Cooking food is one of the earliest practices that humans still do today. Even before we could be considered human, our ancestors have been cooking. It is estimated that the practice of heating food to eat is between 1.8 million and 400,000 years old. It is theorised by some including primatologist Richard Wrangham that cooking and eating meat allowed our brains to rapidly grow and expand. The calorie-dense meat and bone marrow gave us the extra energy needed to fuel more complex, larger brains. Prepping and cooking food also pre-digests it, meaning less energy is used by the body when eating.
As we evolved into modern humans, so did our cooking techniques. Different ways to heat, season, flavour, and preserve food have turned cooking into an artform rather than an essential means to survive. Many people living in abundance will select the most delicious meals to enjoy rather than stave off hunger. The best culinary masters can earn millions in their careers by serving the most exquisite dishes.
As cooking and baking have existed before proper systems of measurement some weird and wonderful units of measurement have historically been used. UK recipes, especially old ones can consist of measurements such as dashes, smidgens, pinches and pats of butter. This can be better for fast cooking but when exact measurements are needed metric measurements are needed. This article explains how to make basic cooking measurements more exact using the metric measurement system.
With any luck, you will have a simple recipe with basic cooking measurements. In this case, it may be as simple as converting Imperial cooking measurements to metric cooking equivalents. To do this you can simply use a conversion calculator. This tool performs weight and volume conversions for more accurate recipes.
You simply select which type of measurement you want to perform such as weight, or volume. You then select which unit of measurement you are starting from such as fl oz and select the unit of measurement you want to convert to. Enter the figure you want to convert from and hit calculate. The in-built measuring tools will calculate the new figure for you.
Liquid ingredients can be tricky when trying to follow a recipe. This is because there are often no standard measurements. For example, liquid can be measured by cups and spoons and there is no unified size for spoon sets or cups.
A liquid conversion chart is shown below:
|1/2 fl oz||1 tablespoon||15ml|
|1 fl oz||1/8 cup||30ml|
|2 fl oz||1/4 cup||60ml|
|2 1/2 fl oz||1/3 cup||80ml|
|4 fl oz||1/2 cup||120ml|
|5 fl oz||2/3 cup||160ml|
|6 fl oz||3/4 cup||180ml|
|8 fl oz||1 cup||240ml|
Any good kitchen conversion chart should also measure dry ingredients. This is also when the difference in accuracy between Imperial and metric is perhaps most evident. The decimal point system of metric grams is more precise than measuring in ounces.
People with specific dietary requirements need to ensure they rigorously follow diet plans by measuring dry ingredients meticulously. For example, bodybuilders that are in the cutting stage - leading up to a competition aim to shred fat and maintain muscle. Some bodybuilders have even managed to achieve near zero percent body fat.
To do this they scrupulously measure dry ingredients, especially those containing fats such as nuts. When 0.01% body fat fluctuations can be the difference between winning and losing, estimations are not good enough.
Below is a chart converting Imperial ounces to metric grams:
|1/4 oz||7 grams|
|1/2 oz||15 grams|
|1 oz||30 grams|
|2 oz||60 grams|
|3 oz||85 grams|
|4 oz||110 grams|
|5 oz||140 grams|
|6 oz||170 grams|
|7 oz||200 grams|
|8 oz||225 grams|
|9 oz||255 grams|
|10 oz||280 grams|
|11 oz||310 grams|
|12 oz||340 grams|
|13 oz||370 grams|
|14 oz||400 grams|
|15 oz||425 grams|
|1 lb||450 grams|
Easy recipes often measure ingredients by cups. A cup's weight can vary drastically depending on the ingredients used. For example, one cup of flour and one cup of brown sugar will have different weights even though they still cover the same surface area. Using a 240 ml cup the equivalent weights are listed below for the most popular ingredients.
|240 ml cups||Cups weight in grams|
|1 cup flour||150g|
|1 cup caster/granulated sugar||225g|
|1 cup brown sugar||200g|
|1 cup icing sugar||125g|
|1 cup butter/margarine/lard||225g|
|1 cup sultanas/raisins||200g|
|1 cup currants||150g|
|1 cup sour cream||242g|
|1 cup ground almonds||110g|
|1 cup uncooked rice||200g|
|1 cup grated cheese||110g|
|1 stick butter||113g|
Following a cooking recipe can also be difficult because oven temperatures can be listed in celsius or Fahrenheit. Most recipes will use the globally accepted metric measurement - celsius. However, because of the massive influence the US has on the world, and the huge array of cuisine available many recipes use Fahrenheit.
To follow and recreate a great recipe not only is the kitchen scale important but the temperature is also essential. There are mathematical equations you can perform to convert both temperature measurements.
For example to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit temperature. Then multiply that number by 5 and divide that number by 9. To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the Celsius number by 9, divide that number by 5 and finally add 32.
|275 degrees F||140 degrees C||1||Very Cool or Very Slow|
|300 degrees F||150 degrees C||2||Cool or Slow|
|325 degrees F||165 degrees C||3||Warm|
|350 degrees F||177 degrees C||4||Moderate|
|375 degrees F||190 degrees C||5||Moderate|
|400 degrees F||200 degrees C||6||Moderately Hot|
|425 degrees F||220 degrees C||7||Hot|
|450 degrees F||230 degrees C||8||Hot|
|475 degrees F||245 degrees C||9||Hot|
|500 degrees F||260 degrees C||10||Very Hot|
Different sizes of pans can also be used as measuring tools when cooking. Again measurements can differ depending on the recipe. For example, a US recipe may use inches whilst a European recipe may use centimetres. The following baking pan measurements should help you follow recipes more precisely.
Round baking pan
- 6×2 inches (15 x 5cm) = 4 cups (960ml)
- 8×2 inches (20 x 5cm) = 6 cups (1.4 liters)
- 9×2 inches (23 x 5cm) = 8 cups (1.9 liters)
- 8×2 inch square (20 x 5 cm) = 8 cups (1.9 liters)
- 9×2 inch square (23 x 5 cm) = 10 cups (2.4 liters)
- 10×2 inch square = (25 x 5 cm) = 12 cups (2.8 liters)
Rectangular Pans – 2 inches (5 cm) tall
- 11×7 inches (28 x 18 cm) = 10 cups (2.4 liters)
- 13×9 inches (33 x 23 cm) = 14 cups (3.3 liters)
- 9x 2.5 inches (23 x 6 cm) = 10 cups (2.4 liters)
- 10x 2.5 inches (25 x 6 cm) = 12 cups (2.8 liters)
Bundt Pan – volume varies depending on the design
- 10×3 inch (25 x 8 cm) = 10-12 cups (2.8 liters)
- 9×3 inches (23 x 8 cm) = 12 cups (2.8 liters)
Jelly Roll Pans – 1 inch (2.5 cm) tall
- 10×15 inches (27 x 39 cm) = 10 cups (2.4 liters)
- 12×17 inches (32 x 44 cm) = 12 cups (2.8 liters)
Loaf Pans – normally 3 inches (8 cm) tall
- 8×4 inch (20 x 10 cm) = 4 cups (960 ml)
- 9×5 inch (23 x 13 cm) = 8 cups (1.9 liters)
Many recipes have unusual or obscure measurements that you can at best estimate. For example, if a recipe calls for a tad it is obviously a small amount, but just how small? Some sources describe a tad as a quarter of a teaspoon. Further measurements are shown below:
- Dash - one eight of a teaspoon or half a tad
- Pinch - one-sixteenth of a teaspoon
- Smidgen - 1/32 of a teaspoon or half a pinch
- Drop - 1/64 of a teaspoon or half a smidgen
- Gill - half a cup
- Sprinkle - a light dusting of surface area
- Drizzle - light pouring or liquid over a surface area
The practice of cooking and eating food has arguably existed for over a million years. Unsurprisingly a wide variety of measuring tools and measurements have developed over the years. The main difference in modern times is metric - used by most of the world vs Imperial - used mainly by the United States.
Many different substances need to be converted if your measuring tools have different measurements from the recipe. For example, the measurements of liquid and dry ingredients may need to be converted. Weight conversions may also need to be made as well as temperature adjustments when cooking.
Furthermore, cooking utensils themselves such as pots and pans need to be quantified, as they can often be used as measurement instruments when cooking.