Volume vs. Weight in Baking: Why you should weigh your ingredients
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.
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.
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!
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!
Hi…I’m confused by the weight in grams in your recipes for Hand Pie dough. It calls for 2.5 cups of AP flour. If one cup of King Arthur flour weighs 120 grams, how is it that the recipe’s 2.5 cups is 354 grams? Which is it…354 grams or 300 grams? Quite a difference!
Hi Deb, For all-purpose flour, I use the measurement that America’s Test Kitchen uses, which is 5 ounces per 1 cup (I’ve also seen this weight used in other cookbooks).
Check out the My Weigh Bakers Percentage Scale Model KD8000. Top rated, has many useful features, easy to read, large capacity and fairly priced. A very popular scale among the baking community. I personally own one.
There is a reason your science teacher made you use a scale instead of a measuring cup when doing experiments in class. Most of the time I don’t think that a little extra flour will make a noticeable difference when baking. However, I always weigh ingredients in cookies. If I don’t I always end up with something a little different than what I expected.
I have just recently converted my first cupcake recipe to weight. The reason was to hopefully be note accurate, also so I could break it down into a single cupcake recipe. I want to test flavor additions, so just 1 is better than wasting a batch of 30 ……. Place I like to use for conversion is……..http://www.traditionaloven.com/ conversions for anything.
I am finding it very time consuming to convert recipes from volume to weight. Might be a factor of my age. I also have found different reputable sites showing different weights for the same item. I cannot afford to make mistakes….I don’t have the scale that automatically converts the volume to weight or vice versa and cannot afford it either. I seem to remember reading that you were going to be posting your recipes with both weight and volume. I am very anxious to be able to bake with weight. When will this happen? Will you be posting new recipes with weight measurements along with volume? And hopefully you will convert your older recipes to weight. I am making many of your recipes. Probably in the last year I have made 15 of your recipes. I think I would have had better outcomes if I could have known what weight you have actually used in your recipes, Thanks for wonderful recipes
I am a convert to using a scale! I love it! I actually have a cheat sheet of weights (in grams and oz.) taped to the container that holds my bags brown sugar, powdered sugar, etc. I find it so much easier to cut a recipe in half using the weight in grams – and know that if 1 cup of sugar is 200g then ¾ c is 150g, etc. Keeps you on your toes with math! I use the weight of 5oz for flour (from ATK) because I don’t use KAF. When using a scale, I like not having to dirty measuring spoons when adding ingredients such as mustard or mayo to a recipe, just “tare” or zero out the scale and squeeze in 5 g of mustard, etc. I use my scale for so many things every day. Sounds crazy, but I weigh the almonds and pistachios that go into my kids lunch, I weigh the chips. No guessing on how big a handful if it’s too early in the morning when packing lunch. I even weigh the chicken as I’m putting it on the sandwich to make sure I use enough. I weigh the ingredients while making my morning green smoothie to take out the guess work and make a consistent smoothie every day. A day does not go by without using my scale!
Great article! I’m 29 years old and just started getting serious about cooking and baking and such. A review website I frequent called The Sweethome (an affiliate of The Wirecutter- also an amazing review site) also reviewed scales and like Oxo’s the best. It features a pull-out screen that’s easy to read when a large bowl or tray is on the scale. Thanks so much for the article (and cookie recipe!)
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!
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
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??
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?
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?
Hi Mary Ellen, I use King Arthur Flour exclusively for my baking.
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!!!
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 :)
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.
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)?
Hi Elizabeth, Some scales have volume to weight conversions – the Escali Pana scale I have does this.
This page on King Arthur’s site is also very helpful – it is a chart with volume to weight conversions for tons of common baking ingredients:
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.
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.
Also got a scale for Christmas and love using it for baking. What did I do before this. Bad Baking, I Guess.
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!
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.
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
Great information! This is why I leave all the baking to my friend, she is just so good at measuring things :)
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 :)
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.
Great advice, thanks for sharing!
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!
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
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. :)
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.
What great information. Thanks so much
I weigh everything too! It is so much faster and recipes turn out consistently better.
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.
I don’t do thi enough and need to start doing it more often. It’s rhe only fail proof way to measure.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Why do ,my chocolate chip cookies come out flat and crispy.? Thanks dell
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.
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.
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.