One Simply Terrific Thing: A Container That Keeps Brown Sugar Soft!

Kitchen ToolsOne Simply Terrific ThingSugar

Hard brown sugar, be gone! This magic brown sugar keeper ensures you’ll have soft, pliable brown sugar whenever your baking requires it.


Welcome to One Simply Terrific Thing, our ongoing series highlighting the small tools and kitchen goods that make life better!

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that brown sugar and butter are two of my favorite food groups. Brown sugar is a must for my favorite holiday cookies, but it also finds it way into winter squash, stir fries, glazes for vegetables and salmon, and best of all, candied bacon!

There’s only one problem: I am usually fighting a hard brick of sugar, and that adds about 10 minutes to my projected cooking time, not to mention a boatful of aggravation.

But one day I found a brown sugar keeper that solved all those problems.


Before I had a designated brown sugar keeper, I tried the trick of adding apple slices to my brown sugar and enclosing it in a plastic bag. That yielded unappetizing and shriveled apples, and the sugar was still mostly hard.

Next I tried microwaving those brown sugar bricks with a damp paper towel, to mixed results. I was still doing battle with more than a few hard clumps and dealing with melted, gooey sugar. And the same irritation of having to wrestle with a bag of sugar!

How to solve hard brown sugar by using a brown sugar keeper. The lid is open and it is filled with brown sugar.

Progressive International’s Brown Sugar Keeper 

I’m not a big fan of single-purpose tools or gadgets, but one day, out shopping in my favorite discount store, I saw this brown sugar container by Progressive International ($13 from Amazon).

(Discount stores have a strange effect on my brain. My resolve to stay focused and on budget usually melts with the first shiny object on the shelf that catches my eye. For a cook, a shiny object could be a brown sugar keeper. We have small but important desires.)

Could such a purchase—we’re not talking about breaking the bank here, friends—make a difference in my life? The short answer is: yes!

I’ve had this keeper for about eight months, and I can tell you, when I need a tablespoon of brown sugar for a marinade or stir-fry, I no longer have to scrape the top off a block of brown sugar cement.

It’s not rocket science to understand how the brown sugar keeper works; it’s just a very efficient way of using the apple trick. A terra cotta disk soaked in water attaches to the lid of an attractive plastic container and helps keep the brown sugar from drying out. The airtight lid closes with a satisfying snap and the container can be stored at room temperature.

It’s like having a stone in your shoe, and suddenly, the stone is gone. You didn’t even notice how much it bothered you until you started to enjoy your walk without the nuisance of that pesky little stone.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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  1. Al

    I have the Progressive and it has worked flawlessly for over a year now. I use brown sugar a little infrequently, so often found myself carving off chunks like a sculptor! But no longer. The one thing I do wish is that it also came with an included scoop, like their other containers of that size.

  2. kro

    An easier solution and one that does not require any new gadgets: make your own brown sugar.

    Brown sugar is just regular white granulated sugar that has had the molasses add back to it which was removed during processing.

    So, buy a bottle of molasses (the regular amber colored type, not blackstrap). When you need brown sugar, use white sugar and add a bit of molasses to the recipe. For the equivalent of light brown sugar, add 1 tbsp of molasses per cup of sugar; for dark brown sugar, add 2 tbsp per cup. I usually reduce the overall sugar slightly to account for the volume difference of 1 cup sugar plus 1 or 2 tbsp of molasses vs 1 cup of brown sugar.

    It isn’t necessary to mix the sugar and molasses separately. Just put both into your batter or dough and stir it all up together. However, if you do wish to have it as a separate item, say for sprinkling atop something, you can mix it up in a small bowl.

    Three advantages:

    1) You always have it available, no discovering you only have dark brown when you need light brown, or that it is an impossible solid rock, etc … just make your own as needed;

    2) Making it on the fly means never having to struggle with the hard lump of brown sugar as described in this article;

    3) You can even add more depth of flavor to recipes, if desired, by adding an extra tbsp or two of molasses to recipes … sort of super-dark brown sugar.

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  3. Kara

    A ziplock bag also keeps brown sugar soft.

How to solve hard brown sugar by using a brown sugar keeper. The lid is open and it is filled with brown sugar.One Simply Terrific Thing: A Container That Keeps Brown Sugar Soft!