Your measuring cups are lying to you. Weigh your ingredients in grams!

via
Some years ago I was Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon Spain, and having a deep conversation with a Canadian named Ryan about the metric system. Spain and travel make for curious conversations but there we were. I was trying to wrap my head around Celsius when Ryan launched into a sermon on the superiority of the metric system. He stated that a liter of water weighs a kilogram and the logic of metric hit me like a truck. That the metric system work on divisions by ten is cool enough but that fact that all of those measurements are related in a physical way really made sense to me.

Upon my return to the US I reverted to my usual American self only with a new appreciation for and understanding of the method the rest of the world measures things.

Shortly after that conversation in lovely Aragon I was in a cooking class in northern Germany and I was learning how to make a variety of German pastries. All of the recipe notes I was following called for grams and milliliters and since I was equipped with a scale and metric measuring spoons it didn't present a problem.

However, I returned from that trip to my American kitchen and without a digital kitchen scale I was stuck trying to approximate the recipe ratios and the results were less than ideal. So I bought a scale.

For the next few years I kept recipes and notes separated, I had a global food file and an American food file. And it was how I suppose a lot of home cooks operate. Then I started to get serious about bread baking again. I noticed that my German, Italian, English, whatever recipes always came out more consistently than my American ones did. So I devised a test for myself. I measured out the most perfect cup of flour ever measured. Then I weighed it.

A cup of flour should weigh 125 grams. My perfect cup of flour weighed more than 130. That's enough extra flour to screw up all kinds of things. So I measured out another perfect cup of flour and this time it weighed something like 118 grams. Again, that's enough of a difference to throw a recipe. No wonder my American recipes were so inconsistent. Madness!

The more I thought about it and the more I read, I came to the inescapable conclusion that weighing something like flour by volume is absurd. Flour compacts when you handle it and it can be looser or more dense dense depending on the humidity of the room where it's being measured. If that weren't bad enough, I started to weigh the results of my measuring cups across a bunch of different categories and nothing was right. A cup of sugar never came out to an actual cup and neither did salt, or brown sugar or what have you.

When I dug into that a little further I learned the most damning thing of all, there's no international standard for measuring cup manufacturers. My measuring cups were lying and so are yours right now. An American cup is not a Canadian cup is not a Russian cup is not a Japanese cup and none of them are an Australian cup. If you're a manufacturer in China, whose cup are you going to use as a standard when you're supplying bakers all over the globe?

The same thing happens with bakeware though it's a little more subtle. The United States, Liberia and Myanmar are the last three countries in the world that use imperial measure. The rest of the world is a much larger market so instead of pandering to us, they supply the world and just change the labels when things are sold in the US. To that point, your 8-inch square cake pan isn't actually eight inches, it's 20cm that they just call eight inches.

So with all of that said, I made the switch and have never looked back. Any baking recipe anybody ever gets from me will have metric weights and volume measurements. Sometimes, I'll convert them into imperial if I've had the chance to test those conversions. But if I haven't tested it, recipes will remain in all metric all the time. I don't do that because it's an affectation or because I'm complicating things. I use the metric systems because it's more logical, more precise and it makes for more consistent baking.

If you're serious about cooking and baking, you have to buy a digital kitchen scale, it's that simple. The one I linked to there is the one I have and use every day.

Comments