When it comes to creating the perfect meal, it is imperative that you measure your ingredients correctly. Even when you’re just experimenting in the kitchen, finding the right amount of any ingredient is critical for creating a delicious end-product. There are many different options for tools to help you measure foods and spices. Here are five basic ways to measure common baking ingredients, including how to properly use tools such as cups, spoons and scales.
1. Measuring Cups
If you have a kitchen and you do any sort of cooking in it, then you probably already have a set of measuring cups on hand. There are a couple of different types of measuring cups available. Some are designed for measuring dry ingredients while others are designed specifically for measuring liquids. Dry measuring cups often come in nested sets that range in size from 1/4 cup to 1 cup. Liquid measuring cups typically come in a wider range of sizes with more precise readings. They may have notches located somewhere on the cup that indicate an amount in cups or by ounces.
An accurate measure of dry ingredients meets the rim of the dry measuring cup. You can usually take your finger and run it across the top of the cup to push off any excess ingredients. Make sure you do this away from your bowl or pot where you are combining the ingredients in order to avoid accidentally adding too much of the ingredient. Whether or not you need to pack the ingredient into the cup depends on the ingredient. Brown sugar, for example, should be packed down into the cup. Ingredients that are bulky, such as oats, coconut or shredded cheese, do not need to be packed down. Packing down these softer ingredients can damage them and ultimately create undesired results in your cooking.
Accurately measuring liquid ingredients usually just involves filling the liquid measuring cup to the indicated line. Use a clean, dry measuring cup before pouring the liquid in. If you are measuring a sticky ingredient, such as molasses, syrup or honey, you can lightly coat the measuring cup with vegetable or olive oil to help it slide out more easily.
2. Measuring Spoons
Measuring spoons are another necessary tool to have stocked in your kitchen. Similar to dry measuring cups, most measuring spoons come in a nested set that ranges from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Measuring spoons can be used for small amounts of dry or liquid ingredients.
If you can, it is useful to have two sets on hand, one for measuring dry ingredients and one for liquids.
3. Measuring Scales
Kitchen scales can be used for a wide variety of dry ingredients. If your recipe calls for an ingredient by weight, then a kitchen scale will come in handy. Kitchen scales are usually able to measure very light ingredients, which is particularly useful when measuring out portions of meat or chocolate. If you are more comfortable measuring out dry ingredients by weight rather than volume, then a scale is likely to be an asset in your kitchen.
When using the kitchen scale, be sure to zero the scale with any additional container you will be using already set on it. For example, if you are using a measuring cup to hold the ingredients that you plan on measuring on the scale, be sure that you calibrate the scale so that it does not measure the weight of the cup and the ingredients, but only the ingredients.
4. Unusual Ingredients
Some ingredients will simply not sit well in a measuring cup or spoon. At the same time, they are probably not suitable for measurement by weight. These are items that might not necessarily fall into either a liquid or dry ingredient category, or perhaps they are a chopped ingredient that sits awkwardly in a cup.
For ingredients with difficult or abnormal consistencies, such as butter, scoop it in the cup, pack it down and level it off, then add it to your ingredients. For chopped ingredients, chop them as best as you can and measure it out as directed. You do not necessarily need to level off these types of ingredients; rounding is usually just fine. For eggs, remember to crack them into a separate bowl to check for shell pieces before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.
5. Unusual Measurements
Sometimes a recipe has an unusual phrase that is not an exact measurement. If you have ever run across a pinch of this or a dash of that, you may have wondered how much it is in exact measurements. Believe it or not, a pinch and a dash are two different measurements. Here are some unusual measurements that you may come across with some of your recipes:
A little over 1/16 of a teaspoon for dry ingredients. If you are using a dash for liquid ingredients, use about three drops.
For dry ingredients, approximately three tablespoons. When measuring liquids, it equates to approximately 1.5 fluid ounces, or your standard shot glass.
A scoop that heaps up and over the edges of the cup or spoon. There is no need to level off ingredients that require a heaping.
An amount that you can pinch between your thumb and finger. It is about 1/16 of a teaspoon, but slightly less than a dash.
This is a term that means to use slightly less than the specified measurement.
Accurate measurements are important for the outcome of your recipe. The best way to learn how to accurately measure ingredients is to practice. Over time, you are more likely to become familiar with small measurements, saving you a lot of time during preparation.
You might also consider having two sets of each type of measuring device so that you have something to use with dry ingredients and something to use for liquids without having to clean and dry in between.
Keep in mind that fluid ounces measured in a liquid measuring cup and ounces measured on a kitchen scale are not the same thing. Fluid ounces measure volume while ounces are a measurement of weight. Once you have ingredient measuring down, you’ll quickly gain the confidence to create delicious meals.