Brown sugar is more than just a healthy variant or substitute for white sugar. It can be used in a variety of ways. Like, you can make the best oatmeal raisin cookies, add it to your cake, and it mixes exceptionally well with a hot cup of cocoa.
But, when it comes to its longevity, what exactly is its expiry date? Because, let’s face it, we’ve all had opened packets of brown sugar or sugar in general, lying around in corners and cabinets for years now!
Let’s imagine a scenario.
You’re hunting for some sugar to add to your morning coffee.
But the container that you generally pour your sugar into looks empty. So you open your kitchen cabinet, almost certain that you have some sugar left in some packet that you had opened a few weeks ago.
But alas, it’s past the best ‘before’ date and now you’re wondering if this bag of brown sugar is safe to consume. Pop comes the question, can brown sugar really go bad?
The plain and simple answer is: not really. However, it’s more complicated than that. There are certain layers attached to this answer which is what we will be talking about here.
So, let’s get started.
Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?
Have you ever noticed that the packet containing brown sugar almost never comes with a stamp of expiration date?
That’s because sugar in every and any form is one of the least perishable goods. Before you get too excited, remember that this is also why it’s so unhealthy. One of sugar’s many variants is brown sugar, widely used to sweeten sauce, marinades, improve the taste of delicacies, and as a healthy alternative to white sugar.
It might come as a surprise to you, but brown sugar has a longer shelf life than white sugar. There are various reasons for that. One of them is that the molecular structure protects it from becoming bad and spoiled. But science is not why we’re here today, so we’ll leave that discussion for some other time.
Back to brown sugar. The secret to keeping it good and edible for a long time actually lies in the storage method. You might notice the sugar getting clamped up and hard after a long time. Moisture is the culprit here. It secretly seeps in to make your healthy brown sugar extremely hard and clumpy.
That being said, it’s always a good idea to remove sugar from your shelves after a period of 5 years. Consuming anything beyond a particular period can become really sketchy, even if it doesn’t say so on the packet.
Good rule of thumb: replace your brown sugar after a period of 2-5 years and store it well.
How Should You Store Brown Sugar?
If you store your brown sugar well, it will serve your recipes for years down the line. The trick is to keep as little space between the actual sugar content and the lid as possible. Therefore, it is always a good idea to store sugar in sections. Put only a small amount in a container for regular use, and keep the rest in the original container.
Using brown sugar in batches also lets you keep tabs on the amount consumed, which is great for your health.
However, if you’ve already crossed this bridge and have opened the whole packet, there are certain do’s and don’ts to follow that will make your life easier.
- Store it in an area with moderate temperatures, not too high and not too low.
- Keep it away from an area with high moisture.
- Store in an airtight container with a tight lid on top. The entire container should be kept in a dry place.
- If you don’t have an airtight container, keep it in a sealed bag.
- Don’t place it under direct sunlight.
- Don’t keep it in the fridge where it’s easy for moisture to get in.
- Do not place it next to an area with water outlets, like the sink.
- Don’t keep it next to an oven or microwave.
Does Brown Sugar Go Bad When it’s Not Stored Properly?
In a perfect world, if you pop open a packet of brown sugar, your first instinct should be to get a tight or sealable container and pour it in immediately, to avoid contamination.
The packaging doesn’t talk about an expiration date, but more often than not, it does come with a ‘best before ‘ tag which tells you exactly how long the flavor will last for. For instance, brown sugar’s flavor is the best until 6 months and can be stretched to two years.
Caution should also be maintained while placing the container. Imagine placing it in a pantry only to open it one day to realise that it is being infested with ants and pests. You don’t want that, right?
Storing your sugar incorrectly also gives leeway for the moisture monster to seep in from and makes your sugar inedible. It’s a no-brainer that you can’t really pour clumpy brown sugar in your cake mixture or your coffee.
So, what do you do? Should you throw away that big lump of brown sugar? Nope! You save it and you try to bring it back to its real texture as much as you can. Let’s find out how!
How to Restore Hard and Clumpy Brown Sugar?
Practicing proper hygiene before consuming any edible product is a must. Keeping a check on the expiration date, storing your food properly, and following instructions to use it well are generic practices that should be followed on a regular basis.
That being said, sugar generally remains fresh and edible for a long time. The superficial texture of sugar might change over time, but internally, it remains safe for use for at least 5 years. When it comes in contact with air, the chemical composition of brown sugar forces it to become hard and clumpy, but it’s easy to restore it to its original form and use it in the desired way.
Hard and lumpy brown sugar doesn’t mean that you can’t add any to your coffee. It just means that you probably would have to put in some extra effort to restore it and use it in its original form. We have some easy ways of doing that, so without any fuss, let’s list it down for you.
- Microwave hack: Pour the hardened sugar into a microwave safe bowl. Take a wet paper towel and squeeze it a little to make it more damp and less wet. Let the excess water drain before covering the bowl with it because dripping water can further deteriorate the quality of the sugar. Start the microwave with a 10 second timer and repeat the process for three-four times or till the time your sugar gets back into the desired form. Don’t take it too far or the sugar will end up melting.
- Oven hack: Preheat the oven to 300˚F and place the sugar in an oven-safe bowl. Keep the bowl in the warm oven and keep crushing it with a fork till it gets back into its original form. Please be careful because the sugar will be extremely hot.
- Smash it till you mash it: Oldest trick in the book is to pour the sugar into a jute bag and smash it against the kitchen counter till it regains its original texture. This might sound bizarre and mad, but works almost a 100% of the time.
- Bread to the rescue: Put a slice of fresh white bread in an air tight container with the sugar lumps. After a day or two, the sugar might come back to its original form as the bread will absorb all the moisture. You can also replace the bread with a slice of an apple and it’ll do the trick, too. Give it a shot, there’s nothing to lose anyway!
- Terra Cotta might help: Yes this is a thing and yes, this works like magic. Wet a piece of terra cotta and place it in the jar with the dried-out sugar. Keep the container in a fairly cold temperature room and let it rest a day or two. Terra cotta will take away the moisture and revive the brown sugar. Weird, right? But it works most of the time.
For more hacks in the kitchen read our article: “Kitchen Hacks That Will Make Your Life Easier.”
So, does brown sugar go bad? Sort of. Not really. To wrap it up, there is only one thing that we’d like to say. Always be careful with how you store your perishable and non-perishable goods. Everything comes with a shelf-life so be very cautious of what you put in your tummy and make deliberate efforts to safeguard your health by consuming only fresh and good stuff.