Weighing ingredients: your measure of success

All right, I’m not usually this adamant, but I’m going to come right out and say it:

For best success, measure your ingredients with a scale, rather than measuring cups.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I know home bakers got along without scales for centuries.

Then again, we also got along without food processors and mixers, accurately calibrated ovens and digital thermometers and silicone spatulas. But isn’t life in the kitchen easier – and food prep more pleasant – with these useful tools?

If you absolutely, positively love using your mom’s measuring cups to bake a loaf of bread, then stick with them. They’re a happy memento of the hours you and Mom spent in the kitchen together, a nostalgic connection to your earlier, simpler life.

But if you’re interested in saving time; cutting back on cleanup; and almost certainly enjoying more consistent baking success, then I highly recommend baking with a scale.

It just might be the best $29.95 investment you’ve made in quite some time.

Here’s why –

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1. Weighing ingredients saves time.

Fill a series of measuring cups with ingredients. Level them off. Scrape contents into the mixing bowl.

Or, scoop ingredients directly from the jar or canister into the mixing bowl.

Your choice.

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2. A scale is more accurate than measuring cups.

First, how accurate are your liquid measuring cups? Do the test to find out.

See these two cups? I poured 6 ounces of water into each. The cup on the left looks fairly accurate. The one on the right? Not so much.

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Second, while dry measuring cups are more likely to be accurate than liquid measuring cups (with their sometimes random line markings), a lot depends on how you fill the cup.

Do you scoop and tamp? Level off the top, or just kind of give it a shake? There’s about 2 tablespoons difference between the cocoa in the cup on the left, and the one on the right.

We’ve found when measuring flour, the difference can be even more extreme… up to 3 to 4 tablespoons per cup. That means you might be adding up to 3/4 cup additional flour to a typical bread recipe. OUCH! Talk about dry, tough bread… For more on that, please see how to measure flour for best success.

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3. Weighing batter or dough ensures consistency of portion size.

Think muffins. Do you totally nail your portioning every single time. Or do you end up with some muffins small and pitiful looking – and some mushroom-capped and overflowing their cups?

Here’s what to do for muffins, layer cakes, cookies, or any time you want to portion your dough or batter into finished treats that are all the same size:

•Know the weight of your mixing bowl before you start.
•Once you’ve mixed up your batter, put the bowl on the scale and weigh it.
•Subtract the weight of the bowl, to establish the weight of the batter.
•Do some simple arithmetic: divide the weight of the batter by the number of portions the recipe calls for (e.g., 12 muffins; 24 cupcakes; 2 round cake layers).
Scoop out that amount of batter for each muffin (or cake layer, etc.)

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The result? As you can see, pretty darned nice.

OK, I know you’re wondering: these are our Doughnut Muffins (prior to their “dip” in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar), made into both mini muffins, and standard-size.

Serendipitously, the recipe makes the perfect amount of batter for 20 minis and six standards; I knew that ahead of time, because I weighed the batter. [Pats self on back.]

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4. Weighing ingredients makes it easy to increase (or decrease) recipes to the size you want.

OK, you decide you want 18 muffins, instead of 12. Well, that’s easy – just multiply everything by 1 1/2, right?

This Doughnut Muffin recipe calls for 1/4 cup each butter and vegetable oil; 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup brown sugar.

Rather than get into multiplying fractions, I simply convert to grams (via the easy toggle button on our recipe site), do the basic arithmetic, then weigh everything into the bowl.

Or, if I didn’t have a scale – “Hmmm, 1/4 x 1 1/2 = 3/8 cup. That’s kind of between 1/3 and 1/2, isn’t it? Or maybe I should use the 1/4-cup and fill it 1 1/2 times…” See how measuring by volume can lead you down the slippery slope to inaccuracy?

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5. Weighing = no cleanup of messy measuring cups. None.

Is this what you typically end up with at the end of a relaxing, enjoyable baking project? Sink time, right? Or at a minimum, dishwasher space.

When you weigh ingredients, there are no measuring cups to clean. Full stop.

And that’s where I’ll leave you, as I go on to finish these peanut butter cookies I’ve been using as a demonstration. Just remember, my muffins and cookies turned out great – and I won’t be washing any sticky measuring cups. Will you?

Do you use a scale for baking? Weigh in! Tell us in comments (below) why you bake with a scale.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Laura Etheridge

    I’m a firm believer in weighing ingredients for any baking recipe. This said lately I’m feeling confused by the following:
    If the recipe calls for 2 3/4 cups or 429g of all purpose flour, but on the bag of the brand of flour I’m using at the time says 38 g equal 1/4 c then the 2 3/4c would weigh only
    418 g right?
    So, which is the correct weight to use for the recipe?
    I’d very much apreciate your advise on this, thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Laura, we apologize for any confusion and we’d love to help. The first point of clarity is that not all brands of flour use the same weighing conventions as King Arthur Flour. 1 cup of King Arthur Flour weighs 120 grams according to our Ingredient Weight Chart, but this can vary between kinds of flour as well as brands. If your recipe calls for 2 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, that would be 330 grams if it’s a King Arthur Flour recipe. The recipe source you’re using may weight their flour differently, by packing it into the cup rather than measuring it lightly (like this), accounting for the heavier cup. If the recipe offers weight instead of volume, you’ll be better off using that quantity instead of volume. We know this can be a tricky concept to wrap your head around, so if you’d like to chat with one of our friendly bakers, please feel free to give us a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253). Kye@KAF

  2. Julia Ackerman

    I used scales this year for making my fair cake. Not only did I the cake turn out perfect it took a 1st in the Catergory and sold at Auction. I’m certain that measuring everything on the scales made the difference with this cake!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Congratulations on your first place win, Julia! That’s no small feat. It sounds like you’re now sold on using a scale whenever you’re baking. It’s amazing the difference it makes. Kye@KAF

  3. sandy

    I love using my scale to weigh my flour. But I had a lot of difficulty adapting recipes I had made for years using the dip and sweep method of measuring flour to that of using the scale. I spent all sorts of time trying to understand how much a cup of flour weighs by brand, etc. But in the end I did something really simple. I measured out the flour for the recipe the old way that I had been doing for years using my measuring cups. I then weighed the flour and wrote the weight down in my recipe book. So now, I don’t try to use conversion tables. I use my own data. Worked for me.

    Reply
  4. Susan Larmour

    I have been making the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe for years with love and quality ingredients. Everywhere I take them they are gobbled up as better than any cookie they’ve ever had. I’ve always weighed the flour. But recently I started using King Arthur and it’s like there isnt enough flour. The last batch was so thin they were see through. I measure 2 1/4 cups –> 270 grams What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Your calculation are correct, Susan, if we’re talking about King Arthur Flour recipes. (1 cup of King Arthur All-Purpose Flour weighs 120 grams.) Some recipe sources (especially old recipes) might use heavier cups because they’re measured by scooping the cup directly into the bag of flour. It’s worth noting that our flour is stronger than most other brands, meaning that less of it can be used while getting the same results. But if your cookies turned out flat, you might want to try using a heavier cup to see if that helps create the right texture and rise in your cookies. If not, consider giving our Baker’s Hotline at 855-371-BAKE(2253) and we’ll troubleshoot with you further. Kye@KAF

    2. sandy

      Hi Susan- I had the same problem with my cookies when I went from using measuring cups to using a scale to weigh my flour. I had always used the recipe on the Toll House chips package. So I converted the weight of the flour and concluded that a cup weighed 120g as Kye says. That is what I used as my guideline. However, what I didn’t understand at the time was that the “dip and sweep” method I had used to measure my flour actually compressed the flour as I scooped it out of the package. Rather than having 120g of flour in each cup I scooped I had 151g of flour. Therefore, my cookies didn’t turn out the way they always had because I just wasn’t adding enough flour. I suspect that many old recipes based the volume of flour they directed us to used based on the “dip and sweep” method. I remember thinking at the time that a cup of flour should be a cup of flour regardless. Not so. It all depends on the way you get the flour into the cup. Try a little experiment -“dip and sweep” a cup of flour and then weigh your results. By the way, the “stir, dip, and sweep” method also gives different results, as does “stir, sprinkle, and sweep”.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Good question, Avery. One cup of sourdough (maintained the way we recommend) will weigh between 8 to 8 1/2 ounces or 227-241 grams. Mollie@KAF

  5. T

    For some reason the dough from a cookie recipe I have made forever (Spritz Cookies from 1966 Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery) was just too dense for my cookie press this year. King Arthur’s website converted me to weighing ingredients months ago so I have decided this recipe needs to be converted too.

    I see on your website, 1 cup all purpose flour is 120 grams. My 1966 recipe calls for unsifted flour. Would you recommend the same conversion? 1 cup =120 grams? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I suspect the unsifted flour called for in your cookbook would weigh more than 120g. But it was also probably lower protein than King Arthur Flour, and since lower protein flours absorb more liquid, that would balance the extra weight of the flour. In short — go ahead and use 120g as your weight, but when you make your cookies add the flour gradually, using just enough to make dough that’s the right consistency for your press. Good luck — PJH

  6. Kazzy

    Hi, just purchased a “drop”, it’s a Bluetooth enabled kitchen scale that intuitively guides you step by step through finding, making and sharing dishes with the help of an iPad connected app. They continue to build on drops capabilities. Personally I like the fact that their recipes are kitchen tested, it’s of course less messy and it’s challengin NOT to be successful! I believe they’re looking for content partners, this might be considered for KAF? I can already see a new class perhaps…Baking Perfection the Intuitive, Fast, Easy, Weight Way!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sending this information our way, Kazzy. We’re certainly intrigued and appreciate modern day enhancements to baking. We’ll be sure to pass this suggestion along to the appropriate part of our team to consider when discussing future avenues to explore. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  7. craig barton

    I have been weighing ingredients for 8 years now and it’s the only way to bake. I hope people don’t get confused with web sites like Joy of baking and use the wrong amount of all purpose flour, it is 120g, not 130g for 1 cup of flour

    Reply
  8. Christine Nelson

    I have been a member of the KAF baking circle for some time now. One of the first things I learned from all those wonderful members was the attributes of a scale. I was resistant at first, but they finally convinced me. It was an eye-opening experience. What a wonderful thing!!!! I never bake without it now. It has a permanent spot on my counter.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Christine. I love a scale because I hate washing dishes. Hopefully your testimony will help others give it a try! Susan

  9. Al F.

    I’ve recently discovered the virtue of using a kitchen scale and love it, not just for measuring baking ingredients, but also for pasta and other recipe ingredients.

    Reply

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