Measuring Baking ingredients
Tips for Baking Cookies

Cookie ingredient measurements – a practical ‘How To’ guide

Conversions and measurement methods

With cooking being such a universal pastime and pleasure it is inevitable that people will want to swap recipes and methods. But it is not always quite so easy as you think to convert a recipe from one system of baking to another. To make accurate cookie ingredient measurement conversions it is not just a question of converting numbers; it’s also about types of measurements and the language of ingredients.

Take a simple example, converting flour.

First there is the flour type. Fortunately, for cookie baking, there is a simple answer for conversion across the Atlantic. American ‘All purpose flour’ is directly equivalent to the UK ‘Plain flour’. However, if you are baking cakes in the US you can get Cake flour, which is a little finer than All Purpose. This is not easy to find in Europe and Plain Flour is used instead.

Then, how much to use?

US recipes call for flour to be measured mostly in cups (volume), sometimes in ounces (weight). European ones call for weight in grams. So the conversion you need is a volume to weight measure. Because of the different densities of varying ingredients the conversion figure that works for flour cannot work for, say, butter or sugar.

For smaller measures you may expect you hit a winner as you see teaspoon specified. But American teaspoons are defined as being leveled off with a ruler. Modern European teaspoons are a level 5ml measure and are directly equivalent to the American level teaspoon. But take care when converting the other way as older UK recipe measures use a heaped teaspoon, nearer 7ml than 5.

This section is about conversions of weights and volumes. If you want to see about ‘converting’ ingredients go to the ingredient translations page.

Important Note

When you are making a recipe that has ingredients specified in both grams and ounces use only one type of measurement. Do not measure one ingredient in grams and another in ounces.

This is because the conversions from one set of units to another in a recipe is often an approximate conversion and the importance of the ratios of two ingredients has been built into the conversion by the person who prepared the recipe. OK, on with our look at conversion tables. Lets start with a relatively easy one.

Oven temperatures

This is a chart showing the conversions between gas mark and electric ovens in Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Gas Mark Fahrenheit Celsius Description
1/4 225 110 Very cool/very slow
1/2 250 120
1 275 135 cool
2 300 150
3 325 160 very moderate
4 350 180 moderate
5 375 190
6 400 200 moderately hot
7 425 220 hot
8 450 230
9 475 245 very hot

This chart should be sufficiently accurate for your cooking needs. Do remember that the conversions are not exact and the temperatures will vary between different types, brands and sizes of ovens. You will need to try some of the recipes using the recommended settings and see how yours compares. If you notice big differences then get an oven thermometer and check it out.

See the section on ovens for more information.

Simple Volume measures

These conversions should only be used when converting non-compressible ingredients, or ingredients where the amount is not critical. Do not use for flour, see later notes.

US Measure European measure
1/5 teaspoon 1 ml
½ teaspoon 2.5 ml
1 teaspoon 5 ml
1 desert spoon (2 teaspoons) 10 ml
1 tablespoon 15 ml
1 fluid oz. 30 ml
1/5 cup 50 ml
½ cup 120 ml
1 cup (1/2 pint) 240 ml
2 cups (1 pint) 470 ml
4 cups (1 quart, 2 pints) 0.95 liter
4 quarts (1 gal.) 3.8 liter

Why measure ingredients by weight?

Cooking involves bringing together various ingredients, and all ingredients are made of chemicals. When certain chemicals are brought together in the right circumstances, then chemical change happens.

You can see a chemical reaction when you watch an egg frying. The high temperature causes the albumen of the egg to denature and change from a clear jelly to a white solid.

Take bicarbonate of soda as an example. Get a normal drinking glass and put half a teaspoon on bicarbonate of soda in it. Add two tablespoons of warm water and stir. The bicarbonate dissolves and the water becomes clear. If you place the glass in a warm place and leave it the water will eventually evaporate and the bicarbonate will be left as a deposit in the glass. No change has happened.

Now take a lemon, halve it and squeeze it. Add a couple of drops of the juice to the glass and the mixture of water and bicarbonate begins to fizz. This is a chemical reaction. The acid in the lemon (which is why it tastes sharp on your tongue) is reacting with the bicarbonate of soda (which is an alkali when dissolved in the water) to produce a salt and carbon dioxide. This is the basic reaction in cookie baking that lifts the cookies and makes them lighter.

If you keep adding the lemon juice each time the reaction dies down, then eventually you will get no more bubbles even though you add more lemon juice. This is because all the bicarbonate has been used up.

[As a matter of interest see how using cold or very hot water affects the speed of bubble generation.]

From a chemical point of view a reaction works with exact numbers of molecules. I’ll simplify this reaction a bit by using a nasty acid, hydrochloric, in the chemical equation. Citric acid is more complex, but essentially the same.

Bicarbonate of soda has the formula Na2CO3. That’s two atoms of Sodium, one of Carbon and three of Oxygen.

Hydrochloric acid has the formula HCl, that’s one atom each of Hydrogen and that very reactive Chlorine.

Bring two molecules of acid together with one of the alkali and you get:-

The resulting molecules are salt, water and carbon dioxide.

Note how the count of atoms is the same on each side of the equation. So reactions are based on the number of atoms. Atoms have mass. Mass equates directly to weight in the real world. So measurement by weight is the key to consistent success and tasty cookies.

Lecture over!

To ensure a reaction has just the right amount of each ingredient, chemists weigh the various ingredients, as this is the most predictable way to ensure that each has the right number of molecules for the reaction. This is not an issue for liquids. At a constant temperature, and within an acceptable range a normal kitchen can be considered ‘constant’, a specified volume of a given liquid will have effectively the same weight.

For powders though, the situation is different. You can get a lot more flour into a measure if you press it into your cup measure than if you sift it lightly over the measure. This can be the crucial difference between a good result and a poor one.

Most American style recipes specify many ingredients by cup, i.e. by volume. Some do it by ounce, and many do not specify whether that is a ‘volume’ ounce (fluid ounce) or a ‘weight’ ounce (ounce avoirdupois). Most European recipes specify ingredients by weight. The unambiguous way to most consistent results is to work by weight for solids and powders, volume for liquids.

Converting dry ingredients

As we have just seen you need a different conversion for the different types of dry ingredients.

Flour

American measures in cups are for poured, sifted flour and the top leveled off with a knife. Do not press the flour down into the measure or dip the measure into the flour bag and scoop it up. Both will give you too much flour.

All purpose Flour, sifted

Cake Flour, sifted

US Ozs

Grams

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

2

56

1 ¾

50

1 cup

4

112

3 ½

100

2 cups

8

250

7

200

3 cups

12

362

10 ½

300

4 cups

16

500

14

400

In all these tables US Ozs are weight ounces (avoirdupois) not volume (Fluid ounces) unless otherwise stated.

Butter, Margarine, cooking oils

Butter

US Ozs

Grams

Stick

½ cup

4

113

1

1 cup

8

225

2

2 cups

16

450

4

3 cups

24

675

6

4 cups

32

900

8

Shortening (Cresco, Cookeen)

These are lighter than butter per unit volume, they also contain trans fats.

Shortening

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

3 ½

100

1 cup

7

200

2 cups

14

400

3 cups

21

600

4 cups

28

800

Milk

Milk

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

4 ¼

120

1 cup

8 ½

240

2 cups

17

480

3 cups

25 ½

720

4 cups

34

960

Sugar (Granulated, white or brown)

Because of its coarser texture that either caster sugar or brown sugar, granulated sugar is a little lighter by volume.

Granulated sugar

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

3 ½

198

1 cup

7

396

2 cups

14

792

3 cups

21

1188

4 cups

28

1584

Sugar (Caster and brown moist)

Moist brown sugar packs a little more densely that granulated brown sugar.

Caster and brown moist sugar

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

3 ¾

107

1 cup

7 ½

213

2 cups

15

426

3 cups

22 ½

640

4 cups

30

852

Raisins

Raisins

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

2 ½

70

1 cup

5

142

2 cups

10

284

3 cups

15

426

4 cups

20

568

Clear Honey/Golden syrup/Molasses/Black treacle

Honey/ Molasses

US Ozs

Grams

½ cup

6

175

1 cup

12

350

2 cups

24

700

3 cups

36

1050

4 cups

48

1400

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