I spent a considerable time in the kitchen making things; and while I can make many a thing, I ‘cannot’ count. Numbers are not a strong point and I usually require a committee to decide how to cut up a tray of bars so they’re all even. And even then, they rarely are. Over the years I’ve collected tips, tricks and tools to figure out baking and cooking measurements; and have also learned when you can forgo the measuring and wing it.
The key measuring tools you need in your kitchen
To work out baking and cooking measurements you need measuring tools, below are the ones that’ll make it easier
1. Dry Measuring Cups
If you can only get one measuring tool, get a set of dry measuring cups. These are the ones that include 1 cup, ½ cup, 1/3 cup and ¼ cup measurements. They’re the least expensive of the bunch and most versatile. However, if these are going to be your sole way of measuring choose a set that shows both cups and ml measurements making it easier to measure both liquid and dry ingredients.
2. Measuring spoons
Next up is spoons, most sets come with a tablespoon, teaspoon, ½ teaspoon and ¼ teaspoon. You’ll use these a lot if you’re baking. Like with the measuring cups buy a set that includes the ml conversions which help with liquid ingredients.
3. A wet measuring cup
Also known as a measuring jug, a wet measuring cup will often have a few different conversions on it – both ml and oz which help avoid pulling out a calculator. This is ideal tool to use for measuring liquid and because most allow for more than a cup, you can measure all the liquid in a recipe in one go. Select a glass cup over a plastic one, the plastic ones tend to crack. These jugs are also great for measuring chopped vegetables and fruit.
4. A scale
A kitchen scale is one of the most underrated kitchen tools. Not all measuring cups are the same size and if you want perfect baking, measuring ingredients on the scale is a lot more accurate. I tend to use the scale mostly in very finicky baking recipes like breads, meringues and pastry. It’s also the most accurate way of measuring out dough if you’re making rolls so they’re all even. And if you’re on a strict diet, it’s a good way of measuring out your exact portion.
5. A Ruler
You don’t need a specific baking ruler, a simple ruler you’ll find in the stationery aisle will work, but have a ruler. I use a ruler whenever I bake bars, cookies or cakes in a tray. It’s more accurate than eyeballing and ensures you cut even pieces.
Choose a plastic ruler for easy cleaning or a silicone one if you don’t have the patience to wait for things to cool down before cutting.
When do you need to measure?
As a rule, always measure when you’re baking. When it comes to cooking measurements you can mostly get away with eyeballing them.
Baking is a science and too much or too little of something will affect the entire taste and structure of a recipe. The only time you can get away with not measuring baking is when you’re adding ingredients to dough-like chocolate chips, nuts, seeds or dried cranberries or raisins. Those are more flexible and often I’ll grab a handful of add-ins instead of measuring them.
Cooking is a lot more flexible, for the most part. Also, because you usually taste and adjust, It’s not as important. There are exceptions of course. Any recipe that’s detailed or finicky rather measure. If you’re pickling anything – it’s best to follow exact measurements. The same goes with marinades and spice mixes for raw meat and fish – because you can’t taste and adjust, rather measure. If you’re making a dressing like a vinaigrette – measure as there’s a specific ratio (3:1) of oil to vinegar required for the best taste.
In general, measure when you’re not tasting and adjusting or when recipes are more technical and eyeball when you can taste and adjust. If you’re not measuring, remember to rather add less than more as it’s easier to add then it is to take away.
How to get accurate baking and cooking measurements
The most accurate way of measuring dry ingredients like flours and oats is the spoon and level method. These means spooning the flour into the cup (not overpacking it) and then using the back of the spoon to level off the flour.
When a recipe says 1 cup sifted flour/cocoa/icing sugar, it means you need to sift before measuring. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of flour/cocoa/icing sugar sifted you measure before sifting.
The same applies to chopped ingredients. When a recipe places the word chopped before ingredients i.e. 1 cup chopped nuts, you need to chop the nuts before measuring. When it has chopped after i.e. 1 cup nuts, chopped; you measure then chop.