Archives: Measuring

The Danger of Weight Charts

How to Use Weight Charts

weighing vs measuring

Did the word “danger” grab your attention? Okay so we are not talking about shark attacks or anything that dramatic, but how about when you take the time to shop for ingredients and make a cake from scratch only to get lackluster or horrible results? This is what I call a dessert tragedy.


weighing vs measuring2


There are many reasons why we might not get great end results – oven not calibrated, you substituted ingredients, batter is over worked – the list goes on and on. But let’s take a look at how a recipe is presented and how it is that you actually go about making it. For instance if the recipe says:

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

That is not the same thing as:

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour.

The first is suggesting that you measure the flour, then sift it. The second one, vice versa. These will give you different amounts of flour.

Now let’s say you are following a recipe, like the one’s on Bakepedia, that call for 1 cup all-purpose flour and you decide you want to weigh instead of measure by volume. Maybe you Google a substitution chart or maybe you have one from a baking book. If you use a search engine I assure you that you will find weights telling you that 1 cup of flour is 4 ounces, 4.5 ounces, 5 ounces and even other amounts. How come? Because we measure cups of flour differently. You have to know how the person who developed the recipe measured their flour or you will not have accurate results.

Do not use a chart from one source and apply it to another source.

So, our suggestion is always to make the recipe as described. If the person used weight and tells you their cup of flour weighs 4.5 ounces, then you are good to go as long as you have a scale. If the baker used a dip and sweep method after aerating the dry ingredient, then follow suit. That’s what we do in the Test Kitchen by the way and you can read more here at How to Measure Dry Ingredients.

Not get into the kitchen and bake!



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Choosing Liquid Measuring Cups

We constantly reach for 1-cup, 2-cup and 4-cup liquid measuring cups. We recommend having an assortment handy because you will use them for water, juices, liquid sweeteners, measuring reduced mixtures right off the stove and in many other ways. This last use is also why we like a heatproof cup. Our test kitchen uses both Pyrexand Anchor Hockingbrands. They are made from heatproof glass, are practically shatterproof and have easy-to-read and accurate measurement markings. If you need ½ cup of liquid, don’t try to measure it in a 4-cup size (it might not even have the markings). Use a cup size similar to the amount of liquid called for.

We are not partial to the newfangled designs with markings that allow you to look down into the cup to read the levels. The good folks over at Cook’s Illustrated put several brands and designs through accuracy tests and this design did not fare well. We stick with the tried-and-true classic design with the measurements that are meant to be read from the outside. We also love the tiny shot-glass measuring cups that are available now and use them when a recipe calls for anything from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of liquid.

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Using Measuring Spoons


While measuring spoons are typically thought of as dry-measuring implements, they are often used for extracts, flavorings, small amounts of water and other similar ingredients.

For liquids, pour the liquid ingredient (such as vanilla extract) into the exact-size measuring spoon and fill it up to the brim.

For dry ingredients, such as baking powder, dip spoon into your ingredient so that it overfills then scrape off the excess with a straight edge implement, such as an icing spatula.

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Choosing Accurate Measuring Spoons


Many years back there was a small article in Gourmet magazine that completely changed our approach to baking. Sound dramatic? Well, the contents of the article demanded a dramatic reaction! The story explained how they had all their editors bring in their sets of measuring spoons from home. They measured 1 tablespoon of salt with each set, weighed the contents and noted the results, which, astonishingly, varied from 6 to 14 grams! They assumed that all measuring spoons were the same. We certainly had been putting faith in our sets and bet you have, too. How could it be that the results varied by more than 100%?

Industry standards exist, but they are guidelines and not laws. We have researched reputable companies and use Cuisipro stainless steel spoons in our test kitchen. The standard set includes 1/8-teaspoon, ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. They also offer a set that includes a Pinch, 1/8-teaspoon, 2/3-teaspoon, 1 ½ teaspoons and 2 teaspoons sizes. They are an elegant and useful slender oval shape that fits into most containers.

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Using Dry Measuring Cups for Sifted Ingredients


Cocoas and powdered sugar often clump upon storage and we recommend sifting before using your dry measuring cups.

1. Sift your dry ingredient in a bowl, using a larger than required amount.

2. Using the exact sized measuring cup called for, dip it into your ingredient so that it overfills the cup.

3. Scrape off the excess with a straight edge implement, such as an icing spatula.

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How to Use Dry Measuring Cups for Flour and Granulated Sugar



Before you grab your tools, please read our recommendations about choosing your dry measuring cups.

Believe it or not, there are many ways to use a measuring cup. You can scoop the cup into your flour or sugar and shake off the excess, you could spoon the ingredient into the cup and level it off with a butter knife (what we call “dip and sweep”) or you could sift flour right into the cup. All of these techniques will give you different amounts by volume and that’s just three of many different ways you might be using your measuring tools. Confusing? It can be, but we are here to help.

First of all, know what approach the recipe developer used. What does this mean? In our test kitchen we use the dip and sweep method. Other baking resources use a spoon-in method. If you are making a recipe out of a cookbook, there is probably a section called “How to Use This Book” or something similar. Read it! It will hopefully describe the techniques that the author used in developing those recipes. Follow their lead and you will get the best results.

Here’s what we do in detail. When using Bakepedia recipes, we suggest that you follow this dip and sweep method for flours and granulated sugar:

  1. Aerate flour by whisking. Flours will compact upon storage. Fluffing it up a bit will give you a better result. Skip this step if measuring granulated sugar.
  2. Using the exact-sized measuring cup called for, dip it into your ingredient so you have a heaping scoop.
  3. Scrape off the excess with a straight edge implement, such as an icing spatula.
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Choosing Dry Measuring Cups Wisely

dry measuring cups with normal and odd sizes

You might think dry measuring cups are the same no matter what the brand or place of purchase, but there are industry standards for weights and measures and not all measuring cups are manufactured to those specifications. If your set of measuring tools came from the dollar store or is dented, we say toss ‘em out. We use metal cups from Cuisipro as well as sets purchased from King Arthur Flour. Typical sets include ¼-cup, 1/3-cup, ½-cup and 1-cup – and those should be in your arsenal as a bare minimum. We also love odd-sized cups and use them all the time. These sets include 1/8-cup (2 tablespoons), 2/3-cup and ¾-cup. You can find 2-cup measuring cups as well, often sold separately. Think about when you need ¾-cup packed light brown sugar and how handy a ¾-cup measurer would be! It’s more than just the convenience factor, though. You will be more accurate. Here’s why.

If a recipe calls for ¾-cup of sugar, and you only have the traditional set, you end up measuring ½-cup and then an additional 1/4-cup. This means to get that one suggested measurement, you have to measure twice. Volume measurement is not exact and every time you measure, there is room for error. This might seem overly fussy, but it’s this kind of attention to detail that will help you get the best results. Invest in high-quality measuring tools now and they will last a lifetime. Wash and store them carefully so that they don’t dent!

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