The basics of measuring ingredients

Better Than Gold
Courtesy of West Elm

They say anyone can follow a recipe. But even experienced cooks know things don’t always work out. Often the problem lies in how the ingredients are measured – and what they’re measured in.

Clear cups, with pour spouts, are primarily for liquids. They come in multiple-quart and 1-, 2-, and 4-cup sizes, with measurements marked on the sides. Set on a level surface and pour in ingredients; read markings at eye level. The larger sizes also work well for chunky foods like vegetables (cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, hunks of squash), cut-up fruit, and berries.

Metal or plastic cups, for measuring dry ingredients, come in sets of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup; some sets also include a 1/8-cup or 2-cup or larger unit. Fill to the brim and scrape the ingredient level with a spatula or straight-sided knife. How you fill the cup depends on the ingredient. Pour or spoon in granulated sugar, salt, grains, cornmeal, and other substances that don’t pack down. Pack in brown sugar, soft cheeses, and solid fats. Spoon or drop in shredded cheeses and leafy vegetables (unless recipe says to pack). To measure fluffy items like flour, powdered sugar, or cornstarch, stir them first, then gently spoon into cup; if you scoop them with the cup or tap it to settle the contents, you can get as much as 25 percent more in the cup.

Standard measuring spoons come in sets of 1 tablespoon, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 teaspoon, and sometimes 1/8 teaspoon. Use these for both liquid and dry ingredients, pouring liquids to the rim and scraping dry ingredients level with rim.

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