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1.2.9: Measurement

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    Basic US Measurements

    Being able to accurately measure ingredients is an important part for the execution of recipes, especially baking, where results are expected to be the same every time. The process of measuring ingredients may be thought of in three steps:

    1. Estimating how much of each ingredient will be needed
    2. Selecting the right type of measuring device
    3. Measuring accurately


    Estimating the Required Amount:

    Estimating the required amount can be a difficult undertaking especially when producing foods in large quantities. Charts exist with how much yield one can expect from certain ingredients that food service managers use to help with purchasing of their ingredients. For the home cook, knowing precisely how much of an ingredient is needed is not as important as when preparing food on a larger scale. However, estimating how much will be needed accurately will help in the proper preparation of a recipe and limit leftovers or the possibility of running out of an ingredient.  

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    A recipe lasagna calls for 1 cup of diced onion and 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese.

    If you know that the standard yield for a medium sized onion is 1 cup diced then you know that you need to purchase 1 onion for this recipe. Additionally, if you are not buying cheese pre-shredded it would be helpful to know that a 1 lb block of cheese typically yields 4 to 4.5 cups shredded. In this case you know that one, 1 lb block of cheese would be enough to make this recipe.


    Measuring Equipment:

    Did you know that there are different types of measuring cups and devices to use depending on the ingredient being measured?

    Clear glass measuring cups with indications of measure with a lip for pouring are best used for measuring wet ingredients such as water, milk, or broths. 

    Measuring cups come in the following sizes:

    • 1 cup
    • 1/2 cup
    • 1/3 cup
    • 1/4 cup

    Measuring cups are best used for dry ingredients such as flour, cornmeal, and sugar. Dry ingredients are best stirred or sifted prior to measurement to avoid lumps and inaccurate measurements. For best accuracy when baking it is recommended to weigh the dry ingredients to ensure that baked goods come out the same each time because variances can occur.

    For anything under 1/4 of a cup it is recommended to use measuring spoons to measure ingredients. Measuring spoons come in the following sizes:

    • 1 Tbsp
    • 1 Tsp
    • 1/2 tsp
    • 1/4 tsp
    • 1/8 tsp - are sometimes included in sets but most often are excluded. 1/8th of a tsp is considered a "dash" on recipes.

    Sometimes, the right measuring utensil is unavailable and that is when it is important to understand the measuring equivalents of different utensils. Please review the chart below for substitutions that are possible. 


    Screenshot (402).png

    Chart adapted from Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown 4th ed. pg. 108

    Measuring Accurately:

    Liquids: To measure liquids properly, use a clear (transparent) graduated measuring cup like the one pictured below. For best accuracy place the measuring cup to be used on a flat surface and fill with liquid to be measured. Looking at the measuring cup at eye-level read the measurement from the bottom of the meniscus. The meniscus is the imaginary line read at the bottom of the concave arc. The exception to this rule is milk which is read from the top of the meniscus. 

    Flours: Flours can be a difficult ingredient to measure because it is subject to becoming lumpy in transit and amount that can be filled into a measuring cup varies greatly depending on the technique. To measure flours more accurately first spoon the flour into the measuring cup ensuring that there are no lumps or try sifting the flour first. Sifting takes time but is used for best accurate measurements. When measuring flour or other dry ingredients the top of the measuring cup should be leveled. Leveling is best done with the blunt edge of a butter knife or with another utensil that is has a flat edge. 

    The discrepancies that can occur when measuring flour is demonstrated in the following chart:

    Screenshot (404).png

    Solid Fats: In the United States butter is typically sold in 1 lb packages that are divided into four 1/4 pound sticks that measure about 1/2 cup each. Butter or other solid fat such as lard, can be allowed to soften and then pressed into a measuring cup. However, most recipes indicate how much butter by indicating the weight (e.g. 1/2 lb of butter= 2 sticks of butter) This is helpful for the home cook because butter (or other solid fats) can be difficult to measure.

    Eggs: Eggs are available in many different sizes and which one to use in a recipe can be difficult to know if it is not indicated in the recipe. Most recipes, if not otherwise stated, call for large eggs. 1 Large egg is the equivalent to 2 oz which may be helpful in some situations.

    For more information on how to measure and reading liquid measurements please watch this short video: 


    1.2.9: Measurement is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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