Home Cook’s Guide- How To Measure Ingredients Properly

Measuring Cup Of Milk
Measuring Cup Of Milk

We can all recall that one time, maybe two times, that we came across a recipe that is carefully and lovingly prepared and yet, it fails. In fact, this could be because the ingredients weren’t properly measured. There is no doubt that measuring ingredients the right way can make or break a recipe; too much flour to a cake batter can result in a dry cake, while on the flip side too much flour and you may end up with a badly structured cake that can collapse in the oven. Some might argue that properly measuring ingredients only applies to baking–since it is indeed a science.  However, properly measuring ingredients can also apply to cooking, if you don’t have the right amount of ingredients, your entire recipe can end up with subpar results or a total disaster. Incorrect measurements can:

  • Cause you to waste ingredients which in turn wastes money
  • Cause an immense amount of frustration when the recipe does not come out right
  • Cause you to sometimes lose faith in your cooking abilities

In this article, you will learn how to properly measure ingredients so that you can produce phenomenal results and also cook like the pro that you are.

Weighing Ingredients

Weighing ingredients as opposed to measuring ingredients is the most accurate way to have consistent cooking results. While it may take a little getting used to and you may have to consult some conversion tables to convert some older recipes it is worth it in the end. Also, when recipe say things like one large potato, etc., after you’ve measured a few times repairing your recipes you’ll reach an average which can be used as a consistent unit in your recipes.

How To Measure Wet Ingredients Properly

In Cooking, wet ingredients and dry recipe ingredients need to be treated differently and measured in different measuring cups. Let’s take grains for example, by not adding enough or too many grains to water ratio your desired outcome won’t be possible. Here are some things to consider when measuring wet ingredients:

  • When measuring fluids such as water, oil or milk use a cup that is meant for liquids- a glass or plastic cup. The container needs to placed on a flat surface and viewed from eye level (not overhead or on the table). Pour the liquid in until it is just under the line. You should squat or bend down so that your eye is precisely level with the liquid.
  • You might notice that the surface of the liquid is not completely flat but instead somewhat climbs up the walls of the measuring cup. This top surface is called a meniscus. For accuracy, ensure that the bottom of the meniscus is at the desired measurement line.
  • Measuring spoons also work well with measuring liquids but in smaller amounts; be sure to keep the spoon level to ensure accuracy.
  • For smaller volumes, fill tablespoons or teaspoons to the brim. You can measure over the sink so that there won’t be too much mess.
  • When measuring dense, sticky and viscous wet ingredients such as honey, a pro tip is to spray the measuring utensil with cooking oil before so that it does not stick and comes out smoothly.
Bulgur wheat in an American cup measure
Bulgur wheat in an American cup measure

How To Measure Dry Ingredients Properly

When it comes to measuring dry ingredients like flour and sugar it is important that they are measured in dry measuring cups- typically those that are flat rimmed. There are several methods for filling dry measuring cups such as sifting, spooning or scooping. The truth is, the method that you use to fill a dry measuring cup affects the mass of the ingredient you are measuring. Here are some things to consider when measuring dry ingredients:

  • Always use a knife or straight edged tool to level off or sweep off the excess with ingredients such as baking soda, flour, and baking powder.
  • Refrain from packing the ingredients – especially flour -unless the recipe specifically calls for it. In most cases, brown sugar is typically required to be packed and should be done with the back of a spoon.
  • A flat cup measurer and a level spoon is a must for measuring. Ensure that the spoon is straight with no bends or kinks.
  • As mentioned before, there are several methods for filling dry cups, sifting being one of them. It is important to never sift flour directly into the measuring cup as pockets of air might form which can off put the final results of your product. Instead, sift the flour onto a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil, measure the amount you desire and spoon it into the measuring cup.

Additional Tips For Measuring When Cooking Or Baking 

  • Tableware and cutlery are not for measuring. Measuring spoons and cups are relatively inexpensive and can be found everywhere; even at the dollar store.
  • A coffee cup, teacup or mug is not equivalent to a measuring cup.
  • Do not measure any flavorings (extracts) directly over the bowl as spillage can occur.
  • Butter/ Lard or Shortening can be measured with a butter ruler which can be found in many specialty kitchen stores.
  • Another effective way to measure liquid ingredients is by using a scale. In fact, some recipes call for the use of a scale, especially in baking, because it is more:
    • Accurate– There isn’t any compressibility when you measure by weight. Three ounces of flour will always be three ounces of flour regardless of the vessel used. With that being said, each recipe will guarantee the same results every time you make it.
    • Less messy– So instead of using different measuring utensils that are required to be washed after you’re done with your recipe, all you need when using a scale is one bowl.
  • When using a measuring scale, you are considered to be measuring using volume- the amount of space something takes up. One should note that recipes written in ounces are not the same as those written in fluid ounces.

Everyday Cooking Measurements To Memorize

Here are some simple recipe measurements that you can memorize for quick everyday cooking. It’s a great idea to have a couple of measurements stored in your memory as this can cut back on measuring time which in turn cuts back on cooking time so eating time is closer than you think.

  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce
  • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
  • 1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
  • 2 cups = 1 pint
  • 2 pints = 1 quart
  • 4 quarts = 1 gallon

Related References