Are you interested in becoming a master chef who creates scrumptious dishes without having to measure ingredients meticulously? Then you need to understand the different measurement units used in cooking and the appropriate conversions.
From teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, and pints – one wrong move and your soup can become a salty disaster! So how to avoid all of this and enable you to become your own personal chef?
Read on as we take a comprehensive look at what it takes to master cooking measurement units so that you always have a delicious dish waiting for you every day.
The basics – understand the different types of measurement units and how to use them
It may feel daunting at first, but it’s simpler than you may think. Cooking measurement units are divided into three categories: volume, weight and count.
Volume measures the space an ingredient takes up in a container, such as cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. Nailing these is quite easy since chances are you’ll always have a container ready to scoop some amount of a recipe’s particular ingredient and add just the right amount.
Weight measures the mass of an ingredient, such as ounces and grammes. If you’re preparing a recipe that refers to an ingredient’s weight, having a small kitchen scale comes in very handy. Kitchen scales nowadays come in both analogue and digital forms, and are quite affordable, so you should get one.
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Count measures the number of items in a recipe, such as eggs or cloves of garlic. This is by far the easiest recipe unit to follow, albeit somewhat less accurate. For example, if a recipe tells you to add 3 cloves of garlic, and you happen to have rather small garlic cloves, the recipe may be a tad under-flavoured. As with all cooking recipes, follow the instructions, but feel free to take small liberties with it so you adjust it to your liking.
Learn how to convert between standard and metric measurements
So, you’ve found your grandma’s ancient cookbook, and you’re trying to follow her super tasty tomato soup recipe that you remember enjoying as a small child. But there is one small problem: Grandma seemed to have used a completely different unit measurement system!
And now you’re standing there, pondering, all confused.
But take heart, because this problem is quite common and very easy to solve. Cooking measurement units vary around the world, so having to convert between different units of measurement is something you’ll need to master.
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The most common systems are standard and metric. Standard measurements are used in the United States and typically include cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. But some recipes include metric measurements that are used in most other countries (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and they typically say millilitres (ml), grams (gr), and kilogrammes (kg).
To convert between these systems, use a conversion chart or calculator. You can find many useful conversion charts with just 2 minutes of Googling, or alternatively, you can use a unit conversion app on your smartphone. That being said, it is essential to note that some measurements, such as fluid ounces, differ between systems and may require special attention – but you’ll cross that bridge when you get there.
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Know your volume and weight conversions – measuring dry ingredients vs wet ingredients
No lie, measuring ingredients accurately is crucial to creating delicious dishes!
But 1 cup of flour is sometimes a bit different from 1 cup of chocolate syrup.
For example, just what does 1 cup mean? Is 1 cup of flour a cup that includes the mountain of flour perching on top of the cup, and is 1 cup of chocolate syrup filled to the brim, or slightly below?
Here are a couple of good rules of thumb.
When measuring dry ingredients, such as flour or sugar, use a dry measuring cup and level off the top with a straight edge. Meaning, scoop all the flour you can collect with your cup but then remove the small mountain of flour on the top.
When measuring wet ingredients, such as water, milk or chocolate syrup, use a liquid measuring cup (these are typically transparent and have lines denoting specific amounts) and check the level at eye level.
Weight measurements are more accurate than volume measurements, particularly for ingredients such as butter or nuts. Use a kitchen scale to measure these ingredients accurately, trying to get as close as possible to the recipe’s recommended amounts.
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Master equivalents – equivalents for common kitchen ingredient measurements
Some recipes may call for specific measurements that you do not have on hand, or you may need to adjust the recipe to fit your needs. Knowing equivalents for common kitchen ingredient measurements can help you make these adjustments quickly and easily.
For example, three teaspoons equals one tablespoon, and one cup equals 16 tablespoons. A useful tip is to memorise common equivalents or keep a cheat sheet nearby for quick reference when it comes to more complex, or convoluted equivalents. Once you do this once or twice successfully it will become effortless, so don’t worry about it.
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Creating custom measurement systems – create-your-own system for measuring smaller amounts of ingredients
But what do you do when Grandma’s recipe seems not to mention any amounts? It just says salt… Or it just says, “Add milk.” Just how much milk, Grandma? This is one case where you might want to contact your ancestors!
If they respond, great, but if they don’t… Well, here’s what you can do.
Luckily, there are well established solutions for recipes that call for vague, or small amounts of ingredients that can be challenging to measure accurately, such as a pinch of salt, a dash of cinnamon or some milk. Just create your own measurement system and you’ll be able to measure these small amounts accurately.
For example, grab a pinch of salt (using your fingers, yes) and drop it in a teaspoon. What does it look like? How much of the teaspoon does your pinch of salt occupy? So, a pinch of salt can be equivalent to, say, 1/16 of a teaspoon in your case. And a dash of oregano can be equivalent to 1/4 of a tablespoon.
This is one ‘hack’ where practise makes perfect, so you’ll need to try it several times before you determine just how much your measurements are. But slowly but surely, you can use these assessments to create a custom cooking system that works for you.
Cutting down on prep time – practical tips for speeding up your meal prep routines
Finally, how to make everything faster? Cooking for two hours just to eat for 15 minutes feels self-defeating sometimes. And, sure, preparing meals can be time-consuming, but there are several practical tips you can use to speed up your meal prep routines.
One tip is to prepare ingredients ahead of time, such as washing and chopping vegetables or measuring out ingredients. When it comes to salads, you can get a food processor, a grater, or a mandoline that will slice that cabbage or those cucumbers in 1/100th of the time you need to do it by hand.
Finally, consider cooking in batches and freezing meals for later use – all of these tips will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend cooking each day. Less cooking, more eating is how we like it!
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