Sugar isn’t one of those things that makes you immediately wonder, how fast should I consume it before it goes bad?” In fact, chances are that you simply leave it in its original container, on a shelf in your pantry. While this usually doesn’t cause any harm, learning how to store sugar correctly for the long term is a good idea not just to prepare for potential future disasters, but also to keep it away from moisture and avoid clumping.
Read on to learn all about how to store sugar!
Storing Sugar: Why Do It?
When learning about how to store sugar, the most important question is: does sugar even go bad?
The answer is actually no.
Sugar does not have an expiration date, because it does not facilitate or support the kind of microbial growth that causes rot in other foods.
This might confuse you since you’ve certainly seen “best by” dates of around two years on sugar containers at the grocery store. But that’s exactly what they are: dates before which the sugar will taste its best. But that doesn’t mean that after said date, the sugar cannot be consumed. It just means it won’t be in its ideal form, or taste as good.
So if it doesn’t go bad, why should you learn how to store sugar? Without storing sugar properly, over time it might harden into lumps (or a single solid, rock-hard lump) and/or become granulated. You can still eat it in this unattractive form, but you can’t deny that it makes life a little harder to have to hack your way to a teaspoon of sugar every time you make yourself a cup of coffee.
Additionally, improper storing of sugar could lead to changes in color, flavor, and the consistency of sugar. That means that if you keep your sugar in your musky basement without storing it the way you should, a couple of years later you might find your sugar smelling just the same.
Last but not least, insects and other nasty pests could get into your sugar and contaminate it if it isn’t stored properly.
Let’s look at the question of why learn how to store sugar from a different perspective. Sugar has become an essential part of our diet. It is very hard to lead a sugar-free lifestyle, and we naturally crave sweetness, even as grown-ups. Major disasters aren’t going to change that—did your sugar consumption go down during Covid-19? Probably not.
This means learning how to store sugar in long-term storage in order to plan for the worst is a good idea. Even though we don’t need sugar to survive, we certainly still want it!
What Containers Are Best for Storing Sugar?
The most important element of successfully storing sugar is the container you store it in. Yes, you read that right: you should not keep sugar in its original packaging!
Containers for storing sugar should be all of the following:
- Opaque: for long-term sugar storing, you should be picking a dark location anyway, but an opaque container will protect your food from any light that might sneak in anyways and cause reflection and extra heat.
- Airtight: this one might be a no-brainer, but it’s worth saying anyway. An airtight container will prevent the movement of air and the introduction of new air-borne elements to your sugar.
- Moisture-proof: that means no fabric containers or bags! Moisture-proof containers aren’t just important to keep out the moisture, but also to protect the contents within from possible natural disasters that might cause flooding.
- Odor proof: as mentioned above, you’re not going to want your sugar tasting like a musky basement. A good container for storing sugar will protect it from unwanted odors.
- Food grade: this one is important! Make sure the material of your container is food proof. Don’t run the risk of getting bad chemicals mixed in with your sugar in long-term storage.
That means that polyethylene bags, glass canning jars, mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and #10 cans are all great options for storing sugar. For smaller quantities of sugar, you can also consider mason jars and safe food-grade plastic containers with air-tight lids.
You might have heard that to store other foods you need to remove oxygen from a container, but that is not the case for dry sugar.
How to Store Sugar
Now that I’ve gone over why you’d want to learn how to store sugar even if sugar has an eternal shelf life, let’s look at the specifics for different types of sugars.
White sugar is the most common type of sugar found in American households. That’s because it is the cheapest kind of sugar, and easiest to find in bulk quantities.
White sugar is also one of the easiest sugars to store. All you need to do is put it in a glass or plastic container that fulfills the requirements listed above. If your geographical location tends to be humid, I’d suggest avoiding using cans for storage, as humidity can help sugar corrode metal and cause rust damage to the container.
It also helps to learn from veteran sugar storers! As you might have guessed, hotels and restaurants buy bulk orders of sugar, and they usually use #10 cans, which guarantee pristine storage for thirty years. If these institutions use it, so can you!
As mentioned earlier, don’t rely on the paper bag you most certainly bought the sugar in. If you don’t want to take the time to transfer the sugar from its current packaging into a different container, you can just put the entire package, sugar and all, into your choice of a long-term storage container.
As you do with the storage of all foods, allocate your sugar in a cool, dark, and dry location.
Just like white sugar, brown sugar also doesn’t have an expiration date. But while the storing white sugar is meant to keep moisture out of the container, storing brown sugar is meant to seal moisture into the container.
That’s because brown sugar naturally contains moisture, and it actually clumps together when it dries out too much. For this reason, it is super important for brown sugar to be stored in an air-tight container that will keep the moisture where it belongs! Glass with air-tight seals is a great choice.
You might instinctively want to store your brown sugar in the fridge—I did say store in a cool location above!—but the cold will actually expedite the hardening of brown sugar, so avoid refrigerating it. I should warn you, however, that even the best of airtight containers might still see some brown sugar clumping in the long run. Never to fear, though! At the bottom of the post, I’ve given some suggestions for how to use sugar out of storage, even in cases of hardening.
You should also know that people mostly store brown sugar because they prefer it over white sugar, and not for emergency preparedness. For emergencies, they store white sugar and molasses, which can always be combined to make brown sugar in times of food shortages.
I will also repeat that oxygen removal is not necessary for the sugar storing of brown sugar. In fact, some people believe that oxygen absorbers used in the storage of other materials could actually cause botulism poisoning with brown sugar. While this remains unlikely, it’s just one more reason to avoid oxygen absorbers, which will certainly help turn your sugar into clumps!
While the storage of powered sugar is certainly not done for emergency preparedness (I think we can all agree that it is pretty low on the list of priorities in an emergency) it is still good to know how to store powdered sugar if you like to buy it in bulk quantities for all your baking delights!
As with white and brown sugar, powdered sugar also never goes bad, and is also subject to clumping. That means that you’ll want to store it in a good old air-tight container that adheres to the guidelines I listed earlier in this post. This will protect it from humidity, moisture, and bad smells.
Powdered sugar is a particularly tricky sugar to transfer between containers, so whether or not you don’t mind taking the time to do it, I advise you simply stick the sugar with its original package into the new container you’ve picked for long-term sugar storing. It will definitely save you from cleaning up clouds of white powder!
How to Use Sugar from Storage
So you’ve decided to dig into your long-term sugar storing reserves. If your sugar is still easy to spoon out, then there’s nothing for you to do. If, however, the sugar has been hanging out for a while, and despite your best efforts, has hardened, you have a couple of options ahead of you.
- Stick clumped sugar in a food processor. While this might not break it down exactly into its original form, it will at least make it easier for you to use.
- Put a chunk of apple core in the container with the hardened sugar, seal it, and let it also sit overnight. The next day, the sugar should be softened.
- Microwave hardened brown sugar for 20 to 40 seconds in short sessions, using a fork to break it apart as best as you can between sessions.
Now You Know How to Store Sugar!
You have now learned how to store sugar, and are ready for whatever life throws your way, from bulk shopping to emergency planning. Remember that sugar doesn’t actually go bad, but storage is still important to keep out moisture and nasty pests. Interested in more survival food content? Then check out the rest of my site.