward for your patience.
Suck them down to the thinnest sliver, then stand the remaining shard vertically between your molars and slowly bite down to bend them into more texturally complex curves. The mark of a pro-level Jolly Rancher connoisseur is the ability to bend this shard until both ends touch.
Kit Kat Minis
This method works with regular Kit Kats too, but the Minis have a thicker robe of chocolate, which makes it more satisfying: Situate the candy vertically in your mouth, then make one lateral bite so that you’ve got two pieces, each containing half the candy’s wafers. Suck on these until all the chocolate is gone, and the wafers start slipping apart (their mortar eroded). You’ll get more of the wafers’ malty flavor this way, rather than just their typical crunch.
Sour Patch Kids
I’ve always appreciated the perfect balance of sour and sweet in these little guys (certainly more nuanced than the toothache-inducing crust on Sour Skittles). That’s why sucking on them is the perfect way to release two distinct acts of flavor. Chew only once it’s become the sweetest, softest, most pliable version of itself.
Your temptation will be to crunch down and experience Krackel’s phonetic-namesake crackle right away. Fight the urge. Suck on these for long enough, and you’ll be rewarded with a shrunken, bumpy core more concentrated in texture and flavor.
Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme
Please refer to Krackel.
There’s an ever so slight textural difference between the chocolate and mint strata of this candy, and there’s only one way to detect it: Suck on them, do not chew them. (Or, for a more advanced technique, nibble off the top layer of chocolate, then sucking on the equalized blend of mint and chocolate that remains.)
Peanut Butter M&Ms
I’ve cultivated two divergent methods here:
1) This dating back the farthest into my childhood: Smash the candy (holding it flat) between your thumb and forefinger until the chocolate has smooshed into the peanut butter center and spurted outward into a pancake of candy shell shards, then suck on the forcibly incorporated mixture.
2) Nibble gently on the outer shell until you’ve removed the chocolate from around half of the peanut butter center like a top hat, then dislodge the rest of the unbroken center in one piece with your tongue, and suck on each element in turn until they’ve melted entirely on your tongue. The chocolate dissolves much faster than the peanut butter, leaving you with the flavor you came to the table for in the first place.
Mega WarHeads Extreme Sour
Check that the coast is clear before plunking the WarHead into a small dish of water. Hide the dish while it does its work to strip away the most painful layer of sour. Remove after 3-5 minutes; suck until small enough to swallow.
To hell with these plasticine nightmares. Buy Red Vines instead.
Suck on these for a long time before biting into them. It won’t really dissolve, but it’ll give you more than your money’s worth of that rich, classic cherry flavor—which, might I add, is entirely missing from Twizzlers.
Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers
Okay, here I am in fact recommending a strategic series of bites that dissect each worm into about five sections. This is because only by biting into them can you penetrate the outer surface of sour sugars and expose the impossibly smooth cross section of its center, unlocking new flavor potential and giving you multiple textures upon which to suck. Chew if you like, but we all know human teeth are powerless against the elastic resilience of all things gummi.
This candy is designed to be licked off the dipping stick, but sucking the stick into a point turns it into a handy weapon for blinding anyone who attempts to swipe your candy sugar.
Twix Minis are ideal for the same reason Kit Kat Minis are: its extra concentration of chocolate. Plus, in miniature form it is easier to follow the protocol I’ve developed for them: bite off the top layer of caramel so that it comes free in one piece. Eat this first (sucking on it to soften the caramel), then take individual bites of the cookie remaining underneath, sucking on each bite until the cookie is nearly dissolved. The cookie is too buttery and delicious to get lost beneath that cloying layer of stiff caramel. The flavors that stay with you from the cookie are thus enhanced.
For whatever reason, the shell surrounding a Reese’s Piece is much more yielding than the one surrounding an M&M. Because of this, you can stand one of these candies end-to-end between your molars and, with the lightest pressure, shed the shell from around the peanut butter. Dispose of the shell by chewing it up and swallowing right away; that way you can focus instead on the silky peanut butter within.
Did you know that with a properly nibbled aperture and the assurance that no one is around to see you do it, you can suck the innards wholly from a Cadbury egg? You haven’t lived till you’ve tried it, and you haven’t died till someone has walked in on you trying it. (It works even better with these.)
N/A [I wish I could offer some guidance here, but this was the rare candy I was not allowed to have as a child, because orthodontia is expensive and more than one kid in the neighborhood had ripped their fillings out on these bland insults to confection.]
When you can track down an Abba-Zaba, chances are you still can’t manage to find one that isn’t stale. If you have one fresh enough to bite apart, rip off a section and root out the peanut butter center with your teeth before discarding the vanilla taffy portion entirely. It won’t come to any good. If it’s stale, I don’t know how you’re getting into it at all. Good luck.
They look like plain old hard candy, but in fact, the thick outer layer can be nibbled off the hard center, and sucking on both the coating and the core at once creates a unique sensation, dancing just between sour and sweet until you can’t tell which one’s which.
Goetze’s Caramel Creams (Bull’s Eyes)
Deploy a single lateral bite to unlock the caramel gates around the creamy center, then suck until that has dissolved entirely and the powdery coating on the caramel is gone. The taste of the dissolved cream center will distribute across your palate and impart its flavors to the remaining caramel.
Take quarter-inch bites off the Pocky stick, then suck each bite into oblivion. Done this way, the stick is not merely a vehicle for crunch, but a wheaty, bready delight that tempers the sweetness of the chocolate and adds its own savory notes to the treat.
Bite away the fluted edge all the way around. Next, use your bottom front teeth to carefully peel away the chocolate on the top part of the remaining peanut butter—it will peel away, and this step is purely for the satisfaction of shedding it. Then, take the remaining center patty of peanut butter and pop it into your mouth whole. It’ll still have just enough of that thin layer of chocolate underneath to break up the savory, grainy flavors.
Suck until it’s gone. (This one you probably could have guessed.)
Take a bite, then situate the newly exposed nougat down against your tongue, and smash the whole thing into a pancake. Suck on each bite to gain a new appreciation of the candy’s signature center, which is fluffier and more airy than other candies—the Cheetos of chocolate.
There is nothing quite like yanking a bite off these grainy, yielding, ridiculously flavor-packed sugar slabs and sitting with it for a while. You won’t decode the White Mystery flavor this way, but it might become your new favorite.
If there’s any candy I neglect to mention above, the rule of thumb remains: find ways to eat it slowly, rather than diving in teeth-first. It’s an altogether more patient approach, so as to draw out the pleasures of an impulse purchase. Maximize your time with candy, and you’ll wring the same joys from it as your 6-year-old self did.
It’s the only means I know of tapping into your most innocent years for $1.50. Don’t rush it.