Learn how to measure either refined brown sugars, which are the most widely available on store shelves, or traditional brown sugars, also known as unrefined sugars. If you haven't done so, start by reading my previous posts What Is Brown Sugar? and What Is Unrefined Sugar, Anyway?
Being a dry ingredient, sugar should be measured in dry-measuring tools, available in cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon. When amounts less than a ¼ cup is needed, use measuring spoons.
Use a scale as weighing sweeteners is, of course, more accurate than measuring volumes, especially for brown sugars. When large quantities are necessary, weighing with a scale is more convenient and fast than measuring.
Typically, if a recipe calls for brown sugar, it should be measured a flat or level (not heaped) cup, tablespoon or teaspoon.
Use the dip and sweep method. Dip the measuring tool into the sugar and sweep the excess with a straight edge of a spatula or knife.
When using a measuring cup, press brown sugar firmly into the cup with a spoon or your fingers, and then level it.
The pressing should be firm enough that the brown sugar retains the shape of the measuring cup when it is turned out (see image below).
One pound of brown sugar yields up to 2 ¼ cups when firmly packed.
The same volume of regular brown sugars may be used in place of traditional brown sugars (muscovado, panela).
If a recipe does not specify, measure a packed cup of brown sugar, and feel free to use either light, dark or unrefined brown sugars.
Dark brown sugar typically weighs slightly more than light brown sugar due to its higher molasses content.
1 teaspoon = 1/8 ounce = 4 grams.
2 tablespoons brown sugars ~ 1 ounce ~ 28g
1 cup of light brown sugar firmly packed ~ 7.6 ounces ~ 220g
1 cup of dark brown sugar firmly packed ~ 8.4 ounces ~ 240g
1 cup of muscovado sugar firmly packed ~ 8 ounces ~ 227g
An unpacked cup of brown sugar weighs around 2 ounces less than a cup that is packed.
1 cup brown sugar unpacked = 6 to 7.5 ounces = 170 to 210g
Pourable Brown Sugars
Brown sugars such as Sucanat and Pourable Brown Sugar do not clump, cake or harden, being easy-to-measure sugars. See how they look like on unboxing videos at the end of this post. Refer to a previous blog post titled What Is Brown Sugar? to learn more about them.
They contain less moisture, and so, weigh less than regular and traditional brown sugars. When substituting them, measure 'equal volume', not 'equal weight', because they are much lighter than regular brown sugars.
According to their manufacturer, they should be used as a cup for cup replacement for regular light brown sugar, not ounce for ounce. But be prepared to adjust your recipes as they behave differently than regular brown sugars.
Sucanat, which stands for Sugar Cane Natural, is claimed to be an unrefined sugar but it is in fact a partially refined cane sugar. Sucanat is a registered trademark of Wholesome Sweeteners, Sugar Land, TX. Three brands are available: Wholesome, Now, and Frontier
Pourable brown sugar is a refined cane sugar, also known as free-flowing brown sugar or molasses granules. As the name implies, it pours easily, and is very convenient to measure. Two brands are available: Domino, and C&H.