Accurately measuring ingredients is one of the most important steps when baking recipes. Using the right ingredients in the precise amounts stated in the recipe can make all the difference between baked goods that turn out perfectly or end up a complete flop.
Photo by Monserrat Soldú
When ingredients aren’t measured properly, it can throw the chemistry of baking out of balance. Understanding how to correctly measure both dry and liquid ingredients is key for repeatable success.
Why accuracy matters in baking
Baking is essentially chemistry you can eat. Recipes provide formulas with the perfect ratios of ingredients needed to produce the desired chemical reactions. For example, cakes, cookies, and Delicious Dishes like breads rely on the combination of flour proteins and liquid ingredients along with chemical leaveners to produce proper structure and rise. Using too much or too little of something impacts the science at work.
Unlike cooking savory dishes, baking has less room for error and customization. Vegetables can be chopped to any size and meat cooked to varying degrees of doneness. But bake a cake with half the sugar it calls for or double the amount of baking powder, and you likely will end up with a sunken, gritty dessert.
Measuring precisely takes the guesswork out of baking. While it may seem time-consuming to carefully measure, it leads to consistent, repeatable results every time you make a recipe. With an understanding of proper measuring techniques, even novice bakers can produce perfect baked goods.
How incorrect measurents affect baked goods
Using inaccurate amounts of baking ingredients can lead to a host of problems:
- Cakes and quick breads may not rise properly, turning out flat, dense, or with a sunken center
- Cookie and cake batters could be too thick or too thin, resulting in issues spreading in the pan or retaining intended shape
- Pie dough or pastry crusts might not roll out well or could be tough, crumbly or unevenly baked
- Over or under measurements of leaveners like baking powder/soda can make batters rise too rapidly or not at all
- Incorrect salt, sugar or spice amounts could make items taste oddly bland, salty or bitter
- Bars, biscuits or scones may not hold together well or could have an unappealing dry or gummy texture
Clearly, precision is key for the best baked goods. But how exactly can home bakers measure ingredients correctly?
Measuring methods for accurate baking
Achieving desired results relies first on using proper preparation methods and tools. Understanding how to correctly measure both liquid and dry ingredients is the basis for success.
Having appropriate measuring equipment eliminates guessing and makes getting accurate amounts easy:
- Liquid measuring cups – Clear cups with pour spouts and external volume markings are perfect for measuring out milk, water, oil and other wet ingredients precisely.
- Dry measuring cups – Best for measuring dry goods like flour, sugar, oats, etc. They come in set sizes of 1⁄4 cup, 1⁄3 cup, 1⁄2 cup and 1 cup to fill.
- Measuring spoons – For small amounts of both liquid and dry ingredients. Typically come in 1⁄4 tsp, 1⁄2 tsp, 1 tsp and 1 Tbsp sizes.
- Food scale (optional but helpful) – Great for weighed ingredients like certain flours or chocolate, removes volume guesswork.
Technique tips for liquid vs dry goods
Proper technique is also required depending on if you’re measuring liquid or dry ingredients:
- Place liquid measuring cup on a flat surface
- Bend down to check the correct fill line at eye level
- Carefully pour liquid in cup up to the lowest line of desired amount
- Use nonstick spray for sticky ingredients like honey or corn syrup
- Lightly spoon ingredient into appropriate sized dry measuring cup
- Without packing or tapping, level off excess with a straight edge
- For compacted brown sugar, press firmly into cup then level off top
- For sifted flour, spoon flour in cup first then sift – don’t sift directly into bowl
Key things to remember
Follow these tips for guaranteed accurate ingredient measuring:
- Read the full recipe beforehand so you know which tools will be needed
- Focus on one ingredient at a time over the mixing bowl
- Use liquid and dry measuring cups only for their intended purposes
- Scrape containers to incorporate every last bit of ingredient
- When unsure between measurement lines, use a tad less rather than more
- Double check amounts of key reactive ingredients like leaveners, salt, yeast
Step-by step guide to measuring baking ingredients
Want an easy way to get perfectly measured baking ingredients every time? Just follow this simple step-by-step process:
Prep tools and ingredients
- Read through recipe fully to anticipate needed tools and ingredients
- Wash and dry measuring cups and spoons
- Gather all ingredients and place near mixing area
- Ensure butter, eggs and perishables are at room temperature
Measure wet ingredients
- Place liquid measuring cup on flat, level surface
- Add each liquid ingredient slowly, bending to check accurate line
- Measure oils, then honey, corn syrup or other stickier liquids
Measure dry ingredients
- Lightly spoon flour, sugar or other dry ingredients into appropriate cup
- Level off the top evenly without packing down
- Repeat with next dry ingredient using cleaned measuring tools
Measure semi-solid fats
- Pack butter, shortening or coconut oil firmly into spoon and level off top
- Repeat for number of tablespoons or cups recipe calls for
Measure small amounts with care
- Use designated measuring spoon for small amounts like yeast, baking soda
- Carefully level off excess (being precise is vital for these reactive ingredients)
Combine all ingredients in bowl
- Transfer each pre-measured ingredient into mixing bowl gently
- Use rubber spatula to incorporate everything well
- Enjoy your perfectly measured ingredients ready for mixing!
Being detail-oriented with preparing baking ingredients leads to accurate recipes and delicious results every time. Use the appropriate liquid and dry measuring tools for each ingredient type. Focus on precision fill lines and proper leveling techniques. And tap into all your senses while measuring – really look closely, scrape containers fully, feel if your butter is softened. Follow the step-by-step guide and you’ll be measuring like a seasoned baker.