The Easy Way To Soften Hard Brown Sugar

The sweetener of choice for cookies, cakes, and even savory glazes, brown sugar is a culinary powerhorse. While there are few things better in the kitchen than opening a bag of fresh brown sugar, there's also few things more frustrating than when that same sugar turns from soft to rock hard. Thankfully, there's an easy way to soften brown sugar — all you need is one simple ingredient.

Brown sugar is made by blending white sugar with molasses. Aside from being darker in color, brown sugar also tends to have a richer flavor that's reminiscent of caramel and toffee. But that's not all. Brown sugar also has slightly higher values of calcium, potassium, and iron, explains Healthline. However, it is harder to work with when it isn't stored properly.

Given that brown sugar has a higher level of moisture, Allrecipes explains that any exposure to air can be damaging for its fluffy texture as it can dry out the sugar crystals, making them stick together and harden. Although it's still safe to use, it can be trickier to work with, however, there is a way to restore your brown sugar.

Citrus peels to the rescue

The best way to prevent brown sugar from hardening in the first place is to make sure you store it properly. MasterClass recommends keeping brown sugar in an airtight container or even double-packing sugar as this will keep it from drying and becoming impossibly clumpy. However, if you're passed that point, there's a hack: use citrus peel.

According to Simply Healthy Family, the peel from an orange or lemon can keep brown sugar from hardening as the oils will slowly work to soften the sugar. Make sure all the pulp is removed, then give the peel a quick rinse and dry, before adding it to your brown sugar for a few hours. Not only will it help reinstate moisture, but it can also impart a slightly citrusy aroma, which is an added benefit. 

While the citrus peel hack is effective, it does take some patience. If you're really in a pinch, it might be best to try slightly heating the sugar in the oven in foil to loosen its crystals, just take extra care not to burn the sugar — or set aside some time to test the citrus theory.