Tips for preparing ingredients with measuring cups and spoons

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As I mentioned in my previous post, recipes that use the imperial system measure many ingredients by weight instead of volume.  This can be confusing especially if you don’t own a kitchen scale and you’re likely using measuring cups or spoons.  Rest assured that this not a problem if you are aware that these volumetric tools (cups and spoons) can be very inaccurate if used improperly.  I mentioned in my previous post that the proper way of adding dry ingredients to the measuring cup is by using a regular spoon to scoop it into the measuring cup until it overflows, and then leveling it off with a straight edge.  The second issue to note is that there is a difference between liquid and dry measuring cups.  It’s important that you own both types of cups and that you know when to use them.

Dry measuring cups are used to measure the volume of bulk solid ingredients such as sugars and flours.  They usually come in a set, typically of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup.  Some dry measuring cup sets include the odd cup measurements such as 1/8, 2/3, and 3/4 cup.  These measuring cups may be made of plastic, glass, or metal, and do not have a marked scale on the side since you measure by filling the ingredient right to the top and then leveling off with a straight edge.  I own the Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Cup and Spoon Set.  I like the modern design with stainless steel, and they include the metric conversion.

measuring cups and spoons

measuring spoons

Liquid measuring cups are used to measure the volume of a liquid ingredient such as water, milk, whipping cream, or oil.  These measuring cups generally have a pour spout and have gradations on the side of the cup where you measure the liquids.  There are different sizes of liquid measuring cups, ranging from a capacity of 250 ml (approx. 1 cup) to 1000 ml (approx. 4 cups).  The scale markings may be in multiple units such as milliliters with fractions of a liter, the cup unit with its fractions, pints, or fluid ounces.  I’ve seen liquid measuring cups made in clear plastic, metal, glass, and more recently, silicone.  I own a set of 3 silicone Flex-it measuring cups:  1 cup, 2 cups, and 4 cups capacity.

measuring cups

These are my favorite measuring cups.  They are microwavable, heat resistant up to 500oF, and they pour nicely because you can squeeze in the sides a little while pouring.  And best of all, they nestle inside one another to save space in storage.  They’re fantastic measuring cups with milliliter and fractions of a liter scale on one side, and cups and ounces on the other.

dry measuring cups  Flex-it measuring cup storage

I also have the OXO Good Grips 4 cup angled measuring cup which has served me well in the years before I found my silicone measuring cups.

In my previous post, I talked about measuring ingredients by weight.  With the advent of these accurate digital kitchen scales, it is increasingly more common to weight liquids for use in recipes to avoid the need for fiddling with multiple volumetric measuring cups and spoons.  The most common liquids used in the kitchen are water and milk, which weight approximately the same when considering the relatively low volumes used in cooking.  If you do not have a kitchen scale, I’m going to let you in on something useful I learned in Chemistry class:

1 ml of water = 1 cm3 and weighs 1 gram
1 liter of water = 1 m3 and weighs 1 kilogram

So a recipe calling for 300 g of water can simply be substituted with 300 ml of water, and vice versa.

Another way to get a pretty accurate measurement of dry ingredients without a kitchen scale is to know the weight of your dry ingredients so you can calculate the weight needed for a recipe using volume.  For example, if you determine the weight per cup of flour you are using, then you can calculate how many cups of flour you need if your recipe prefers weight measurements.  I have compiled a weight conversion chart for common ingredients in my recipes for your reference.  I determined these weight measurements using the method I described in my previous post.  For example, now you know the weight per cup of the type of flour you are using.  So if a recipe calls for 270 grams of all-purpose flour, divide 270 by 120 (the weight of one cup of flour).  The result is 2 1/4 cups of flour.  Sometimes flour is used in small amounts that are more easily calculated by knowing the weight of a tablespoon of flour.  Be aware that 1 cup = 48 teaspoons = 16 tablespoons.  Use this information to determine smaller increments of weights:  1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 120 grams, so 1 tablespoon weighs 7 1/2 grams.

My rule of thumb is to be consistent in your methods.  If you are using volume to measure your dry ingredients, make sure to use volume throughout the entire recipe.  That way you can be sure that your proportion of ingredients is correct.

Common ingredient weight conversions


Related posts:

  1. Measuring dry ingredients using a Salter digital kitchen scale

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