Ever try to scoop a cup full of brown sugar, only to find out it's basically a rock? It's probably one of the most frustrating experiences when it comes to the kitchen. Why does brown sugar get hard? Is it just for my own personal annoyance, or is there a function to this hardening? 

After one too many baking fails due to hard brown sugar, I decided to investigate, and here is what I found. 

Why Brown Sugar Hardens

Brown sugar hardens together once it has been exposed to air because it is coated in molasses. Molasses is a thick, brown syrup that is obtained while refining sugar, and, according to The Kitchn, "when the sugar is fresh, (the molasses) makes the sugar crystals slip easily over each other and the brown sugar as a while is soft and malleable."

However, once exposed to air, the moisture that coats the molasses evaporates and allows the sugar granules to stick together. When the molasses dries out, the brown sugar hardens and turns into a solid piece of sugar. 

Your Brown Sugar is Hard, Now What...

rice, sweet, cereal, salt
Aakanksha Joshi

Though annoying and inconvenient, keeping brown sugar from hardening is possible. According to The Kitchn, there are at least four simple ways to soften hard brown sugar.

Many of these methods involve dehydrating the brown sugar using some absorbent foods, which is seriously cool #foodscience. 

1. Bread

wheat bread, sandwich, flour, rye, cereal, bread, wheat, toast
Christin Urso

Place a slice of bread and brown sugar into an airtight container. After about 24 hours, the sugar should have softened. 

2. Apples

sweet, candy, apple
Kristine Mahan

Similar to the bread, place a few slices of apples in with the brown sugar, and in several hours, the brown sugar should have softened.

3. Microwave

coffee, beer, tea, beans
Leanna Smith

For a quick fix, place the rock of brown sugar into a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave the brown sugar for about 20 seconds, and done! It should be softened.

Don't fall victim to asking yourself, "why does brown sugar get hard," and prevent it before it happens by sticking it in an airtight jar before using. So, when the next time you want to bake or treat yourself to a tipsy ice cream, you can do so with ease.