Although sugar has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, it remains an important — not to mention common — kitchen staple. Yes, sugar has been linked to a host of health issues, such as diabetes and obesity, and overindulging can wreak havoc on one’s health. But there’s no doubt about it: Sugar helps produce some fantastic foods, especially desserts. Check out some of the different types available at your local grocer.
This is most likely the sugar you’re most familiar with. Whether you stir it into your morning coffee or use it to whip up a batch of cupcakes, granulated white sugar is incredibly versatile and has a place in most American homes and eating establishments. This refined sugar, made from sugar cane or sugar beets, is 100% sucrose and has the largest crystals of any white sugar, according to Finecooking.com. It’s also the starting point for many other sugars commonly used in the kitchen.
Baker’s sugar, also called Caster sugar, is granulated white sugar that has been ground to create a superfine product. It is most often called for during — you guessed it — baking, because its small crystals dissolve quicker than regular granulated sugar, says Thekitchn.com. Chefs love using baker’s sugar when whipping up frostings and meringues, as well as cocktails. Want superfine sugar but don’t have any on hand? Run regular sugar through a clean coffee grinder or food processor to make your own!
Another popular choice for baking, confectioner’s sugar is better known as powdered sugar. It’s primarily used to make frostings, candies and fancy cake decorations, although the average home cook may be more likely to sprinkle it on Sunday morning French toast (and for good reason). Surprisingly, confectioner’s sugar consists of granulated sugar ground and mixed with cornstarch, so it’s easy to make your own in a pinch.
Boiling granulated sugar with molasses produces none other than brown sugar. This crumbly sugar is often used to make caramels, cookies and barbecue sauces, and makes a great addition to morning oatmeal. The amount of molasses used dictates whether the brown sugar is light or dark — light brown sugar may contain about 3% to 5% molasses, while dark brown sugar comes in between 6% and 10%. Although brown sugar does contain minerals that granulated sugar lacks, including calcium and potassium, it is not a healthier alternative to other sugars.
Turbinado sugar, which features large, light brown crystals, is sucrose that hasn’t been completely refined and still contains a bit of molasses. Because of its large crystals, we like cooking with turbinado sugar when we really want to achieve some texture — sprinkling it on sweet potatoes or making streusel topping for muffins are two great ways to start. Turbinado sugar contains more calories and carbohydrates than both granulated sugar and brown sugar, but otherwise the nutritional content remains pretty similar.