This is the best way to soften old brown sugar

Let's be real: Even if you love to bake – and even if you're great at it! – we can't all be The Home Edit-level organized. Plus, can you really even call yourself a baker if you haven't allowed a ripped-open bag of brown sugar to go stale in the back of your cupboard at least once in your life?

We'll clue you into another pro-baker tip: You don't have to meticulously organize your pantry to keep brown sugar fresh and stored properly. As a matter of fact, you don't have to do much at all, because we've rounded up some handy last-minute fixes to soften your old brown sugar.

First, let's tackle the why, because food is science (and to be a great baker, you have to at least tolerate some science). According to Kitchn, brown sugar is coated with molasses to help make it packable and easy to work with. The moisture from the molasses evaporates off when the brown sugar is exposed to air, which causes hard and dense clumps to form – some of which can even be mistaken for hockey pucks!

Adding moisture back in is the key to softening up brown sugar

There are a few foolproof ways to rescue old brown sugar, but all of them have one thing in common: moisture. One of the best ways to get yourself out of a panicked, brown sugar-less mess is to empty a hunk into a bowl covered with a damp paper towel. Microwave the dish for 45 seconds then flip it and microwave again. In under two minutes, you should have some good-as-new brown sugar (via Chatelaine).

Another great option to save yourself a dirty dish is to dump the brown sugar into a large plastic bag and add a splash of water. Serious Eats recommends adding 3/4 of a teaspoon per eight ounces of brown sugar. Microwave the bag for no more than 15 seconds then spend some time massaging the melted sugar and water through the plastic. If you want to skip the microwave, you can let the water sit for a bit – even overnight – and knead the sugar once the moisture's been restored.

If you have some extra time on your hands and want to test out that food science we mentioned earlier, toss half of an apple or a slice of bread into your brown sugar container instead of water. While Kitchn states that it's not as effective as other methods because it takes significantly longer, both are great options to help preserve your brown sugar and avoid this sticky situation in the future.