July 15, 2017

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad? What You Will Discover Will Surprise You

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You’ve bought an extra amount of brown sugar and it’s been sitting in the pantry for some time. Now comes the time to use it and you’re wondering, is it still good? Can brown sugar go bad?

Brown sugar does go bad but not as easy as you might think. It has a long shelf life and there are ways to even lengthen its freshness. Although brown sugar can spoil, you really don’t have to worry about it that much.

​Checking the package from the grocery store, you would find that the label usually reads “best within two years”. This is supposed to be the timeframe that sugar can be used for cooking. But to be honest, sugar doesn’t really have an expiration date as long as it is stored in airtight container. Place it in the pantry, in some not so dry and not so humid dark place, and your sugar would last a very long time.

If you frequently open its container like in a usual home use, the flavor of sugar can last for six months.

How to Tell if Sugar Has Been Spoiled​

Since sugar actually spoils, how do you know when it does? There are many ways in which sugar can spoil. For one thing, ants love it and when the container even has a minute opening enough for a single ant to get in, you’d expect the entire school to congregate on it.

When ants and bugs do get into your brown sugar, you better just throw it away. These insects could carry bacterias that can cause health problems to you and your family.

But suppose no bugs or any other creepy crawlies were able to find its way to your brown sugar, would it still spoil?

If it’s been around longer than its best before date, there is a good chance that your sugar would be reduced to a hard lump. But even then, it’s not beyond redemption.

Read MoreHow to Store Macarons While Keeping it Crisp and Soft

How to Soften a Hard Brown Sugar Lump​

Just because the sugar has changed its texture doesn’t mean it’s not useful anymore. You can still soften it and use it. Here are some tricks:

  • If you don’t need it right away, you can put a slice of bread or an apple wedge into the container. This will add the needed moisture to an already dry lump of sugar and the process can take a few hours.
  • If the lumps are small enough, you can just immediately use it with your coffee. It will melt in the heat and the coffee will still taste the same.
  • If the lumps are bigger, you can break it with a fork. This will reduce the bigger lumps into smaller usable ones.
  • If the lump is really big, you can put it in a clean cloth and smash it against the countertop. Just make sure that the countertop is tough enough for the smashing. After this, I’m sure you will have a granulated sugar.
  • Lastly, you can microwave the sugar for a couple of minutes. After microwaving, you can break the lump with a fork.

​Pro Tip: How to Store Brown Sugar

Although sugar has a long shelf life, you can extend it even longer if you follow these storing tips.

  • Buy only what you can consume : Unless you’re going to be baking or cooking huge batch of recipes that would need a lot of sugar, there is really no reason to stock a lot of it. This ingredient is readily available and when you need it, you can just buy from the nearest grocery store.
  • Place an opened package of sugar in an airtight container: The two main enemies of sugar are humidity and bugs. With an airtight container, you prevent both from getting anywhere near your sugar.
  • If the package has not been opened, keep it in a cool dry place and protected from bugs. Don’t store it in the fridge because the extreme cold can still cause it to form hard lumps.

​Final Thoughts

​Brown sugar is not a highly sensitive ingredient. It has a very long shelf life and even if it develops some lumps, it can still be redeemed. With proper care, you can even extend its shelf life and use it indefinitely.

The best thing to do however is to buy only what you can consume in a short time. Sugar is readily available and when you run out of it, you can just go out and buy from the grocery store.

Do you have a trick on how to store and restore brown sugar? Share your wisdom in the comment section below.​

    Claire J. Ruiz

    I'm Claire, and my passion is cooking. I believe that food is what actually unites people and the dining table is where we set aside our differences. When we eat we become vulnerable because enjoying food requires a different level of trust and surrender to the person preparing your food. Sharing and enjoying food is one of the most intimate experiences in life.​

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