Not sure which is the correct way to store sugar? Or are you just wondering if you can do things better?
(Spoiler alert: there are some key differences between the types that you should be aware of.)
This is all about storing different types of sugar.
General rules for storing sugar
You should store sugar in a cool, dry place, away from any heat source. After opening the package, make sure that the sugar remains hermetically sealed.
A hermetic seal takes care of at least two things:
- prevents sugar from picking up odors from nearby foods, and
- prevents pantry bugs from getting to sugar
Plus, if you opt for one of those airtight containers, it also keeps moisture at bay.
(That’s why resealable containers are the best option for storing sugar.)
Now, I can’t blame you if you leave the sugar in its original packaging after opening the package. I do that too, and that’s usually not a big problem.
The thing to remember here is that paper bags provide little protection against water and odors, so where the bag is placed becomes much more important. For me, it’s a dark, dry cabinet in the kitchen where I also keep other staples like flour or pasta.
If you’re going to leave the sugar in its original bag (which can’t be resealed), at least seal it with a sealing clip. It takes a couple of seconds and your sugar is much better protected.
granulated white sugar
Granulated white sugar tends to harden and clump if there is too much moisture in the package.
Of course, some small clumps that you can break up with a fork or by using a strainer are perfectly normal and to be expected, even if you store your sugar in perfect condition.
But if those lumps start to grow and you can’t get rid of them easily, it’s time for one of the other techniques:
- run the sugar through a food processor
- placing the lumps in a freezer bag and squashing them against the counter
- heat the sugar in the microwave for 30 seconds, so that the lumps become softer and easier to break up with a fork or sieve
Related: Does sugar spoil?
While white sugar hardens when there’s too much moisture, brown sugar tends to clump up when it’s too dry. That’s because brown sugar contains a small amount of molasses, which makes it naturally moist at least when compared to white sugar.
If there isn’t enough moisture in the air, the molasses dries up and the sugar begins to build up.
Of course, if you use brown sugar often, you’ll probably never face that problem. But if it sits in storage untouched for years, or if your cupboard is as dry as it gets, chances are one day you’ll discover that your brown sugar has hardened.
Related: Does brown sugar go bad?
hardened brown sugar
If your brown sugar has clumped, there are a few things you can do to restore it:
- Use the microwave. Transfer the sugar to a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave the bowl on high for 30 seconds. and see if the sugar has softened. If not, continue bombarding him in 15 second increments. If you don’t have a suitable container or paper towels handy, you can place a glass of water in the microwave.
- Restore moisture by using apples or slices of bread. This method is very simple: you place some slices of apple or bread (make sure it is not stale) in the container with the sugar and leave it there overnight. The sugar then absorbs some of the water from the bread or apple and softens. The only downside is that it takes at least 6-8 hours to fix the problem, so it’s not a quick fix that you can use when you need that sugar right now.
- Manually loosen the sugar. You grab the bag and squash it against the counter, or use a blender or mixer to break up any clumps. This method doesn’t fix the underlying problem (lack of moisture), but it works instantly, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
The proper solution for hardened brown sugar is quite simple: add some of that lost moisture to the sugar. So while the above methods are the most popular, you can easily find other ways to let the sugar absorb some moisture and soften.
If you fix lumpy brown sugar by restoring its moisture content, use a fork when checking to see if the sugar has softened. Don’t expect it to break on its own.
Now, if the brown sugar clumping problem comes back again and again, consider fixing the underlying problem.
Using a sugar saver
A sugar saver is a small device designed to maintain the correct moisture level and prevent brown sugar from clumping. Of course, you can also use it to soften brown sugar that has turned into a rock.
You can obviously use a sugar saver with other foods that require a bit of moisture to maintain quality, like marshmallows or cookies. Or use it (without soaking) to soak up moisture where we don’t want it, say in a salt bin.
Related: How long do marshmallows last?
Keep in mind, however, that a sugar saver is not a “set it and forget it” solution. You should still soak it before you put it in the container and re-soak it every 3 to 6 months or when it dries out.
Powdered sugar isn’t that different from white sugar, it’s basically finely ground white sugar with a bit of anti-caking agent. When it comes to storing it, all you need is a cool, dry area and an airtight container.
Confectioners’ sugar (another name for powdered sugar) tends to form small clumps after long storage, and you can usually remove them with a fine mesh strainer.
If yours are larger and harder to break, consider using a moisture absorber. You can try using a dry sugar saver (which I talked about in the previous section) or putting a tablespoon of white rice or beans in a muslin cloth and use as a homemade absorbent.
That said, clumping isn’t usually much of a problem with powdered sugar, so it’s worth looking into why that happens. Maybe the sugar sits in a damp area, or the bag or container is ajar and the powder absorbs all the moisture around it.
Fixing the underlying storage issues should make the clustering problem go away.
Related: Does powdered sugar go bad?