Molasses was once super popular in the Southern United States and the Caribbean and was a standard part of many baked, roasted, and grilled foods. Today, it’s not quite as popular as it once was, but you can find it in many discerning chef’s kitchens, thanks to its unique sweetening properties. But does molasses present a fire risk and if so, how should we go about making sure we use it safely?
Molasses is not considered to be flammable and will not ignite until it reaches 999 degrees Fahrenheit. However, molasses can still burn at these higher temperatures and care should be exercised.
Now, molasses does not present a rea fire hazard in most situations, however, there are some things to be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about molasses.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
What Is Molasses Made Of?
Molasses is a product of the sugar-making process.
To make sugar, they will crush the beets or sugar cane and extract as much juice from them as they can. Once this is done, they take the juice and boil it for a period of hours and as they do so, sugar crystals form in the solution – they remove these crystals and use them as sugar.
After a period of time, you get a sort of thick, brown syrup building up at the bottom of the liquid. They stop the process at this point and remove the syrup, which is molasses. They then repeat the process again and again with the remaining liquid. Each time, they will eventually stop and remove another fraction of molasses.
This video shows more about how it is made:
The molasses produced at each stage is different with lighter/thicker properties and different levels of sweetener.
The first stages remove “original or regular or mild” Molasses. This is very sweet and is typically used in dishes that don’t require much flavor from the molasses.
The next stages bring about “dark or robust or full or second” molasses and this is, as the name suggests, darker and thicker. It has a very strong flavor and is popular for things like gingerbread or for spreading on fatty meat before grilling.
The final stage produces blackstrap molasses, and this is bitter rather than sweet – it can’t be used in desserts and most cooks prefer to leave it to the animals (it is popular as a livestock feed) but you can use it on a barbecue if you want to.
You can even use blackstrap molasses to effectively remove rust:
You may also notice that when you buy molasses, you can choose between sulphured and unsulphured varieties.
Sulfur dioxide is a preservative and it’s added to the sulfured kind.
Some people say that this leaves the molasses with an unpleasant, almost chemical taste and thus, they also sell the un-sulfured varieties of molasses even though this won’t last as long as the other kind.
Molasses has a flashpoint of 999 degrees Fahrenheit (537 Celsius).
It takes quite a lot of heat and energy to make molasses catch fire (it is combustible, just not flammable).
This is good news for the home chef because it means you can store molasses pretty much anywhere (though if you care about the quality of the molasses – we’d recommend a cool, dark place or even inside the refrigerator – this reduces the chance of the molasses becoming moldy and spoiled).
What Happens When It Is Heated?
Yes, you can heat up molasses and, in fact, many people will heat it gently if they have stored in in a refrigerator (the viscosity of molasses at a low temperature makes it almost impossible to pour).
So, they place the jar (as long as it’s glass – don’t do this with plastic) in a bowl of warm water and leave it to war up.
It’s not a great idea to do this in a microwave, mind you, it tends to warm up some of the molasses but not the rest of it.
It’s important to know that if your molasses has gone moldy, you can’t save it by warming it through – it needs to be disposed of and you need to buy some more molasses, sorry.
Can It Be Hazardous?
Molasses is an edible product and thus, as you might expect, it doesn’t present any major known health risks.
However, there is a ton of evidence that sugar is not good for us and we’d point out that molasses is a sugar product and thus, you might want to avoid eating it in large quantities.
As with most things in life, moderation seems to be the most sensible precaution when it comes to consuming sugar. You don’t need to give it up completely, but you should probably try and keep the amount you eat to a minimum whenever possible.
If molasses were to catch fire (and we don’t think that this is likely under most circumstances) you would want to avoid spilling it on you, a burning liquid will leave very unpleasant burns and burning sugar (caramel) will stick to both you and your clothing, which will make it hard to remove later.
But again, we want to stress, we don’t think you’ll be seeing any molasses fires in your kitchen.
Does It Contain Alcohol?
No. There is no alcohol in molasses.
It may be used in desserts that contain alcohol (it works well when combined with rum which is synthesized from molasses) but on its own – it’s alcohol-free.
It can even be used to make rum. If you want to know how take a look here: