The secret to better baking is measuring your ingredients properly. Learn how to measure ingredients the right way with these helpful tips!
The biggest difference between cooking and baking comes down to science. With cooking, it's usually safe to go a little rogue and add an extra pinch of this and a dash of that. But with baking it's all about chemistry, and adding a little bit of extra flour and cutting down on the amount of sugar can dramatically change the results. As a result, I've heard people say that baking makes them nervous, since there's less room for error. I'm here to tell you that following a recipe is easy if you know how to measure ingredients!
The Most Accurate Way to Measure Ingredients
The most accurate way to measure ingredients is by weight (typically measured in grams) rather than by volume (often measured in cups and teaspoons). Measuring by weight ensures that you're adding exactly the right amount of each ingredient to your recipe. Measuring ingredients by weight requires a kitchen scale, and I use and recommend this OXO kitchen scale.
Measuring ingredients by weight is the standard for many countries around the world. However, here in the United States baking ingredients are more commonly measured by volume, using cups, teaspoons, etc. I learned to bake measuring ingredients by volume, and it's still how I measure ingredients 95% of the time and how I write my recipes. Even if you are measuring your ingredients by volume, there are still important methods to follow to ensure that you are measuring your ingredients as accurately as possible. In this post, I'm sharing methods to help you measure your baking ingredients by volume as accurately as possible.
Tips for Measuring Baking Ingredients
- Measure out all of your ingredients before you begin baking. This will allow you to focus on measuring properly so that once you begin baking your focus can be on the recipe's instructions. Trying to focus on measuring ingredients while following a recipe's steps can be a recipe for disaster (pun intended)! (I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to add an ingredient altogether when I didn't pre-measure my ingredients.)
- Read the working of your ingredients carefully when measuring, because seemingly small differences in wording can make a big difference in how much of an ingredient is added to your recipe. For example, "1 cup flour, sifted" means that you should measure out 1 cup of flour and then sift it, but "1 cup sifted flour" means that you should sift your flour before you measure it. This distinction makes a difference in the amount of flour that is added to the recipe.
- Lay a paper towel down on a clean work surface before measuring your ingredients. Use the paper towel to catch any overflow when measuring each ingredient, and then use it to create a funnel and pour the extra of each ingredient back into its container.
How to Measure Dry Ingredients with a Measuring Cup
Use this method for dry ingredients (like flour, granulated sugar, oats, and confectioners sugar) being measured with a measuring cup. (Note that brown sugar is one exception to this method for measuring dry ingredients, so see below for how to measure brown sugar.)
- Use a spoon to gently stir or fluff up your the ingredient before spooning the ingredient into the measuring cup until the cup overflows slightly. (Do not simply scoop the ingredient up using the measuring cup, as this will compact the ingredient and cause you to add too much of it to your recipe.)
- Use the spoon handle or the dull side of a butter knife to level off the top of the measuring cup, scraping off any excess. (Return the excess ingredient to its container.)
How to Measure Dry Ingredients with a Measuring Spoon
Use this method for dry ingredients (like baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder) being measured with a measuring spoon.
- Give the container a little shake or gently stir the ingredient to loosen it up a bit.
- Use your measuring spoon to scoop the ingredient so that the spoon overflows, then use the dull side of a knife to scrape off the excess.
How to Measure Brown Sugar
Unlike other dry ingredients, brown sugar should be packed down into the measuring cup or measuring spoon. Use the following method to properly measure brown sugar.
- Use a spoon to add the brown sugar to your measuring cup/spoon, then use the back of the spoon to press the brown sugar down into the measuring cup.
- Keep adding and pressing down on the brown sugar until the measuring cup/spoon is full. Use the spoon handle or the dull side of a butter knife to level off any excess brown sugar.
- The brown sugar should initially hold the shape of the measuring cup or spoon when you add it to your recipe.
How to Measure Semi-Liquid Ingredients Using a Measuring Cup or Measuring Spoon
To measure semi-liquid ingredients (like peanut butter and applesauce), use the same method as you would for measuring dry ingredients (see above). Use a spoon or rubber spatula to spoon the ingredient into the measuring cup or spoon, then level off the top of the cup/spoon and return any excess ingredient to its container.
How to Measure Liquid Ingredients Using a Liquid Measuring Cup or Measuring Spoon
Use this method for liquid ingredients (like milk, oil, and honey).
- For larger amounts of liquid, use a liquid measuring cup. Place your liquid measuring cup on the counter and bend down so that you can see the measurements at eye level. Carefully pour the liquid into the measuring cup until it aligns exactly with the correct measure.
- If you accidentally add too much liquid, pour some back into the container and recheck your measurement at eye level.
- If you’ve picked up or shifted the liquid measuring cup, give it a moment for the liquid to settle before checking your measurement so that you can get an accurate view without sloshing liquid.
- For smaller amounts of liquid, use a measuring spoon. Carefully pour the liquid into a measuring spoon until the spoon is completely full.
How to Measure Eggs
This one is pretty straightforward. If the recipe calls for one egg, add one egg. BUT did you know that eggs come in different sizes? If you're using the wrong size eggs, you could be adding more or less egg to the recipe than intended, which will definitely make a difference in the texture of your baked goods. Grade A large eggs are the standard, so if the recipe doesn't specify a certain size of egg, it's safe to assume that you should be using large eggs. (Store-bought eggs will have the size of the eggs clearly marked on the carton.)
Products I Use & Recommend for Measuring Ingredients
- Stainless steel measuring cups - This set of 7 cups includes less common measurements like 1/8 cup and 2/3 cup, which saves me time to I don't have to measure out 1 Tablespoon or 1/3 cup twice.
- Stainless steel measuring spoons - This durable set includes a handy 1/8 tsp. measure.
- Liquid measuring cup - It's a classic for a reason.
- Kitchen scale - Easy to read with a pull-out display (so the weights aren't hidden under a large bowl).
Looking for more baking tips? Check out these helpful posts:
DON'T FORGET TO PIN THIS BAKING TIP FOR LATER!
This post was updated in April 2020 to provide an improved user experience.