If you like to take inspiration for your meals and desserts from the internet, you might have encountered recipes that don’t use the measuring system you are used to. Here’s an extensive guide to the world of measurements and my best advice so that you’ll never again fail a recipe because you measured incorrectly.
No, a cup is not just whatever mug you happen to own. That being said, a cup is a standard measure of volume, mostly used in the USA. Making some research I discovered that the standard cup size differs a little. For example US law recognizes 1 cup as 240 ml, which is the closest to the truth as 1 one cup is 237 ml, but other standard cup sizes vary from 200 to 250 ml.
First thing to mention here is that there are two different kinds of ounces, volume and weight.
Volume = capacity = fluid ounce (fl oz)
Weight = mass = ounce (oz)
If you buy a measuring cup, that would be measured in fluid ounces, whereas a scale would be in weight ounces. So be careful when you read a recipe in ounces, which scale does it refer to. It’s basically like grams and milliliters, imperial style. Now don’t ask me why they called these two different measuring systems with the same name, it creates confusion to no end.
This measuring method is really common in Nordic countries. The deciliter is the standard by which all ingredients are measured and it is used for both dry and liquid ingredients. For smaller amounts teaspoon and tablespoon measurements are used too.
Following is a little chart to help you convert from a volume measuring system to another.
|FLUIDS: Volume Measurements|
|DECILITERS||AMERICAN CUPS||BRITISH OUNCES|
|0.5 ml||⅛ teaspoon (a pinch)|
|1 ml||¼ teaspoon|
|2.5 ml||½ teaspoon|
|5 ml||1 teaspoon||⅙ fl oz|
|15 ml||1 tablespoon||½ fl oz|
|30 ml||2 tablespoons / ⅛ cup||1 fl oz|
|50 ml / 0.5 dl||⅕ (or 0.2) cup||1.70 fl oz|
|60 ml||4 tablespoons / ¼ cup||2 fl oz|
|70 ml||⅓ cup||2.6 fl oz|
|100 ml / 1 dl||⅖ (or 0.4) cup||3.5 fl oz|
|118 ml||½ cup||4 fl oz|
|147.5 ml / 1.5 dl||⅔ cup||5.2 fl oz|
|177 ml||¾ cup||6 fl oz|
|200 ml||⅗ (or 0.85) cup||7 fl oz|
|237 ml||1 cup||8 fl oz|
|473 ml||2 cups / 1 pint||16 fl oz|
|503 ml / 5 dl||2 ⅛ cups||17 fl oz|
fl oz= fluid ounces
We repeat it here again. This is the ounce (oz) that measures mass, weight. So if you live in the UK and have a scale in your kitchen, that’s probably set to measure ounces.
In a world where logic would prevail, this would be the one and only method of measuring.
This is a unit of mass based on the gram.
Does 1 ml of water weight 1 gram?
Water does. Milk almost too (1.03 g). But oil doesn’t, so make sure if the recipe mentions liquid ingredients in milliliters or grams.
WHY WEIGHT MEASUREMENTS ARE WAY BETTER THAN VOLUME MEASUREMENTS
In the previous sheet you start to see why the world of volume measurements is not very precise. For example 1 cup is usually rounded up to 250 ml, but that’s 13 ml more than its real volume. It won’t look like a big deal just like that, but let’s assume your recipe requires 2,5 liters and you measure it with 10 cups, that would mean you’d put 130 ml less than you should. Also, I guarantee you that, no matter how precise you try to be, no 2 cups of flour will weigh exactly the same. There will always be a few grams of difference between the two. This might usually not matter, let’s say if you cook a savory meal, but especially with baking it matters a great deal.
The other thing is, dry ingredients vary greatly in weight and volume. So if you take a cup or a deciliter of packed flour will weigh way more than one that hasn’t been packed. And if you find in a recipe that you should pack the flour, how much should you pack it? Do you now start to see how many uncertainties and variables there are with volume measurements?
Another point I want to stress is the following. With volume measurements you need a serious amount of props. Think about all those different sizes of table and teaspoon and all their fractions, all the cups and their fractions, and same with the deciliter measurements. Make a cake and you dirt a gazillion of measuring things, whereas with weight measurements you just put a bowl on the scale and add everything in it!
Weight measurements make your life so much easier in case you want to scale a recipe.
Let’s say you want to make a cake and the recipe calls for 250 g of flour, but you only have 170 g left at home.
250 / 170 = 1.5
All you need to do is divide all the other ingredients too by 1.5 and you’ll have scaled the recipe.
The same work if you want to scale a recipe up.
THE FINAL ANSWER
BUY A SCALE! It’ll save you time, it’ll save you cleaning up, overall it’ll save you so much trouble. Every time I develop a recipe I do so using a scale and the metric system. Sometimes I re-measure everything to give you the cup equivalent. In this website you will find some Finnish classics such as the whipped porridge and the effortless bread are also in deciliters, and the Cocktails Adagio category uses both ml and fl oz, but overall I warmly recommend you to switch to the metric system, especially if you enjoy baking.