This is the last time (for a while, at least) that I’ll try and sell you on converting to weight measurements instead of volume for cooking. As you can tell, I’m pretty passionate about it. I think it’s significant and important so lend me your ear for a few minutes to explain why.

It’s Accurate
1 cup of all purpose flour can weigh anywhere from 3 1/2 oz to 6 oz, depending on who’s measuring, how hard they scoop, how tightly the flour is packed in the measuring cup, whether or not the flour is sifted, etc. I don’t think I need to tell you how much difference that can make in your baked goods.

Same goes for eggs; most amateur recipes call for a quantity of eggs as opposed to weight. This might be accurate if everyone who uses said recipe buys “large” eggs from a grocery store (which are very consistent in size) but that’s not always the case. Some people buy “extra large.” And if you get your eggs straight from the chicken, you can forget about consistency. My grandparents look out for the sweet, old lady across the street. Her son-in-law has a farm and when he comes into town to check on her, he often brings a dozen fresh eggs to my grandparents. I occasionally end up with some. When you open the carton, there are all kinds of sizes and they weigh anywhere from 1 1/4 oz to 2 3/8 oz each. Measuring my recipes by weight ensures I’ll use the right amount no matter what size eggs I have.

At this point, you might be wondering if all that really matters. You have a favorite cookie recipe you’ve been making for years, measuring with cups and spoons, and they’re always perfect. But have you ever tasted an outstanding cookie made by a friend, asked for the recipe, made a batch, but they didn’t taste as good as your friend’s? Better yet, have you read reviews for an online recipe that has mostly positive reviews but peppered in are comments like, “I don’t know what went wrong but this was terrible”? There are only two explanations; improper technique or inconsistent measuring. You can eliminate half the chance for error using a more accurate method for measuring. We’ll eliminate the other half as we progress through the lessons and learn proper technique.

It’s Easy
When scaling a restaurant recipe down for personal use or scaling a test recipe up for large production, weight is the easiest method. Here’s a practical example, get out your calculator. My recipe for crab cakes at the restaurant yields 48 crab cakes but I want to make 8 for dinner at home. I divide 48 by 8 to get the magic number I need to divide each ingredient by; in this case, 6. The original recipe calls for 3 oz panko bread crumbs (approximately 1 1/3 cups). Check out the difference in volume vs weight when scaling it down from 48 to 8 crab cakes:

Volume: 1 1/3 cups (1.333…) divided by 6 is 0.222166… cups. 

Weight: 3 oz divided by 6 = 1/2 oz.  

(Did I lose you? Forgive me, I’m a total math nerd.) Weight clearly wins in both ease and accuracy, unless you’re confident you can accurately measure 0.2221666… cups. While it’s not always that much easier to break down a recipe by weight, it’s never harder.

It’s Fast
Using the original crab cake recipe above and measuring by volume requires a mixing bowl, 1 cup & 1/3 cup measures for bread crumbs, plus 1/2 cup & 1/4 cup measures for other ingredients. That means I have to sift through my equipment to find all the correct sizes. And if I used the 1/4 cup measure earlier for another recipe, I have to wash it before I get started. Then I have 5 things to wash when I’m done.

Using the same recipe but measuring by weight, I need one bowl and a scale. I don’t have to hunt down a bunch of equipment and I don’t have as much to clean up and put away. Just imagine what a difference this makes when turning my kitchen into a mini cookie factory in December.

Like most people, I measured by volume for years and years and accumulated a lot of recipes. I also have recipes passed down from previous generations that are all measured by volume. I used scales professionally and I wondered if it was worth the effort to convert all my home recipes. So the next time I made biscuits, I measured the ingredients like usual, then weighed them as I tossed them into my mixing bowl. I recorded the weights on the recipe in my phone (which, thanks to Evernote, syncs with my computer), and the work was done. It was very little effort and completely worth it. I do that as I prepare each old recipe and also for new ones I try. I still don’t have all my recipes converted and that’s okay… it’ll happen over time.

I went back and forth about whether I should include volume measurements on recipes I post on the blog and ultimately, I decided I should. As much as it pains me, most of the free world still measures using volume and as hard as I work to perfect my recipes, it would be senseless to limit their usefulness to the 3 people who measure by weight and stumble across this blog. However, I may occasionally post professional recipes that were originally recorded by weight without volume measurements. Consider yourself warned.

Oz vs Fl Oz
Two little letters can send you scaling in the wrong direction and really ruin your day when you’re trying a new recipe. I would do you a disservice by not addressing them here. When you see “fl” before “oz” on anything, it means “fluid ounces” and is therefore referring to volume and not weight. There are a few ingredients that are said to weigh the same as their mass; meaning if you weighed out 8 ounces and measured 8 fluid ounces, you’d get the same amount of product. Because of differences in manufacturing, I don’t trust that to be accurate enough anymore so I don’t think it’s worth exploring here.

It’s a shame that whoever named Imperial measurements used the word “ounce” for two different units of measure because it really confuses people. When we opened 180, we made a great sauce that my boss created when he was at another restaurant. He gave me the recipe and I made it about a dozen times while we tested recipes and for formal menu tastings, always without a hitch. When we hired our staff, I went through three different Sauciers (the most important position in our kitchen) who couldn’t get it right. My boss thought there was something wrong with the recipe but I had made it so many times, I knew it was accurate. I even waited until everyone went home one night before we opened and whipped out a batch, just to make sure. It was perfect. It wasn’t until the third Saucier made it incorrectly that I realized they were all measuring incorrectly. The recipe was written using ounces and all three of them (all culinary school graduates, by the way) measured using fluid ounces. The moral of the story; stay alert.

In a slightly related topic, I created a handy little measurement chart that you can put up next to your Meat Temperature Guide. It’s a visual that should help you convert volume measurements. Plus, it looks better than some alternatives. There are two options; I like the gray one but it takes a lot of ink to print so I made a white one, too. Enjoy!

Printable Gray Conversion Chart
Printable White Conversion Chart

I stumbled across a blog that has become my new favorite. It’s called Bravetart and I loooove it. The author also prefers weight to volume and her post as to why is much more eloquent (and less wordy) than mine. Check her out.

Next Post:  How to Effectively Organize Your Recipes
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