What is a Jawbreaker?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A jawbreaker, also called a gobstopper or jawbuster, is a type of spherical hard candy that is very difficult to bite. Instead the jawbreaker is often a favorite of children because it lasts for an hour or two and must be sucked in order to wear down the candy. No one has yet invented the delightful everlasting gobstopper that plays an important role in the beloved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Still the average gobstopper can last for quite a while.

Excessive consumption of sugary substances, such as jawbreakers, may cause tooth decay.
Excessive consumption of sugary substances, such as jawbreakers, may cause tooth decay.

The Ferrara Pan candy company claims to be the original creators of the jawbreaker, usually fairly small candies sold in a box in various flavors. There is evidence that other candy makers were also creating similar jawbreaker style candies prior to Ferrara Pan’s introduction of them in the early 20th century. Ferrara Pan is still known as one of the first to commercially produce jawbreakers in large quantities.

The size of jawbreakers can make them a choking hazard.
The size of jawbreakers can make them a choking hazard.

The secret to the long-lasting nature of the jawbreaker is the way in which the candy is made. It takes two to three weeks to make a jawbreaker, using what is called the hot-panned process. Adding single sugar grains, one after another, into large, hot rotating canisters or “pans” creates the candy. Late in the process, jawbreakers receive color coating, leaving the inside of the candy white. Some versions do have layers of color making the jawbreaker interesting to eat as one continues to suck on the candy. Flavoring is adding throughout the panning process. This grain-by-grain process makes for an exceptionally hard candy that does not disintegrate easily.

Though the first jawbreakers were small candies usually about .5 inches (1.27 cm) in diameter, interest surged in making larger sizes. Today you can find jawbreakers that barely fit in the mouth, and actually probably shouldn’t since they do represent a choking danger. Instead, a large jawbreaker should be held in the hand and sucked until it is small enough to fit in the mouth. Getting it to this size can take several hours or even days.

The jawbreaker comes in a variety of flavors. Some favor those that have a great deal of citric acid added to produce a very sour taste. Atomic Fireballs, developed in 1954 by Ferrara Pan incorporates hot cinnamon flavor to jawbreakers.

Of late there have been some concerns about large jawbreaker candies exploding when exposed to high heat. In 2003, nine-year-old Taquandra Diggs received severe burns when she put a jawbreaker in her mouth that had been left in the sun. The hosts of the television show MythBusters wanted to see if the story was accurate, and microwaved several jawbreakers to try to replicate the circumstances of the mishap. The jawbreakers did explode and two of the show’s hosts were burned. Given this information, it’s a good idea to keep jawbreakers stored in a cool, dry place, away from sources of heat.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon262489

Where can I find this article about the exploding jawbreaker?

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