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How to Measure Ingredients

Sometimes, getting the right measurement for your ingredients can pose a problem, as the method by which to do so may not be clearly outlined. Below are some ways to measure ingredients of different consistencies and types.

To measure smooth liquids – Liquids are measured by volume, and some of the various sizes are gallons, quarts, pints, cups, tablespoons and teaspoons (in the American measurement system). The fluid ounce number of volume is equal to the weight ounces. To measure liquid accurately, always place the measuring cup on a flat level such as a countertop – this prevents the liquid from moving around in your hand. Bend so you can see the liquid on eye level, and fill to the designated point. If you are measuring a small amount in a spoon, hold the spoon steadily and as flat as possible, pouring the fluid until it touches the brim.

To measure thick, sticky liquids – Some ingredients, despite the fact that they are liquid, can be very difficult to measure and deal with – some of these tough ingredients are molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey or jelly. To make it easier, coat the measuring spoon or cup with oil prior to measuring; this will allow the liquid to flow easily out when you are done, as opposed to sticking and creating a mess.

To measure dry powders – Most recipes call for powders; some of the most common are flour, sugar, baking powder, breadcrumbs and cornmeal. When using a cup to measure these, do not scoop your cup into the container; fill the container to the top, and then slice off the excess with a spatula or butter knife, or just with your fingers for bigger items such as nuts or rice. Do not pack the ingredient tightly into the cup, as this will put more than necessary into your recipe.

To measure brown sugar – When you are measuring brown sugar, pack it into your cup and then slice off the excess with a spatula or butter knife, similar to other dry powder ingredients. It is more solid, however, and will take the form of the measuring cup.

*Tip* Accuracy with powders & dry ingredients: Some recipes provide you with both the volumes and weights of the ingredients necessary. If this is the case, weigh your substances on a kitchen scale – this is helpful with powders because their weight-to-volume ratio differs from liquids. This is shown by a measurement of flour; depending how much you manage to pack in a cup, it can weigh a variety of amounts.

To properly interpret sifting instructions  – There are many tricky things you need to deal when dealing with a recipe; one of the tips of the trade are understanding commas. Anything before the comma should be done first, and anything after it should be completed later. For example “1 cup sifted flour” means that the sifting should be done prior to measuring, where as “1 cup flour, sifted” means that you should measure before sifting. However, if you are measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume, then when you sift the ingredient has no effect – sifting an ingredient will only change its volume, but its weight will remain the same.

To measure sticky, solid ingredients – When dealing with sticky ingredients that cannot be easily transferred out of the measuring cup, use the ‘displacement method’. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of peanut butter, fill half of a 2 cup container with water first, and then fill the remaining cup with the peanut butter. When you have mixed till the peanut butter is smooth, drain out the excess water.

To accurately measure both wet and dry ingredients – To be more time efficient, use 2 different sets of cups & spoons to measure wet and dry ingredients separately – if you do not have these resources, then do the dry ingredients first (otherwise the powders will stick to the cups and spoons once they are wet). This saves time during the process of measuring, as you will not have to constantly wash your utensils.

To accurately divide butter or dough into equal parts – This should be done by weight, not by appearance. For example, if you want to cut a stick of butter into 3 parts, first weigh the whole item on a kitchen scale. Divide this number by three, and then, cut it into three segments, ensuring that each weighs the same. The same is applicable for amounts of dough.


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Last Modified: 11/28/11.