Volume vs. Weight in Baking: Why you should weigh your ingredients

weighing-measuring-ingredients-main

I grew up learning how to measure dry ingredients the way I’m sure just about everyone else did – scoop and level. Scoop the measuring cup into the flour, then take the straight edge of a butter knife and level off the top. Seems easy enough, right? Well, it might be easy but it is certainly not always accurate. For the most part, precise measurements are not necessary in cooking, but are a critical part of baking success. In fact, incorrect measuring is one of the biggest reasons that most baking endeavors fail. A bit of extra flour can lead to rock-hard cookies, tough bread, and less-than fluffy cakes. Too much granulated sugar and your cookies will be crispy when you wanted them soft and chewy. It’s been a little over a year since I embraced the joy of measuring by weight, and I just realized that I had never talked about weighing ingredients here on the blog. Continue reading to find out about my little experiment, kitchen scale recommendations, and a list of resources.

The Experiment

A few cookbooks in my collection give ingredient quantities in both volume and weight, but I didn’t pay much attention until I made the Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Illustrated. Curious as to how much of a difference there could actually be between scooping ingredients into measuring cups and weighing them, I conducted an experiment. I measured flour into a cup the way I normally would and then put that scoop on the kitchen scale. Amazingly, there was almost an entire ounce of difference. The scooped flour measured into the cup was almost a full ounce heavier than the recipe stated a cup of all-purpose flour should be. Yikes! That could be a recipe (no pun intended) for disaster. At that point I decided to start weight everything.


Kitchen Scales

The easiest way to get precise measurements of ingredients is to invest in a kitchen scale. There are many on the market and range from inexpensive spring-loaded models to higher-end digital scales. For anyone that bakes on a regular basis, I would recommend a digital scale that measures in both ounces and grams, and that does volume conversions. I personally use an Escali Pana scale (purchased from King Arthur Flour for about $65) that offers ounces, grams, and volume-to-weight conversions that I would highly recommend. However, don’t break the bank just to get a scale into your hands. There are many economy models that will do the job just as well. Below is a quick overview of those rated as recommended by Cook’s Illustrated (incidentally, they rated my scale Recommended with Reservations because they said the buttons felt cheap):

OXO Food Scale ($49.95)

Polder Easy Read Digital Kitchen Scale ($40.00)

Salter Aquatronic Glass Kitchen Scale ($49.95)

Soehnle 65055 Digital Scale ($34.04)

Do you have a scale you use that you would like to recommend? Let us know in the comments section!


Resources

To kick-start your measuring-by-weighing journey, below are some volume-to-weight conversions for common baking ingredients:

♦ All-purpose flour 1 cup = 4.25 ounces

♦ Bread flour 1 cup = 4.5 ounces

♦ Cake flour 1 cup = 4.0 ounces

♦ Sugar (both granulated and brown) 1 cup = 7.0 ounces

For a comprehensive list of ingredients by weight, visit King Arthur Flour’s Master Weight Chart.

Don’t miss a blog post! Subscribe to the Brown Eyed Baker RSS feed!

Share This Post...



45 Responses to “Volume vs. Weight in Baking: Why you should weigh your ingredients”

  1. Michele on July 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

    LOL and this is the very reason why I’m not a good baker! It takes patience and skill which I do not have! LOL Great post!

    Reply

    • Dolores on August 18th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      Why do ,my chocolate chip cookies come out flat and crispy.? Thanks dell

      Reply

      • Mary Ellen on August 19th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

        Lots of reasons – white sugar instead or brown sugar, soft butter instead of melted butter, too little egg yolk. Check out my chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe and they will sure to be chewy! Just make sure to bake them until just barely underdone. If they are brown all the way to the inside, you will get crispy cookies.

        Reply

        • Michelle on August 31st, 2012 at 7:39 pm

          Ditto Mary Ellen, plus if you grease your cookie sheets instead of using parchment or a silpat, you can get too much fat into your cookies, which will make them spread. Your oven temperature being off could be a factor too.

          Reply

        • Yolanda on February 1st, 2014 at 9:10 pm

          Every recipe is different. I always use both brown and white sugar, and always soft, never melted butter. Make sure you have an oven thermometer, too. Your oven may read 350, but it could actually be higher or lower.

          Reply

  2. Nic on July 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Scaling is so much faster and efficient (not to mention less things to wash later) Trouble is cookbooks dont have the ingredients in oz/grams. I try to do the first run through on a recipe and weigh out the ingredients then note it in the cookbook but most of the time Im far to lazy and then kick myself on the next go round. I wish cookbook publisher would get with the program because I will buy a book much faster if it has both weights and volume.

    Reply

    • Suzanne on February 27th, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      1oz = 28.34g Which means that weighing and weight by grams is definitely the way to go. For this reason I only seek out baking recipes from sources from the UK or other serious professionals. Nigella Lawson has a great site that lets you switch from cup measures to metric.

      Reply

  3. Valerina on July 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Wow. I knew the scoop and level method could be off but not by an ounce! Thanks for writing about this, You may have finally convinced me to buy a scale.

    Reply

  4. Eliana on July 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I don’t do thi enough and need to start doing it more often. It’s rhe only fail proof way to measure.

    Reply

  5. Jade on July 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you for the helpful information on scales. I knew there was a difference as far as weight in measuring it in a cup versus on the scale, but I didn’t realize it could be that much. I do plan on looking into this.

    Reply

  6. Steph on July 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I weigh everything too! It is so much faster and recipes turn out consistently better.

    Reply

  7. Katie on July 16, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    What great information. Thanks so much

    Reply

  8. Cookin' Canuck on July 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I received a kitchen scale for Christmas and absolutely love it! Actually, I’m not sure how I ever got by without it. I’ve noticed that several cooking magazines are starting to list measurements by weight and volume. Thanks for the helpful conversion chart.

    Reply

  9. Cookie on July 16, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I can totally confirm your experiment. I’ve heard this theory from a lot of chefs including Alton Brown on the Food Network. However, I myself don’t own a scale and probably won’t anytime in the near future. Most of my recipes seem to come out pretty decent with just the scoop and level method. :)

    Reply

  10. Kati on July 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I was afraid of this, lol! I need to get a scale and start paying closer attention! thanks for the recom. scales and the wake up call

    Reply

  11. Cara on July 17, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Chelley, I couldn’t agree more. The consistency of good results in my baking has improved dramatically since I started weighing. I actually prefer to weigh in grams for even greater accuracy!

    Reply

  12. Lisa Curcio on July 17, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Great advice, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  13. Angela on July 17, 2009 at 9:53 am

    This is an excellent point that I had never even considered. I’m sure this would explain those situations where something randomly doesn’t turn out right. ; )

    Excellent advice. I’m sure we all needed to hear that.

    Reply

  14. stephchows on July 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I keep going back on forth about getting a scale… so far no scale… and things seem to be cooking up just fine LOL I guess I’m just a slacker and don’t want an extra step :)

    Reply

  15. Alisa on July 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Great information! This is why I leave all the baking to my friend, she is just so good at measuring things :)

    Reply

  16. Jennie on July 22, 2009 at 7:07 am

    YES. I love seeing posts that endorse measurement by weight, and I keep hoping someday soon all baking books will feature weight measurements. I was already a convert, but after working in a bakery there’s no way I’ll ever go back.

    Stephchows, IMO it’s LESS steps, cause you don’t have to wash measuring cups, and you get a lot less flour all over everything when you don’t have to get it into a cup. :D

    Reply

  17. Family Spice on August 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I have gone thru two kitchen scales and haven’t been happy with any off them (one digital and one not). I will definitely look at the recommended scales.

    Reply

  18. Judy on November 5, 2009 at 1:24 am

    I completely agree with this – weighing is crucial in baking! I’ve always been a haphazard baker, wondering why my cookies turned out weird. it’s not something you can wing!

    Digital scales are always better, and more accurate, for sure. mine just doesnt seem to like its batteries!

    Reply

  19. Margaret on January 7, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Also got a scale for Christmas and love using it for baking. What did I do before this. Bad Baking, I Guess.

    Reply

  20. Joy on March 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I found that to be true. I am currently converting all my recipes into weight. I found that the recipes I do make in weight come out more consistent than the ones I just use measurements. Thanks for the tip.

    Reply

  21. Carrie on May 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you for this post! My husband bought me my first kitchen scale for my birthday becasue I told him I needed one after watching America’s Test Kitchen. The only thing I am not liking is trying to figure out the conversions by hand (if not already provided). I should have realized that 1 cup of flour will weight different than 1 cup of sugar. I may stick to the scoop and sweep meathod if the weight is not already provided.

    Reply

  22. Pingback: Bestselling Cookbooks & Kitchen Products | Brown Eyed Baker

  23. Pingback: Kitchen Scale Giveaway! {CLOSED} | TidyMom

  24. Pingback: How to Measure Butter | Brown Eyed Baker

  25. elizabeth on September 10, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I followed the link from your post about butter! One question: What do you do if a recipe gives ingredients in volume and not weight (in my experience, most recipes have volume measurements)?

    Reply

  26. Katy on September 10, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I was actually going to ask the same question as Elizabeth! Thanks for this post, and thanks for the link to the conversion chart – perfect! :) I do have a kitchen scale, but it’s not that great and has been acting up lately. It may be time to research a new one!

    I’m curious to try my own experiment on how much “off” my scooped & leveled cup of flour is…especially when my kids are helping with the scooping and leveling.

    Reply

  27. Pingback: Ginger Cookies | Cookie Recipes | Brown Eyed Baker

  28. Sharon on December 25, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Wow, thanks for the King Arthur’s weight conversion chart! I just got the Great Scandinavian Baking Book, thinking it would have all weights because it is Scandinavian, but no, I was so sad to find out it’s not. But I also didn’t want to return it because the recipes look really good – now I don’t have to :)

    Reply

  29. Kelly on July 1, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I found you through Google. This was the fist result I got for “weighing ingredients for baking” What a great post!!! Thanks so much. I have a scale and it is digital, but it doesn’t have the conversion. :(:(:( I know that not a lot of cookbooks have both, I wish that they did!!!

    Reply

  30. Mary Ellen on June 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I’m actually researching this right now. A fan of Alton Brown, I’ve weighed my ingredients per his instructions for his recipes. However, King Arthur Flour uses 4.25 oz. per 1 cup of flour. Their flour is different from the rest…. which is why it is always rated #1 by bakers everywhere. However, America’s Test Kitchen uses 5 ounces for every 1 cup of AP flour in their cookbook/magazines, etc. So I wonder which it is unless you use King Arthur Flour?

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 10th, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Mary Ellen, I use King Arthur Flour exclusively for my baking.

      Reply

  31. Melissa on July 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I also found the King Arthur chart and it’s great but it doesn’t have everything I need. I found a handful of other websites that have conversion charts. I’m wondering if there is a book that has everything in it. It is very time consuming flipping between sites. Any suggestions??

    Reply

    • Mary Ellen on July 9th, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      I think I found the answer to my original question. If you use King Arthur Flour, then it is 4.25 oz per cup. I did some experiments of my own and one cup of AP flour that isn’t KAF brand is indeed 5 ounces like America’s Test Kitchen puts in their chart.
      The KAF chart and the America’s Test Kitchen chart have every baking item I have ever used. Which ones are they missing?

      Reply

  32. Pingback: Chocolate Chip Cookies (Weighing Ingredients for Baking) - Home Cooking Memories

  33. Nellie on October 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you for this! On a side note, the link to the King Arthur Flour master weight chart is broken. The new link is: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html

    Reply

  34. Pingback: Let’s make… Ice Cream Bread! | Mother of Xander

  35. Pingback: Best Pinterest Posts » The Basics of Weighing Ingredients

  36. Pingback: The Basics of Weighing Ingredients | Devil0S' Blog

  37. Ruth on January 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you so much for this information! I love your recipes, but being from the UK, I have to convert them all to ounces first and this takes some time as I’ve been using several different conversion websites. Your list together with the Kingarthurflour list will make my life much easier from now on!

    Reply

Leave a Comment





(Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for your patience! If it is your first time commenting you may want to review the Comment Guidelines.)