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How to soften hard, lumpy brown sugar

Forgot to seal the brown sugar properly? Here are two ways to rehydrate a tin of hard sugar.

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Brown sugar

Brown sugar. (Photo, Erik Putz.)

We’ve all reached for the brown sugar, only to realize that it hasn’t been properly sealed and had turned into a giant, solid rock of sugar. While frustrating, all is not lost: there are two great ways to salvage the situation, depending on how much time you have. The classic 24-hour method, or the microwave method will both soften that lump of hard brown sugar, returning it to its former glory.

The Microwave Method

1. Put your solid lump of dried brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.

2. Lay two pieces of paper towel on top of each other. Fold them in half, and then in half again. You should end up with a square of 8 layers.

3. Wet the paper towel square under a gently running tap until it is completely wet through, but not soaked (dripping wet is too wet).

4. Lay the wet paper towel over the lump of brown sugar so it is fully covered. Microwave for 45 seconds on med-low heat. Remove from microwave, flip over and repeat. Remove from microwave and use a fork to scrape off the softened brown sugar that will be on the outer edges.

5. Repeat this whole process until you end up with re-hydrated brown sugar.

Note: The size of your brown sugar determines how many times you’ll have to heat it. The minimum will be approximately five to six times. In our kitchen test (see images below) we had to reheat it ten times.

Check out how we revived our rock-hard brown sugar:

Hard brown sugar step 1

Step 1

Hard brown sugar step 2: Halfway softened brown sugar

Step 4

Hard brown sugar step 3: soft and ready to use brown sugar

Step 5

The 24-hour method

This method is less labour-intensive, and gets the job done really well. All it takes is a single slice of bread! Simply make space for it in the jar, seal it up and wait 24 hours. The moisture in the bread slice will be absorbed by the sugar, returning it to its original, ready-to-use state.

Originally published November 2014. Updated March 2017.

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