How to Measure for Baking: Weight vs Volume Measurement

How to Measure Everything for Baking, Baking Fundamentals Lesson #5

  • Baking Fundamentals Lesson #5: How to Measure Everything for Baking
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 How to Measure Everything for Baking Lesson Overview

Today in baking school I want to really go in depth about measuring ingredients and the common mistakes that can be made. Baking is an exact science and properly measuring ingredients is absolutely essential.

This lesson will review the difference in measuring by weight and by volume and how to properly do both. We are also going to review the nuances about how different ingredients should be measured. Let’s go!

Watch the Video Lesson


Measuring by Weight vs Measuring by Volume

Measuring flour on a scale vs measuring flour by volume using measuring cups

It is important to understand what the exact difference is in measuring by weight and measuring by volume as both are commonly used in baking and can easily get confused.

Measuring by Weight

Measuring flour using a digital scale

When you measure by weight you are measuring the exact weight of each ingredient using a scale. It is an extremely accurate way to measure and that’s why it is the preferred method for professional bakers and pastry chefs.

There are several different units of weight measurements (see the chart below), however grams is the preferred unit of measurement for baking because it is the smallest form of measurement and therefore the most accurate.

MEASUREMENTABBREVIATION
IMPERIALOunceoz
IMPERIALPoundlb OR #
METRICGramsg OR gr
METRICKilogramskg

Measuring by Volume

Measuring flour by volume using measuring cups

When you measure by volume, you are measuring your ingredients with measuring cups instead of with a scale. The ingredient is measured by the amount of space it takes up rather than what it weighs.

This method of measuring is very common with home bakers, especially in the US, but is truly a less accurate way to measure. It is quite easy to accidentally pack too much of an ingredient into a measuring cup or possibly not fill it all the way to the top.

There are many different units of volume measurement as represented in the chart below.

MEASUREMENTABBREVIATION
IMPERIALTeaspoontsp
IMPERIALTablespoonTBSP or tbsp
IMPERIALFluid ouncefl oz
IMPERIALCupc
IMPERIALPintpt
IMPERIALQuartqt
IMPERIALGallongal
METRICMilliliterml
METRICLiterl

Imperial and Metric Measurement Conversions

It is common to run into recipes that might be written using units of measurement that you aren’t familiar with. However, you can always convert recipes from Imperial to Metric or vice versa if needed. To assist in this process, I have created a chart for you for all of the common Imperial and Metric measurements you might run into and their proper conversions. I suggest also printing this chart out for easy reference. *Click here to download the Imperial & Metric Measurement Conversions chart

1 Cup is Not Always 8 Ounces

I once had an instructor tell a class I was taking that 1 cup is always equal to 8 oz. This is something that is really confusing in the baking world because ounces by weight and ounces by volume (fluid ounces) are two totally separate things.

We are all taught: 1 cup is 8 ounces, right? But it is important to understand that while 1 cup measures 8 fluid ounces (remember that fluid ounces are a measurement of volume) that does not mean that 1 cup of everything will weigh 8 ounces.

Showing the difference between fluid ounces and weight onces

The reason this is confusing is because water, milk, cream, melted butter, and some other liquid ingredients do weigh the same amount by weight as they are by volume. 1 cup of water (8 fluid ounces) does actually weigh 8 ounces. But this is not true for almost all of the other ingredients you will bake with.

An example I like to use is to think about filling 1 measuring cup up with lead and another measuring cup up with feathers. Will they weigh the same? Absolutely not. They are filling up the same amount of space (aka volume) but they will not weigh the same.

How to Use a Digital Scale to Measure by Weight

When you measure by weight you want to use a digital scale to weigh your ingredients. Turn the scale on and then use the “unit” button to change the settings to your desired unit of measurement. Grams is the preferred unit of measurement for baking because it is the smallest and therefore the most accurate.

Once you have selected your unit of measurement, put a bowl on the scale and click the “tare” button. This button zeros out the scale so that the bowl will not be counted into the weight you are measuring. Then begin adding your ingredient into the bowl until you are at the desired weight.

Converting Volume Measurement to Weight Measurements

Many recipes are written only using volume measurements, however you can convert volume measurements to weight measurements using this downloadable chart for common baking ingredients. I have this saved on my phone so I can easily access it wherever I am, but you could also print it and hang it in your kitchen.*Click here to download the Weight Conversions for Common Baking Ingredients chart

How to Measure by Volume

Liquid and dry measuring cups and measuring spoons

When you measure by volume you will use a measuring cup or spoon to measure out your ingredient by the amount of space it takes up. To do this, you will need to have 3 different kinds of measuring tools: liquid measuring cups, dry measuring cups, and measuring spoons.

Liquid measuring cups are clear and have have a variety of volume measurements marked on the outside of the cup. They also have a pour spout. Liquid measuring cups should only be used to measure liquids because it is impossible to level off a dry ingredient in a liquid cup so that it is measured accurately.

Dry measuring cups come in varying sizes for each specific volume measurement. While a 1 cup dry measuring cup is the same size as a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, these two tools function best for their intended use. Dry ingredients are most accurately measured in a dry measuring cup.

Measuring spoons are used for measuring small quantities of ingredients by volume.

How to Measure Flour & Other Powdery Dry Ingredients

When measuring powdery dry ingredients such as flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder, you want to make sure you are using the proper technique. I call this technique the “spoon & level” method. Start by stirring the ingredient to fluff it up a bit as dry ingredients tend to settle and pack down with time. Then lightly spoon the ingredient in to the dry measuring cup, without packing it down at all, until it is overflowing. Then use a knife to level off the ingredient so that it is completely flush with the top of the cup.

This method is extremely important if you are going to be measuring by volume. A properly measured cup of flour should weigh 120 grams, however it is easy to pack 25-30% more flour into a cup if you do not use this technique. This can cause many issues in baking.

SIFTED VS NON-SIFTED DRY INGREDIENTS

If the dry ingredients will be sifted, most recipes call for the ingredient to be measured before it has been sifted and then will call for it to be sifted later. This is important to notice because sifted flour (and other sifted dry ingredients) weigh less by volume than when measured before sifted.

How to Measure Brown Sugar

Measuring brown sugar

Brown sugar is the one baking ingredient that you do want to lightly pack into the measuring cup before leveling it off.

How to Measure Liquids

Measuring using a liquid measuring cup

When measuring liquid ingredients get down at eye level of the liquid measuring cup so that you can truly see if the liquid is at the proper line.


HOMEWORK FOR THIS LESSON

Your homework for this lesson is to practice measuring flour using the spoon and level technique and to check it on your scale (that means you’ll need a scale!) to see how accurate you are. 1 cup of flour should weigh 120 grams. How many tries did it take you to get there? If you are already completely committed  to always measuring by weight, then you get a pass on this assignment and can share with the group why you prefer measuring by weight and how it has affected your baking!

You have a few ways to share it:


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17 comments on “How to Measure for Baking: Weight vs Volume Measurement”

  1. I knew from years ago in Home Educ. classes how to use measuring cups and the difference between the liquid and dry measuring cups but I did not realize it was for volume. I remember one year my husband and son asked why I didn’t just use the same cup and I knew it was wrong but didn’t know the reason to tell them. I know I’ve “scooped” up with my dry measuring cup out of the flour container before and now I won’t do it again for baking. I appreciate these kind of reminders! I love your newsletter.

    • I’m so glad you enjoy it Carol! I know these things can be boring for some people, but if you like baking they are so important! Thanks for reading and for your sweet comment!

  2. Thank you for a great post! I always measure my flour, sift it and THEN measure it again when baking. It always leaves a good tablespoon or more that doesn’t go in the recipe. I have actually tested it and it turns the recipes turn out better with the sifted flour.

    • Hi Colleen! So glad you liked the post!

      Sifting the flour aerates it and allows it to incorporate into the batter more evenly and absorb the liquid better. It definitely creates a better baked good. But I write all of my recipe flour measurements based on pre-sifted flour, so it can be off if you measure after sifting. You should still sift, and the sifted flour will create a better recipe, but don’t take the “extra flour” out! For my recipes at least!

  3. Thanks for all of the awesome info! I have to admit I dip my measuring cup into the flour and then level. 😮 Thank you for enlightening me. I’m going to do it the right way from now on!

    • So glad you enjoyed it Michele! And you know, to be honest with you, dipping the cup in is not always disastrous! If you keep your flour in a bin and it’s fairly fluffed up and you are careful about not smashing it in there, you will probably be ok. The biggest issue is with flour that is still in the bag and smashed and packed down and then just jamming it in there. It is much more accurate to spoon it because you have a much better chance of getting the right amount. I admit, I too dip into my bin of flour when in a hurry and when making something easy like cookies.

  4. THANKS SO MUCH. I knew most of that but had forgotten and been slipping back into the “scooping world”. and sometimes my sugar cookies were very inconsistent in holding their shape. Your blog reminded me to measure my flour correctly and I am hoping that will solve my inconsistency problems. Appreciate you going back to the basics to remind us all.
    LOVE YOUR EMAILS!!!!

  5. Dear Baker Betty Just love your site FANTASTIC AND FUN RECIPES
    Iv’ve cooked and worked in the industry for years,,retired now,but the flour measurements,what a great artickle,take lots of your goodies to church and when asked for the recipe easy just give them your site everyone loves your mini doughnuts and your cinamon sugar bread a hoge hit .I make mine with oo pasta four so silky smooth and the smell and taste Wow.xx

    • Gaynor, thank you so much for your sweet comment! I am so happy that you love my website and that you make my baked goods. And more importantly, that you love sharing them with friends. Thank you, my friend, for sticking around and enjoying the baking love!

  6. bahahahaa Daula Peen

    as usual-you are brilliant and I love your basics posts!

  7. Once again a lot of great information in this lesson. I noticed that you have a link to a conversion chart. Experience and a lot of research has made me very skeptical of charts. Most times the chart is made by the manufacturer of a specific flour or grain and while it’s great for their brand it may not be so good for others. I instead feel more at ease using the numbers on the package. The current flour I am using shows 130g = 1 cup. I also have European 00 flour that shows 106g = 1 cup.
    So, I tend not to use conversion charts so much. As you, I wish more recipes used ounce or grams. Scales. I have used 4 scales before I found one that was user friendly. My first one I bought without any knowledge of scales. I assumed they were all the same. Boy, was I wrong. It was hard to set up even harder to read and the battery compartment to a court order to open. What a pain.
    Anyway, keep up the great lessons. Just made a batch of your chocolate chip cookies. (again).
    Experimenting with something called flower bread. Let you know how that turns out.

    • Hi Edward, Good point about different weights of flour. The chart is made by me, not by a specific manufacturer, and does note different weights for varying types of flour. Not all varieties of flour weigh the same, and of course, even differing brands of the same style of flour can vary slightly cup to cup. But this chart is extremely helpful for beginning bakers who are just starting to learn to measure by weight. 120 grams is most commonly what a cup of all-purpose flour is based off of when a recipe is written so even if you are using a brand that claims 130 grams per cup you would still only want to use 120 grams of that flour. Does that make sense? I wouldn’t suggest changing the weight based on the type of flour you were using. The chart also notes other types of flour. For instance, typical cake flour weight is 112 grams per cup. So if you are converting a recipe to weight that calls for cake flour but are using a flour that is a bit heavier per cup, you should still only use 112 grams in your recipe because that is the intended amount.

  8. What is up with the music………very distracting when a person is trying to listen to you.

    I am really enjoying the lessons ……seems for the last fifty or so years I have been doing everything wrong….it all came out okay though!!!

    Thank you for making the videos……

    • Hi Suzy, it’s a fair point with the music. You might not realize that I am a one woman show, so creating the lessons, video taping them, and editing them in a way that is somewhat professional is all a work in progress and I am learning each time. Hopefully you noticed that this video in particular actually doesn’t have any music at all throughout the main part of the lesson, so not sure where you found it distracting. Glad you are enjoying them. I am constantly trying to improve the quality.

  9. Hey Baker Bettie,

    I have been conteplating getting the scale and now I know! Thank you again for all the great info. Appreciate the reliable conversion charts too. Still moving on to catch up!

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