Brown sugar can become hard when exposed to air, making it difficult to measure and to incorporate into recipes. As delicious as it is, you don’t really want to find a chunk of unincorporated brown sugar in your next cake or cookie! Brown sugar’s high moisture content is what keeps it soft and that moisture begins to evaporate when exposed to their air, causing the sugar to harden. The sugar granules in brown sugar are coated with molasses – that’s what gives it its color and flavor, if you want to try making your own – and as it dries, that coating becomes very sticky, creating the clumps that you just don’t get in white sugar.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep brown sugar soft and fresh until you’re ready to use it.
How to Store Brown Sugar
The best way to store brown sugar is in an airtight container, which will trap all the moisture in the sugar and keep it soft. I like to transfer mine to a more solid container from the plastic bag that it comes in, as the bags are susceptible to small rips that can let in air. If you don’t have a container with an airtight lid available (some containers seem to lose their airtightness over time), place a piece of plastic wrap on the top of the container before pressing the lid into place.
How to Re-Soften Brown Sugar
If your brown sugar is hard, dry or lumpy, you’re going to need to resoften it before you can use it. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to do this.
- Instant Fix: If you need your sure right away, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and place a moist , but not soaking wet, paper towel over it. Microwave for about 20 seconds, then stir. Repeat, if needed, until sugar has softened. You’ll need to wait until the sugar has softened to measure it properly, so put more in the bowl than you think you’ll need.
- Overnight fix: Put sugar in an airtight container and place a slice of fresh bread or 1-2 slices of fresh apples on top. Close the container and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours. Remove the bread/apples and stir the sugar. Repeat if needed. This method is good if you have a little extra time and need to soften quite a bit of sugar.
- Long Term Fix: To prevent sugar from drying out in the long term, buy a terracotta sugar saver and soak it in water. Dry off the outside of the disc and place it in a container with the sugar. Unlike the bread and apple, the disc can be left in with the sugar for months and will keep the sugar soft and usable. You will still need to store your sugar in an airtight container.