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Cooking weights and measures

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United States measures

Note that the measurements in this section are in U.S. customary units.

Measures are classified as either dry measures or fluid measures. Fluid measures are measures of volume, while dry measures are measures of weight. Whether the ingredient you are measuring is dry or fluid really doesn't matter, and will only confuse you. Simply use the measure that is specified in your recipe.

U.S. recipes are almost always in terms of volume.

Dry Measures:

pinch = approx. 1/8 teaspoon
1 dry ounce (oz.) = 16 drams = 1/16 pound = 28.35 g
1 peck = 8 quarts = 2 gallons = 1/4 bushel
1 pound (lb.) = 16 ounces = 453.6 g

Fluid Measures:

1 drop = 1/76 teaspoon
1 dash = 6 drops
1 teaspoon (t. or tsp.) = 76 drops = 1/3 tablespoon = 4.93 ml
1 tablespoon (T. or tbsp.) = 1/16 cup or 1/2 fluid ounce = 3 teaspoons = 14.79 ml
1 fluid ounce (oz.) = 1/16 pint = 29.57 ml
1 jigger = 1 1/2 fluid ounces = 44.36 ml
1 gill = 4 fluid ounces = 118 ml
1 cup (c.) = 8 fluid ounces = 16 tablespoons = 237 ml
1 pint (pt.) = 16 fluid ounces = 2 cups = 473 ml
1 fifth = 25.6 fluid ounces = 757 ml
1 quart (qt.) = 32 fluid ounces = 2 pints = 946 ml

In domestic cooking, bulk solids, notably flour and sugar, are measured by volume, often cups, though they are sold by weight at retail. Weight measures are used for meat and butter; butter is sold by weight but in packages marked to facilitate common divisions by eye. (As a sub-packaged unit, a stick of butter, at 1/4 lb, is a de facto measure in the U.S.)

Cookbooks in Canada use the same system, although pints and gallons would be taken as their Imperial quantities unless specified otherwise. Following the popularization of the metric system, recipies in Canada are frequently published with metric conversions.

British (Imperial) measures

Note that measurements in this section are in Imperial units

Traditional British measures distinguish between weight and volume.

  • Weight is measured in pounds and ounces (16 oz = 1 lb = 0.4545 kg)
  • Volume is measured in pints and fluid ounces (20 fl.oz = 1 pt = 568 ml)

The "cup" is little used as a measure in the UK, although the practised cook will be aware of it from reading American recipes. Older recipes may well give measurements in cups; in so far as a standard cup was used, it was usually half a pint (sometimes a third of a pint), but if the recipe is one that has been handed down in a family, it is just as likely to refer to someone's favourite kitchen cup as to that standard.

American cooks using British recipes, and vice versa, need to be careful with pints and fluid ounces. A US pint is 473 ml, while a UK pint is 568 ml, a fifth larger. A US fluid ounce is 1/16 of a US pint (29.4 ml); a UK fluid ounce is 1/20th of a UK pint (28.4 ml).

On a larger scale, perhaps for institutional cookery, it must be noted that an imperial gallon is eight 20 imperial fl oz pints (4.54 liters) whereas the US gallon is eight 16 US fl oz pints (3.78 liters).

The Metric system was officially adopted in the UK for most purposes, some decades ago, and both taught in schools and used in books. It is now mandatory for the sale of food. However, a very large part of the population continues to use Imperial measures. Most modern cookery books give ingredients in both units.

Metric measures

In the rest of the world, recipes use the metric system of litres (l) and millilitres (ml), grams (g) and kilograms (kg), and degrees Celsius (°C).

In addition to these, some measures are often redefined in terms of metric units. Most countries use the following units:

1 teaspoon (t. or tsp.) = 5 millilitres
1 dessertspoon (D) = 2 teaspoons = 10 millilitres
1 tablespoon (T or tbsp.) = 3 teaspoons = 15 millilitres
1 cup (c) = 250 millilitres

However, Australian recipes use a 15 ml dessertspoon and a 20 ml tablespoon. And in New Zealand, at least, a pint may be approximated as 600 ml.

Special instructions

You will sometimes encounter additional instructions that are required to get the correct amount of the ingredient. For example, a recipe might call for "1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed", or "2 heaping cups flour." If you encounter one of these special requests, consult the table below:

Firmly Packed
With a spatula, a spoon, or your hand, tightly press the ingredient into the measuring cup. You should measure as much of the ingredient as you can fit into the measure.
Lightly Packed
Press the ingredient into the measuring cup lightly. Make sure there are no air pockets, but don't compress it too hard either.
Even / Level
Measure the amount precisely, discarding all of the ingredient that rises above the rim of the measuring cup. The back of a straight knife works well for this.
Don't flatten out the ingredient to the top of the measuring cup, but instead allow it to pile up above the rim naturally, into a soft, rounded shape.
Heaping / Heaped
Pile as much of the ingredient on top of the measure as you can.
Sift before measuring to ensure ingredient is not compacted.

See also

External link

Some conversion tables:

Last updated: 02-06-2005 18:53:23
Last updated: 05-03-2005 09:00:33