Real Simple answers your questions.

Hard brown sugar with hammer
Credit: Kirsten Strecker

Q. What’s the easiest way to unclump brown sugar?
Colleen Reilly
South Pasadena, California

A. Revive it with some bread.

If you’re pressed for time, try the microwave. Place the dried-out brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and top with a slice of fresh bread or a damp paper towel. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave it in 15-second intervals until the sugar is moist and easy to scoop. You’ll be well on your way to getting those cookies in the oven.

If you discover hard brown sugar and have time to spare, Susan M. Reid, editor of “The Baking Sheet,” from King Arthur Flour, suggests placing the sugar in a resealable plastic bag overnight with a slice of bread or a couple of apple wedges. She explains that since sugar is hygroscopic (fancy talk for spongelike), it will naturally absorb moisture from the bread or the apple, so you don’t have to zap it in the microwave. Once the sugar is back to its old self, Reid suggests storing it in an airtight container with a terra-cotta brown-sugar saver (available at Soak the disc for 15 minutes, pat it dry, and package it with the sugar to prevent clumps.

Ask a Question
Got a practical dilemma? Submit your question.

Your submission to, including contact information, gives us the right to modify, use, distribute, reproduce, publish and display the submission indefinitely in all media, means, and forms without any payment to you. You hereby represent that you haven't copied the content from a book, magazine, newspaper, or other commercial source. Your submission to, and your use of the website are subject to Real Simple's Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

(For questions about your subscription, please visit the Customer Service Help Desk.)