Sizing up the situation


Over at Food52, award-winning cookbook author Alice Medrich is dishing out excellent advice on using a kitchen scale instead of measuring cups. Ms. Medrich points out the obvious advantages that weighing is faster, easier, and less messy than using measuring cups. It can turn a complicated cake recipe into a one-bowl affair.

While using a scale returns the biggest benefits in baking, it is a useful tool for cooking as well. How many times have you eyeballed the portion size of spaghetti or other pasta, only to have more than you need? Get out your scale and make the perfect amount every time. Scales make measuring grated cheese a breeze and take the guesswork out of portioning dough for dinner rolls. And if you have to measure large amounts of liquid for dishes like polenta or risotto, using a scale to weigh the liquid once is easier than filling up your measuring cup three or four times.

Scales not only increase precision, they can help you easily convert or scale recipes. It is a lot easier to double or halve the recipe using a scale than trying to figure out how to get 1/6 cup of an ingredient (assuming you are using an imperial measuring system). Even if you employ the metric system, it can be easier to use a scale than multiple measuring cups. And most kitchen scales also allow you to convert from one unit of measurement to another, a boon if you have a recipe with two different forms of measurement (I have at least one cookbook that uses weight measures for some ingredients but volume measures for another).

But what if the recipe you are using doesn't include weight measurements? Sometimes it's difficult to know what number to use with ingredients that can settle, like flour. Below is a chart of various weights to use as a ballpark when a recipe doesn't state the weight equivalent:

Dry ingredients:
Flour (all purpose, white, whole wheat, bread): 1 cup = 4.5 oz; 125 g
Cake or pastry flour: 1 cup = 4 oz; 114 g
Granulated sugar: 1 cup = 7 oz; 200 g
Brown sugar: 1 cup = 7.5 oz; 215 g
Powdered sugar: 1 cup = 4 oz; 114 g
Cocoa, unsweetened: 1/4 cup = .75 oz; 21 g (1 cup = 3 oz; 85 g)
Finely chopped nuts: 1 cup = 4 oz; 114 g
Chocolate chips: 1 cup = 6 oz; 170 g
Oats, rolled (traditional) : 1 cup = 3.5 oz; 100 g
Oats, quick cooking: 1 cup = 3.125 oz; 90 g
Polenta: 1 cup = 5.75 oz; 163 g
Quinoa: 1 cup = 6 oz; 170 g
Cheese, shredded: 1 cup = 4 oz; 114 g
Coconut, sweetened shredded: 1 cup = 3 oz; 85 g

Liquid or scoopable ingredients:
Water, milk: 1 cup = 8 oz; 227 g
Cream, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt: 1 cup = 8.5 oz; 241 g
Honey: 1 cup = 12 oz; 340 g
Oil: 1 cup = 7.5 oz; 213 g
Butter: 1 cup = 8 oz; 227 g
Corn syrup: 1 cup = 11 oz; 312 g
Peanut butter: 1 cup = 9 oz; 255 g

Here's an even larger list from King Arthur Flour and a handy conversion calculator that is quite comprehensive. Last year, EYB provided insight into which kitchen scale is best. I couldn't survive without my kitchen scale - how about you?

Photo courtesy of Food52


  • hillsboroks  on  3/3/2014 at 2:58 PM

    Great article! I just printed it out and used my office copier to enlarge the conversion table so I can tape it to the inside cupboard door above my prep area. I agree totally about using the scale being easier than measuring. I have found the more I use it the better the recipe results and shorter the prep time. Now I pull it out first along with the ingredients. I have also put a small hand held calculator in the drawer with the measuring cups and spoons to have it handy for calculating conversions or adjusting recipes up or down for size (e.g. - halving or tripling ). I also use the scale now when filling freezer bags with food or produce to make sure that I know exactly how much I have in each bag and label them accordingly.

  • boardingace  on  3/3/2014 at 11:08 PM

    Me neither. I really appreciate King Arthur Flour's master weight chart, too. They were the ones that got me started with weighing, and I used the reference guide in the back of "King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking" for a long time before I discovered their expanded version online. It is easier in some ways to weigh, but since I have to look up measurements sometimes, or pull out a calculator (I divide a lot of recipes by 2 or 4), I think that it evens out time-wise. I like the precision, though!

  • FJT  on  3/4/2014 at 6:03 PM

    I grew up in Europe where every kitchen has scales. I'm especially thankful for them now that I can't eat gluten - I can much more easily convert a recipe to gluten-free if it has weight measurements rather than volume measurements.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  3/5/2014 at 8:57 AM

    I like the speed of using my scale when I bake, and even more, I like the smaller number of dishes that need cleaning.

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