Sunday, 21 July 2013

Measuring ingredients in the kitchen ~ converting metric, British imperial, and good old cups and spoons

These scales show both metric and British imperial.
A reasonable degree of accuracy in the measurement of ingredients is central to the success of both cooking and baking, but the way that quantities are shown in recipes can lead to  confusion:

Here in New Zealand old recipe books are likely to show quantities in the British imperial measurements of pounds and ounces whereas those that are more recent may be shown exclusively in metric.   

American cookbooks on the other hand, use a different set of measures which, while they resemble the imperial ones, are actually different.  I have not attempted to cover those here as I am not familiar with them.

To confuse things further any of these recipes may include some measures in cupfuls and not give a weight at all.  

This is the reason why (most) of the recipes I share include both metric and imperial measures and often the equivalent in cupfuls.  

But if you are at all adventurous you'll be using a range of recipes from various sources and a sensible set of conversion tables will be just as important in the kitchen as a reliable set of kitchen scales, and standard measuring cups and spoons, in fact I would say more so!   I use mine a lot!

The conversion tables shown below are the ones I have found most useful.  

First and foremost:
  • Metric:  
    • Kilo is shown as 'kg'
    • Gram is shown as 'g'
    • Litre is shown as 'L'
    • Millilitre is shown as 'ml'
  • Imperial: 
    • Pounds are shown as 'lb' (I have no idea why!)
    • Ounces are shown as 'oz' (ditto)
  • Cups are often shown as 'C'
  • Spoons: 
    • Tablespoons  =  Tbsp (note capital 'T')
    • Dessertspoon  =  dsp - although seldom used
    • Teaspoon  =  tsp

Metric and imperial weight: grams and kilos converted to ounces and pounds:
1,000 grams  =  1 kilogram   =  2 pounds, 4 ounces.

This quick reference chart which was printed in old editions of 'Edmonds' will help you work out what you need in the simplest possible terms.  These are approximate as strictly speaking 1 ounce equals 28 grams, rather than the 25 grams shown below.  A better more closely approximate step for the 1 - 4 oz amounts would be 30 grams - refer to my figures in brackets below!
  • 1 oz  =  25 g  (or 30 g)
  • 2 oz   =  50 g  (or 60 g)
  • 3 oz  =  75 g  (or 90 g)
  • 4 oz  = 125 g  =  A quarter of a pound.  Note the uneven increment between 3 oz and this one! 
  • 5 oz  = 150 g
  • 6 oz  = 175 g
  • 7 oz  =  200 g
  • 8 oz  =  225 g  =  Half a pound
  • 9 oz  =  250 g
  • 10 oz  =  275 g
  • 11 oz  =  275 g
  • 12 oz  =  350 g  =  Three quarters of a pound
  • 13 oz  =  375 g
  • 14 oz  =  400 g
  • 15 oz  =  450 g
  • 16 oz  =  500 g  =  Approximately 1 pound.

Measuring weight using cups and spoons:
Note: the old standard imperial cup has a slightly smaller in capacity than the new standard metric cup - as noted below in the section about liquid measurements.  As far as I know measurements by the spoonful have remained the same.  

This chart (a selection from 'Edmonds') provides a useful rule of thumb for measuring a range of ingredients:
The weight of ingredients varies greatly and for this reason the amount per cup or spoonful also varies.  Measurements given are for level cups and spoons.
  • Breadcrumbs, dry... 1 cup  =  125 g  /  4 oz
  • Breadcrumbs, fresh... 1 cup  =  50 g  /  2 oz
  • Butter... 2 Tbsp  =  25 g  /  1 oz
  • Cheese, grated... 1 cup  =  75-90 g  /  3 oz  (weight amended!)
  • Coconut... 1 cup  =  125 g  /  4 oz
  • Cornflour... 2 Tbsp  =  25 g  / 1 oz
  • Dried fruit such as sultanas and currants... 1 cup  =  175 g  /  6 oz
  • Flour, both white and wholemeal... 1 cup  =  125 g  /  4 oz
    • Flour does vary in weight
  • Flour... 4 Tbsp  =  25 g / 1 oz
  • Golden syrup... 1 Tbsp  =  25 g  /  1 oz   
  • Icing sugar... 1 cup  =  150 g  /  5 oz
  • Salt... 1 Tbsp  =  25 g  /  1 oz
  • Sugar... 1 cup  =  225 g  /  8 oz
  • Sugar... 2 Tbsp  =  25 g  /  1 oz

Metric liquid volumes - litres to imperial measures:
1 litre  =  approximately 2 pints
1 litre  =  1,000 millilitres

Metric cups and spoons:
1 metric cup  = 250 ml
1 tablespoon  =  15 ml
     Old imperial measure of 2 Tbsp  =  1 oz  /  25 grams 
1 dessertspoon  =  10 ml
1 teaspoon  = 5 ml.

The old imperial cup is just a little smaller:
1 standard imperial cup  =  8 fluid ounce capacity, which is 225 ml.

Somehow I have acquired two sets of scales over the years, which are quite different from each other.  Both were acquired second hand.   Both work without batteries - a basic prerequisite for me as I destest buying batteries and avoid the need to do so where ever possible.  Neither is completely accurate, as I've found when adding small amounts, say of butter, to small amounts which are already on the measuring tray.  This has become apparant on some occasions when I have realised that the quantity seems rather more that I would have expected: taking all the ingredient off and then putting it back on showed a different amount.  But on the whole they are excellent. 

Measuring cups: 
I bought my unremarkable set long ago.  I avoid plastic wherever possible, so these are metal which I much prefer.  I could have made do with a single china cup but this set was inexpensive and the range of sizes, four of them ranging from a full cup down to a quarter of a cup, make measuring that bit easier. 

Measuring spoons: 
Again these were inexpensive, and are made of metal.  I got my present set just recently and had to make a big effort to find a set made in metal.  Most in the shops at the moment are plastic which I had set my mind against as part of my long term strategy to rid my household of this non-biodgradable material.  These ones were about the same price - inexpensive, and will probably last for decades, so thank you, New World Supermarket!  As with the measuring cups I could manage without them, but they make accurate measuring that much easier.   

Happy measuring! 

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