Did you know that how you measure your ingredients can have a significant impact on your end result? This is especially true in baking because the wet ingredient to dry ingredient to leavener ratio is crucial for creating the desired chemical reaction. But even in cooking, I've ended up with too much salt because the recipe used larger grained kosher salt while I used table salt.
weighing dry ingredients
When using measuring cups, how much flour you stuff into a cup can vary significantly from what I put into a cup. Why is this? Because you may pack your flour and sugar more tightly, push out more air, and in turn, stuff more flour into a cup. The most accurate method for measuring ingredients such as flour, sugar, and oats is by weighing them. And some of the new digital kitchen scales won't take up any more room than a salad plate. The best part is that it's less messy too! Here's how to do it...
- Make sure the scale is turned on, and the display shows "0". If needed, change the unit of measure (pounds, ounces, grams).
- Place a mixing bowl on your scale. Press the "tare" button. This subtracts the weight of your bowl and resets the display to zero.
- Pour or scoop your ingredient into the bowl until you have the amount you need. If you get a little heavy handed, simply take some out until you have achieved your goal weight.
- If you have another dry ingredient to add, hit "tare" again to reset the display to zero. Then, go ahead and scoop the next ingredient directly into that same bowl.
- TIP: When adding different ingredients into the same bowl, give each its own section in case you get too much of something and need to scoop a little out.
measuring dry ingredients with nested measuring cups
If you bake a lot, and don't have a kitchen scale, get one! But if you don't yet have one or don't bake enough to care to have one, use this method to measure your dry ingredients as accurately as possible...
- Make sure that you're using a nested measuring cup and not a liquid measuring cup. You simply cannot properly level dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup.
- DO NOT put your cup into the ingredient bag and scoop it out. This will compact your sugar or flour, and you'll end up with too much. (This does not apply to brown sugar, which is actively packed into the cup.) Scoop your ingredient out of the bag with a spoon and transfer to your measuring cup. Your measuring cup should be heaping.
- With the flat end of a butter knife (or any straight edge you have handy), level off your ingredient.
Weighing salt: Kosher vs table
For spices, using weights is generally unnecessary, but when it comes to salt, the difference can be huge! Compared to kosher, smaller grained table salt can squeeze double the salting power into each teaspoon. That's right.... A teaspoon of kosher salt weighs 3 grams while a teaspoon of table salt weighs 6 grams. That's double the sodium chloride! So, when a recipe calls for kosher salt and all you got is table salt, be sure to cut back the volume measure by half. But if you're using weights, kosher and table salt can used interchangeably.
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt = 3 grams = 1/2 teaspoon of table salt
- Gram for gram kosher salt and table salt can be used interchangeably.
- If you get confused, salt conservatively and taste as you go.
weighing produce and other ingredients
Even when I'm not baking, I prefer to weigh my ingredients. How much cheese is in a cup of shredded cheese? How many carrots do I need for 2 cups of sliced carrots? It all depends on how the food is chopped and how big your produce is. When I'm cooking dinner on a Monday, I don't want to ponder such questions... I just want to eat. That's why I use weights for the majority of my recipes.
- When I need a pound of assorted vegetables, I just pull out the scale and toss in the veggies until I get to approximately the correct weight.
- It's okay to have a little more or less of an ingredient in your soup or sauce. You just don't want so many vegetables in there that you throw off the balance or overflow your pot.
- Weigh your vegetables, cheeses, and other ingredients before slicing and dicing so you don't prepare more than what you need.