It’s tempting to grab the granulated sugar from the pantry, take what you need from the original packaging, and then stick it back on the shelf. But taking the extra time to put it into an airtight container will protect it from heat, moisture, and critters, leaving you with a longer lasting bag.
When brown sugar comes into contact with air, the moisture evaporates, resulting in a solid block of sweetness. And unless your recipe calls for “an undefined amount of rock-hard brown sugar,” you’re going to need to soften it. To do this, place the hardened sugar in a bowl with a slice of sandwich bread. Cover it with plastic wrap and microwave it for 10 to 20 seconds.
If you want to avoid a solid block altogether, store your brown sugar in a sealed container with a terra cotta Brown Sugar Bear ($3.25). Give your bear a brief soak in water before you add it to the sugar, and you’ll never have to battle the sweet stuff again.
Like these? See more quick tips at Cook's Illustrated.