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Aug 31, 2007 09:05 AM

Brands of sugar?

I hear people talk about how they've found their favorite brands of flour, butter, type eggs but never sugar. Is there a brand of sugar that you always get? How about brown sugar? I just tried Trader Joe's organic sugar and really liked how the cookies turned out. But, it was a new recipe and could just have been the recipe. Favorites?

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  1. For white granulated sugar, I buy a store brand. Not worth it to pay the premium price for Dominos. Same for brown sugars.

    Otherwise, I also buy TJ's organic or turbinado sugars. They're usually mixed in with the white granulated sugar in my sugar bowl.

    5 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      I've alway just bought whatever was cheapest, too. I needed sugar and happened to be at TJs which is why I picked up their sugar. That's when I started wondering if it made a difference.

      1. re: chowser

        There's an ENORMOUS difference between brands...but that's because store brands are usually beet sugar and C&H and other brands are cane sugar. If the package of sugar doesn't say cane, it's beet.

        I first discovered the huge "behavior" differences between cane sugar and beet sugar when making boiled icing. A disaster. Then I tried caramel, which I make all the time -- it became a crystallized beige mess. Then I tried creme brulee -- it burned to a black clump instead of caramelizing. Then I started reading research (finally, an answer!), and one of the friendliest articles on the differences is the SF Chron article. I'm a C&H cane sugar girl all the way now.

        To read more about the differences -- very interesting article -- go here:

      2. re: LindaWhit

        I have noticed cosmetic differences in white granulated sugar between Domino and the store brands (whiter, less foreign matter). I don't think there is any consequence in cooking but it looks better if you serve the sugar.

        1. re: filth

          In some Mexican grocery sections you can find 'azucar morena' - a slightly tan sugar, that's also a bit coarser than American table sugar. I don't think there's much flavor difference, but I keep some on hand, mostly for sprinkling on food (as i might a coarse sea salt).

          1. re: paulj

            You can find that in regular supermarkets and smaller stores like Trader Joe's. I get mine in larger bags at BJ's Wholesale Club.

      3. I buy Domino or C&H. They are cane sugars and react differently than the cheap store brand sugars which are beet sugar. It doesn't even smell good and after an embarassing occasion where my caramel sauce glued peoples forks to their plates I'd never risk anything with the cheap stuff again.

        Someone posted an article a year or two ago from the SF Chronicle on the subject. They tested recipes side by side and the products made with cane sugar were superior to those made with beet sugar.

        Regulars know i am a fanatic on the subject. Beet sugar made it into my house once by accident and never will again.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          Candy, I was just at my local Roche Bros. today, and their store brand of granulated sugar is 100% cane sugar, and since I was needing another 5 lb. bag, I bought one. And it was 50 cents less than Domino. So while it pays to make sure you're getting cane sugar, not *all* store brands are derived from beet sugar.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            You have to be careful. Most store brands are. If a bag or box is not labled pure cane sugar or 100% cane sugar then you are getting beet sugar.

            1. re: Candy

              Good to know. I hadn't thought about looking at what the package said until I read your post. Thanks.

          2. re: Candy


            I think it was me who posted about the very different results from cane vs. beet sugar in cooking, baking, etc. and the San Francisco Chronicle Food Section story on this. I've reposted the link above -- fascinating.


            1. re: maria lorraine

              That SF article dates from 1999. Is there anything more recent? How about something from Europe, where beet sugar has a longer history? Has ATK looked at this difference?

              1. re: paulj


                The question for me is...

                What is the difference in the chemical structure of cane sugar and beet sugar that causes the cane to caramelize beautifully but the beet to burn to black with no intermediate caramelization stage?

                I don't have the answer but I do know that somewhere the scientific explanation exists.

                Being a food chem geek, I don't believe the oft-repeated phrase that "they're chemically identical -- both are 99.95% C12H22O11" nor do I believe the differences in performance can be explained by the minute .05% difference in "mineral" content between the two.

                The differences between the two sugars have to something more fundamental.

                Caramelization, to continue with that example (although the focus could be crystallization, which beet sugar has a greater tendency to do), is a series of complex chemical reactions. Sugar is broken into glucose and fructose, those two form difructose-anhydride and are also changed into ketoses, IIRC, the precursors of caramel polymers and the chemical reason for caramel flavor and color.

                What I suspect, but I don't know, is that something in the chemistry of beet sugar makes it react differently in one or more of those chemical reactions, and the caramel constituents aren't formed.

                Dang, I'm so curious now about the reason. I may have to chase it down.


                P.S.: Yes, Europe has used beet sugar longer, but uses cane in their pastry and confectionary.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Sugar metabolized in the body produces water. When the plant metabolized the sugar in the first place it used the available water from local precipitation. Sugar beets usually grow at a higher elevation and water that precipitates at higher elevations is isotopically different than sea level water. Sugar cane usually grows near sea level. High elevation water has been refined by repeated distillation as it rains out going to higher and higher altitudes. It becomes a metabolically stimulating light water.

                  Long lived cultures in South America, the Caucuses, and Nepal, all lived at high altitudes and were surrounded by glaciers and drink glacier water.

                  1. re: bmoores

                    I realize this is your first post on Chowhound. I'm sorry, but I'm not understanding what you've written. Are you saying the difference between beet sugar and cane sugar is due to the difference in water between higher and lower elevations?

                    I'm not sure that passes muster. Sugar beets grow at all elevations (both very low and somewhat high), so water from rain or irrigation cannot be the reason beet sugar behaves differently from cane sugar when cooking.

                    What seems more likely for that difference in cooking between the two sugars is the difference in processing.

                    Sugar beets are turned into raw juice, and that is mixed with calcium hydroxide, a powerful base, which yields a number of precipitates. The pH is so high (basic rather than acidic) that the sugar -- the glucose and fructose -- is actually changed into carboxylic acids. The carboxylic acids are treated to carbon dioxide, which makes which makes the solution precipitate chalk. After all that, the sugar solution receives soda ash to modify the pH, and sulfur is added to keep the sugar white.

                    All that chemical manipulation, including changing the sugar to something other than sugar and then back again, is what I think may make the two sugars behave differently during cooking or baking.

                    Cane sugar's processing is far simpler. The canes are crushed to remove the sugary juice, then that is boiled down till it crystallizes.

                    In other words, not much processing at all, especially in comparison to huge amount of processing of beet sugar. In other words, I truly doubt it's the difference in the water between lower and higher elevations.

                    I'll continue to do more research in the chemical difference between beet sugar and cane sugar, but I wanted to respond to your post now, and say Welcome to Chowhound. Keep posting!

          3. I'm known as a bit of a sugar fanatic. I use domino for white granulated, as it seems fine, and I don't know if the store brands are any different or less good, but it's not worth saving 60 cents over 5 pounds to find out.

            However, for brown and turbinado sugars, I've found there's a world of difference if you use some of the premium brands. I tried TJ's turbinado, and it was OK, but the ones sold by Billington's, a UK brand that they sell in my local Shaw's market (Boston area) and which you can buy online at Amazon is MUCH MUCH better. Their sugars are from Mauritius, and you can really taste the caramel flavor you want. Their light brown sugar is very good for baking, and I use their dark brown sugar for my chocolate cookies, and people love the taste. I've also used the sugars from India Tree, which are more expensive, but are also excellent. They sell those at Williams Sonoma, or onliine at Amazon. But beware, you won't want to use cheaper sugar again.

            4 Replies
            1. re: winedude

              I'm an American living in the UK and am so in LOVE with Billington's Molasses sugar that it will be what I give as Christmas presents to people back home. It makes the most mundane oatmeal cookies into something magical. I've always had a bit of a brown sugar problem, but a lump of this stuff is like candy.

              1. re: relizabeth

                Wow, we normally travel to the UK with our "unrefined, raw sugar." Is Billington's Molasses Sugar available at say Tesco's, or do we need to go to a specialty shop? We let a flat in Mayfair, on Curzon, but I'll tube for good sugar. You may have just saved me overweight baggage on the outbound trip!

                Thank you for this rec.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  bill, that's a great neighborhood. mr. alkas's office used to be on carlos place, near the mermaid statue. their office frequented fino's wine cellar just nearby on mount street. fun place for pre-dinner drinks.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    This sugar is fabulous, but not very posh. I get it at my Sainsburys in Dalston, but have also seen it an any large supermarket, or grocery with a natural bent. I bought it first because it was the cheapest of their brown sugars (isnt molasses a byproduct?) but now it is my crack.

            2. Thanks, Candy and winedude--this is great information. I'm going to start paying more attention to sugar now. I'd read about the beet vs cane sugar a while back but didn't pay a lot of attention to it. I haven't seen the better brands of brown sugar but will pick some up next time. I know I haven't seen Bilington's but just bought a new organic fair trade one(didn't know if sugar was something to pay attention to as fair trade goes, like coffee or chocolate) that I've never seen before. I have mixed my own with white sugar and brown and it turns out well. I knew I'd get good info here.

              1. I have begun using superfine baking sugar for everything. It is such a pleasure because it dissolves so quickly. It is great to make homemade candied nuts and kettle corn with.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Snackish

                  Is it a 1:1 substitution? Do you make your own from regular sugar or just buy superfine?

                  1. re: chowser

                    I buy superfine. It comes in a big milk carton like thing and it substitutes 1:1. It is more expensive but worth it to me,since one half gallon sized carton lasts me 6 months or more.

                    1. re: Snackish

                      I like super fine too or baker's sugar. I think it is much better in baked goods.
                      We can only get the little boxes which get expensive but in a pinch I have put regular sugar in the food processor and ground it fine.

                        1. re: Snackish

                          Bakers sugar is not a 1-1 substitution by volume because it is a finer product. I remove 1 TBL per cup if the recipe is written for granulated sugar. It is obviously the same if you measure by weight.

                          You can make bakers sugar in the food processor by pulsing the granulated sugar on high for 15-20 pulses. I only tend to make a few cups at a time because it clumps quite readily.

                          C&H is the typical brand of bakers sugar, and it is always made from cane.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            And the C&H baker's sugar package (the "milk carton" Snackish referred to) says it substitutes 1:1 by volume for granulated sugar.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              There is a article in the back of this months Cooks Illustrated about making bakers sugar, and it states that I cup of ultrafine sugar is equal to 1 cup plus 2 tsp of granulated sugar.

                      1. re: Snackish

                        I have switched in recent years to having superfine (caster) sugar instead of granulated as my pantry staple, and despite the increased expense it is so much more convenient, as it handles better for so much.