Baking Basics: The Importance of Weighing Ingredients When Baking
Alternate title: Why You Should Always, Always Weigh Your Ingredients When Baking.
One of the most important things that I learned when I first started to gain my footing in the kitchen was the value of a kitchen scale. The ability to weigh ingredients and get precise measurements is incredibly valuable when baking, which comes down to a lot of science and chemical reactions. It was almost seven years ago now when I first got on my soapbox about why I prefer weighing ingredients. Since then, I’ve included weight conversions in a number of recipes, but given the sheer volume of comments and emails I’ve received about ingredient weights, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the topic here.
The most common misconception that I hear in emails and comments with regards to weighing is the overarching belief that 8 ounces = 1 cup… forever and ever, amen. No matter what. For all ingredients. Always.
This is simply not true.
For liquid ingredients like water and milk, yes, this is true. Butter and sour cream are anomalies of solid ingredients and they, too, weigh 8 ounces per cup. This is about where that line of thinking ends.
All other solid ingredients (and even ones you can pour like honey and molasses), have vastly different weights per 1 cup of volume.
Common Weight Measurements
Take, for example, the following weights for 1 cup of some of the most common ingredients in your pantry:
Butter: 8 ounces
Cheese: 4 ounces
Chocolate Chips: 6 ounces
Honey: 12 ounces
Maple Syrup: 11 ounces
Molasses: 12 ounces
Peanut Butter: 9½ ounces
Sugar (Granulated): 7 ounces
Sugar (Powdered): 4 ounces
As you can see, if you tried to use the conversion of 8 ounces per 1 cup for every single ingredient, you would likely end up with some disasters in your kitchen. For a complete, comprehensive list, check out (and bookmark!) this Ingredient Weight Chart by King Arthur Flour. This is my go-to source for converting ingredients to weight measurements; the chart has measurements in both ounces and grams.
I should note that there is one major discrepancy I’ve found and that is in regards to flour. King Arthur Flour lists its all-purpose flour as being 4¼ ounces per 1 cup, Cook’s Illustrated and Rose Levy Beranbaum say 5 ounces per 1 cup, Peter Reinhart says 4½ ounces. Obviously, that’s a substantial difference! If the recipe you are following lists specific weights, always go by those! If there is not a weight listed, you can try measuring and weighing flour using a 1-cup measuring cup a few times and taking the average and use that.
My Scale Recommendation
I currently use the OXO Food Scale with Pull-Out Display, which has a 22-pound capacity. It measures in ounces and grams, as well as milliliters and cups.
I know that some people feel very strongly one way or the other about weighing your ingredients or using the traditional measuring cups. Sure, weighing seems more like science class when you could be using pretty measuring cups shaped like birds, but the truth is… it’s just more accurate (plus, there is a lot less to clean up!). If you crave consistent results with your baked goods, and especially if you venture into pastries or breads, you’ll want to get in the habit of weighing ingredients.
I have been including weight ingredients for all recipes recently, and as time allows, I will be updating old recipes, as well. For those that are not yet converted, use that awesome conversion chart from King Arthur Flour!
Now, grab a scale, your favorite ingredients, and bake up something wonderful! :)
Check out more posts in the Baking Basics series:
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing a Recipe
Flour 101: The Definitive Guide to the Different Types of Baking Flours
Cocoa Powder 101: Natural Unsweetened vs Dutch-Process
Your earlier post on “Volume vs. Weight” says 4.25 oz per cup of flour, but this post says 5 oz. Is there a way to tell which recipes use one vs. the other?
Hi Mike, Since posting “Volume vs Weight” I found that America’s Test Kitchen using the 1 cup = 5 ounces conversion and I’ve found I get the best results when using the same. I’m working on updating all of the recipes with weight measurements, but unless it’s stated otherwise, you can use the 1 cup = 5 ounces measurement.
If you do the calculations from the Nutrition Facts on the side of the bags of flour, it almost invariably comes to about 4.25 oz. per cup so I’m not sure where others are getting a different weight other than that. Both King Arthur and Gold Medal all-purpose flours come close to that same weight per cup. I started using a scale about a year ago and now have more consistent results with recipes, plus it takes the guesswork out of it.
Thanks for the great article! I always thought the differences in the Cooks Illustrated and King Arthur flour weights were due to the differences in the way they measure. Cooks illustrated uses the dip and sweep method (which compacts the flour more), while KA uses the spoon in and level off method. Whenever I get a new cookbook, I check if the author discusses the way they measure flour and make a note inside the back cover. If nothing is specified, I default to the King Arthur weight (120 g per cup of AP flour). Never had a problem. Different types of flour have different weights, and it also matters if the flour is sifted or not.
I use the Cake app for conversions. It’s worked really well so far. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cake-ingredient-conversion/id879125887?mt=8
Hi, Michelle, I have a question, I don’t know if it’s something you could write about in baking basics, or just respond over here. I live in Mexico, and I have several great choices for butter, but I live in a border city, so I go to USA very often. I want to try butters sold there, but it’s more expensive than here (less than 1.50 dollars for half pound of sweet, PURE cream butter, no conservatives, no flavorings, no salt!). I often find salt listed in unsalted butter, and I once used an American butter that had only cream and flavoring listed as ingredients, didn’t know the brand, but the cookies I made came out super bland, no flavor at all, so I don’t want to waste my money in bland butter, could you recommend brands or how to choose a good, delicious butter? Sorry for the long comment lol, but I love your blog so much and I trust your taste buds!
Hi Laura! I actually buy Irish butter for eating, cooking and baking. It’s fabulous! I buy the Kerrygold brand (http://kerrygoldusa.com/products/salted-butter) – it’s available at my local grocery store in both salted and unsalted varieties. It’s rather expensive, but I think it tastes significantly better than any of the typical brands you see on the grocery store shelves. I hope that helps!
I’ve seen it before, definitely looks worth the splurge, thanks for the suggestion! :D
I love my scale. I grew up just sort of guessing at amounts and then was surprised when things didn’t always turn out the same!
Would you please do a lesson on the different types of chocolate I know you did the powders but I would appreciate the other types also Thanks. I am seeing more blue in your future.
Hi Barbara, Thanks so much for the suggestion! I will definitely add that to my list!
I am loving this series!! It’s so incredibly helpful to not just know these things but to know the WHY. Thank you for taking the time to share all these tips with us!!
I love this the one item I ALWAYS measure is my powder sugar it never measures out the same. On the lines of this article is that there are different measuring utensils. That was an on going battle in my kitchen with my husband for the first couple years of our marriage. There are wet measuring cups and there are dry measuring cups. He would constantly measure flour in the Wet measure! Drove me nuts! You can’t level that off! I now have a kitchen scale as well got a few years back for Christmas, it really does make things easier.
I really appreciate that you add the weight of ingredients in your recipes. I admittedly am a little sloppy when it comes to weighing ingredients, but I am diabetic and have been weighing my food for years. With your added weight info it is easier to calculate the nutritional values for the recipe.
And grams are so much more accurate than ounces…..Thank you!
When I first started weighing my ingredients a few years ago, I too used King Arthur’s flour weights for my baking recipes. My baked goods didn’t come out well – cookies spread too much, cakes sagged in the middle, etc. I’ve switched to Dorie Greenspan’s value of 135 g (just under 5 oz) per cup, and everything now comes out perfectly. Frankly, I think KA’s value is wrong, at least for AP flour.
I bought a scale on your recommendation a few years ago and use it frequently. It’s so much easier than dirtying every measuring utensil in your kitchen.
My problem is with my gram’s recipes where they used just regular utensils & coffee cups & such for the recipes. Rachel Ray does it too. Why did or do they make my life in the kitchen not fun? Thanks Michelle, you know what most don’t & have learned the hard way….lol. Many disasters. here…that’s for sure! :(