Did your jar of honey crystallize? This is totally normal, and natural. Crystallized honey is just as edible and delicious as liquid honey, but if you don’t like the texture of crystallized honey, it is quite simple to soften honey by adding heat.
Heating honey will liquefy crystallized honey. But bee careful. If you overheat the honey during the decrystallization process you risk changing the quality and losing raw honey nutrients and benefits.
To preserve the best qualities of that raw honey, you must melt it slowly in a glass jar using low, indirect, and constant heat for as long as the honey takes to decrystallize.
Decrystallize Honey in 4 Steps
Step One: Place glass jar of honey into a larger glass or ceramic bowl (if your honey comes in a plastic bottle spoon out crystallized honey into a sealable glass jar).
Step Two: Heat a pot of water up to a temperature between 95°F and 110°F. You can create this warm water bath using a kettle, instant pot, or, if you want precision, a sous vide cooker.
Step Three: Pour the warm water bath into the bowl and jar of honey is sitting in. Make sure the water line is above the level of the honey but below the lid. You do NOT want water to accidentally get into your honey jar or container.
Step Four: Leave the jar of honey sitting in the bath, stirring occasionally, until the honey reliquifies. Monitor the water temperature with a thermometer and adjust by adding hot or cool water to keep it at or below 110°F.
The length of time that your honey will take to decrystallize depends upon the amount you are liquefying, but a typical honey jar takes a little over an hour to decrystallize.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Pure, raw honey crystallizes naturally over time as the sugar “precipitates out” of the solution into crystal form. Honey is made up of glucose and fructose. Different honey varietals have different ratios of these sugars, which means different honeys crystallize at different rates.
The higher the glucose, the faster a honey will crystallize. These include:
- Clover honey
- Lavender honey
- Dandelion honey
Honeys that are higher in fructose than glucose crystallize more slowly. These include:
Remember, crystallized honey has not spoiled! Honey does not go bad, and crystallized honey still has the same quality and flavor, just maybe a different color and texture. Learn more about the science of honey crystallization.
Decrystallization: A “HONEY-DON’T” LIST
Don’t microwave raw honey to decrystallize it. Microwave ovens cook food unevenly (that is why you have to turn your microwave dinner halfway through the cycle). You can’t control the temperature at all and are likely to scorch or boil at least some of your raw honey in a microwave.
Don’t boil raw honey. You may be tempted to immerse your entire honey jar in boiling water, but that will destroy beneficial enzymes and other properties found only in raw honey.
Don’t heat honey in a plastic bottle. Don’t take the risk that you’ll melt plastic into your honey.
Don’t liquefy honey over and over again. Decrystallize only what you need at one time. The flavor and aroma of the honey will fade with repeated cycles of heating and cooling (and liquefying and crystallizing).
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What Happens When You Overheat Raw Honey
Whether you buy raw local honey for the benefits of the pollen or if you are a gourmand with a taste for the world’s most delicious raw honey, you have excellent reasons to take extra care when decrystallizing your honey.
Pollen, propolis, antioxidants, and enzymes found in raw honey are destroyed at temperatures above 110°F. Heating honey higher than 140°F degrades the quality of the honey and temperatures above 160°F caramelize the sugars. Once caramelized, what you have in your honey jar may be sweet, but it isn’t really honey anymore.
The boiling point of water is 212°F. If you really want to preserve your raw honey while decrystallizing it, you can’t just drop the jar in boiling water. Most residential hot water heaters are set to 140°F, so even tap water will need to be monitored closely with a thermometer if you are using it to decrystallize honey.
How many times have you thought about throwing away a perfectly good jar of honey just because it got crystallised? If you are one of those people who are convinced that hard honey is spoiled, we have news for you: honey never goes bad, and it is perfectly good to eat when it is hard. In fact, some people actually prefer crystallised honey to its liquid alternative! If you are not one of them though, there is no need to throw the honey bear into the trash. Read on to find out how to make honey runny again as well as how to store it to slow down the crystallisation process. With the proper knowledge and technique, you will be able to enjoy your favourite liquid honey much longer!
Why does honey crystallise?
Honey almost entirely consists of natural sugars. There is only 20% of water in this product. This means that there are not nearly enough water molecules to hold all the glucose and fructose, which leads to eventual separation of these components. And this is exactly how you get crystallised honey. To make sure the product stays liquid as long as possible, store it at room temperature in a glass jar with a tightly closed lid. Never put honey in the fridge! It will speed up the crystallisation process.
Most store-bought honey varieties are heavily processed. Manufacturers use pasteurisation to kill the bacteria and yeast as well as to slow down crystallisation, making the product more appealing to the customers. Raw honey is unprocessed, and this is why it crystallises much faster. However, it also means that all the nutrients and enzymes in it are still intact, making it a healthier choice. If you skip out on the amazing benefits of raw honey just because you don’t fancy its texture, we can tell you how to make it runny again in a few easy steps!
How to decrystallise honey?
To bring honey back to its original consistency, you need to heat it up. It is crucial to maintain the right temperature – going too high would mean to scorch the product and destroy the precious vitamins and enzymes. The heating method is also important. If you look up how to decrystallise honey in Google, you may find some pretty bad advice like using a microwave oven. In this case, the heat will distribute unevenly, which means that some areas will stay crystallised while others will simply boil. What is more, if you store the product in a plastic container, using a microwave oven will melt it, releasing harmful toxins and particles.
So how to decrystallise raw honey the right way? Don’t worry, it is super easy. All you need is a pot of hot water and a bowl large enough to accommodate your honey jar. The key is not to let the water boil, which happens at 100°C. Try to keep the temperature up to 45°C to preserve enzymes and antioxidants. If you have accidentally overheated and boiled the water, let it sit for a few minutes. Once it cools off enough, slowly add it into the bowl, filling the space around the jar with crystallised honey. Make sure you leave the lid on and don’t pour water on top of it. Decrystallising honey takes time. Be patient and carefully add more hot water as the liquid in the bowl starts to cool down.
Though it is preferable to keep honey in a glass jar, many retailers sell it in plastic containers. If you have one of those honey bears on your hands, the steps will be similar but this time keep the water temperature lower than 38°C to prevent plastic from deforming. Give your bear a good soak and once the honey is liquid enough, transfer it to a glass jar. Now you know how to decrystallise honey. We hope that this knowledge will help you save a ton of money by increasing the shelf-life of your favourite product, making your life that much sweeter.
A spoonful of a product you probably already have in your cabinet can prevent the chemical process that causes crystallized honey- and the same ingredient can decrystallize honey and return it to a smooth runny consistency- even when chilled.
Honey is the only food product that never goes bad, though, if you’ve ever discovered a jar of honey forgotten in the back of a cabinet, you might doubt it based on looks. Aged honey turns to an unappetizing, crystallized mess- making it impossible to pour or use in most food prep.
My Experiments fixing Crystallized Honey
When I saw Alton Brown make simple syrup on Good Eats- on the way explaining the process behind sugar crystallization- it sparked an idea for dealing with the stockpile of crystallized honey I had in my pantry.
In his simple syrup recipe, Alton used a tiny amount of glucose (aka corn syrup) to change the chemistry of his sugar syrup enough that the solution became inhospitable for the formation of sugar crystal molecules. I began to wonder if the same method that prevents the crystallization in the simple syrup prepared for cocktails and beverages could “fix” all my crystallized honey by decrystallizing the honey.
Determined to know, I asked a beekeeping friend if adding corn syrup to honey would change the chemical makeup enough to prevent honey from going into the crystallized state overtime.
Horrified, he began something of a rant about honey purity, corporate marketing, and the shady business of commercial food labeling, so I decided I’d just stay quiet and experiment on my own with fixing the crystallized honey in my cabinet!
Honey crystals can easily be melted with heat- that’s how most people use up their crystallized honey– but I wondered if the same basic chemistry that prevented crystallization of simple syrup could rescue honey that had turned from liquid to a semi-solid state.
Three years after my original test of this hypothesis, I can confirm that this method works to fix crystallilzed honey and prevent re-crystallization when it is returned to storage. I waited three years to see if the honey in my test batch recrystallized, and I can confirm the test was a success: this method for fixing crystallized honey prevents recrystalization. Below, I demonstrate this method step by step.
Steps to Fix and Stabilize Crystallized Honey
- Honey – either already crystallized honey or a fresher batch of liquid honey that you want to prevent from crystallizing in storage.
- Corn Syrup
STEP 1. Melt Existing Honey Crystals
Scoop crystallized honey into a clean saucepan.
Over medium-low heat, warm the honey, stirring occasionally, until the heat breaks up the sugar crystals and the honey is a smooth liquid.
STEP 2. Add Corn Syrup to Warm Honey
Add a small amount of corn syrup to the warmed honey. (No exact measurement required. I use about 2-3 tablespoons of corn syrup to 1 cup of honey).
Only a small amount of corn syrup is required to disrupt the crystallization process of sugar. This small amount of corn syrup should make no noticeable change to the flavor of the honey.
Stir to combine
You can add fresh honey if you’d like to prevent future crystallization of fresh honey. When I go through these steps with old crystallized honey, I try to save myself some future work by adding fresh honey to the batch- to keep it from later crystallizing.
Step 3: Decant into Clean Dry Jars
Pour honey into a clean jar.
Then seal and enjoy! Three steps and one extra ingredient is all it takes to restore crystallized honey to a viscous liquid state and change the chemical makeup enough to prevent crystallization, but not so much that it changes the flavor.
Crystallized Honey Safety
Crystallized honey is still safe to eat out of the jar or to cook with – in fact, many markets around the world feature crystallized honey as a delicacy or as part of a sweet candy-like treat.
Eating crystallized honey won’t make you sick unless the honey is contaminated with something else- for example, by unsanitary packaging processes or from food or soiled utensils being dipped into the container of honey before it began to crystallize.
Even though crystallized honey is safe to eat, that doesn’t mean that all crystallized honey is always safe to eat: use your eyes, nose, and tastebuds to check for signs of the honey might be bad.
Signs that your honey has gone bad due to contamination might include:
- a foul odor,
- fuzzy or black spots indicating molded or rotting particles, or
- a film covering the surface of your honey.
If you notice that your honey has a bad smell or any other concerning signs, it’s a good idea to toss (or compost!) the honey rather than risk becoming ill.
How to decrystallize honey in a microwave
You can definitely use your microwave to decrystallize honey using the process described in this blog post. Because the high sugar content means honey heat superhot super quickly in the microwave, you’ll want to remove the crystallized honey from plastic packaging before microwaving.
To decrystallize honey in the microwave, place your plastic container of honey in a bowl of warm water for 3 to 5 minutes, until the honey crystals soften. Next, place your honey and a small amount of corn syrup in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Place in the microwave and heat until the honey corn syrup mixture is warm and fluid. Remove from the microwave, stir, and pour back into your plastic honey jar.
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