Let’s Talk: How You Measure Flour Makes a Difference
How you measure flour makes all the difference in baked goods. Get all the details on the easiest, quickest way to measure flour correctly!
I hate to get all in your business today, but we need to talk about how you are measuring your flour.
Years ago, I did a kitchen tip about it. But it’s time for a little refresh (thanks for all your comments on the Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cookies this week that made me shoot this to the top of our Let’s Talk priority list).
If you asked ten people to measure out a cup of flour, it’s very likely that the actual amount of flour in each cup would be all across the board depending on how that person measured it. This is why many experts say the only real way to ensure baking success is to weigh your ingredients.
This is a great idea unless a) the recipe doesn’t give weights and b) you don’t own a digital scale. Don’t panic. Read on.
I’ve slowly been adding weight measures to my archived baking recipes (and most of my new posts over the last year include them). Seven years ago, you wouldn’t have seen me using a kitchen scale at all.
I thought it was fussy and a little pretentious, if I’m being honest, and unnecessary. But as I started baking more and more and more and reading advice from places I trust (like America’s Test Kitchen and King Arthur Flour), I decided it was worth $15 to get myself a digital scale (I’ve owned this one and currently own this one)…and I’ve never looked back.
Now. It gets a little confusing as many experts differ in what they recommend a cup of flour should weigh. For instance, King Arthur Flour says a cup of flour should weigh 4 ounces, and to my knowledge, that’s how they test their recipes. But when I weigh 4 ounces of flour, it looks like this:
…which is not even close to filling up the cup. To me, this says if you don’t own a scale, you are most likely going to significantly overmeasure the flour in a recipe that’s been developed using 4 ounces per cup.
America’s Test Kitchen, for most recipes, uses 5 ounces per cup. And because I can realistically measure out 5 ounces of flour in a cup, it’s the rule I follow.
It is safe to say that all the recipes on my blog that include weights have been developed using the 5 ounces per cup rule of thumb. If they don’t include weights, it’s still pretty safe to assume I’ve used 5 ounces per cup of flour since it’s how I consistently measure my flour (I’ll explain more below) even if I’m not weighing it.
Updated to add: there have been some questions in the comments, so let me clarify quickly – this post is intended to simply highlight how the method of measuring can impact the weight of a cup of flour. But on an every day, practical level, I don’t weigh my ingredients one cup of flour at a time like is shown in this post.
Instead, I put a bowl on the scale and use the tare feature to zero it out. Then I can add the dry ingredients until the correct weight is reached (using the tare function over and over if adding different dry ingredients to the same bowl).
If I had to whip up some scientific research from eight years of blogging and lots of troubleshooting with many of you in the comment thread of my baking recipes, I would go out on a limb and say that in many cases, flour is being over measured more than it is under measured.
Measuring flour probably falls into one of three methods (although clearly there could be more options if you got all wild and crazy with the flour measuring). Let’s take a look at them and see how each method converts to the scale. These three cups of flour were all measured differently although they look pretty similar. How do you think they stack up?
First up. The Dip & Level (or Scoop & Sweep or Dip & Sweep or…you get the picture) method. This is what I use 100% of the time when measuring flour with cups. Keep in mind: it assumes that the flour is nice and fluffy and not packed. I have an enormous flour bin in my pantry and I do this fluffing action every time before I measure out flour. Use a spoon or the measuring cup to break up the flour and fluff it up so it’s nice and airy.
Hello nice and fluffy flour.
Now, simply dip in the cup lightly without overpacking the flour.
And level it off with a straight edge.
Ah, look at that. Five ounces on the money. That’s what I’m after with every cup of flour that I scoop.
Another common method is to Dip & Shake (or Scoop & Shake) and even though it sounds like a funky, old school dance, it’s actually the flour measuring method you should never, ever use. Here’s why.
After you dip in the cup to measure the flour…
…and it’s piled high…
…you might be tempted to take the easy way out (you know, no dirtying an extra knife and all) and shake it down to level.
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that by doing this, more flour is getting compressed into the cup. In this case, over 1/2 an ounce more flour is in this cup than in the Dip & Level method.
Half an ounce can make a huge (massive, earth shattering) difference in a recipe, especially if it calls for more than one cup of flour. This cup of flour was used with the aforementioned fluffy flour. It would weigh even more if that cup had been scooped into dense, compacted flour. I’m shivering with dread just thinking about it.
The last method to highlight is the Spoon & Level way. My grandma measured her flour this way. Spoon it in.
Level it off. And call it good.
And while it’s a great way to avoid packing too much flour into the cup, you may end up with a notoriously light cup of flour. 4.6 ounces in this case – almost half an ounce the other direction.
Here it is in one glance.
So what does all of this mean?
For me and my blog, it means if you want the very best results from the baking recipes (see a note below about breads, specifically) compiled here, use the dip and level method (if you aren’t already). It’s how I measure flour and the recipes here will be consistent with that method.
Even better, if the recipe uses weights, pull out your kitchen scale (or add it to your wish list!) and use that instead. Just to test it out, if you don’t use a kitchen scale on a regular basis, try borrowing one from a friend or neighbor to quickly see how much a cup of flour you measure weighs. If anything, it will give you a guideline on whether or not to start measuring differently or how to adjust your measuring technique for recipes you are using.
Updated to add: in this post I am highlighting an individual cup of flour and how much it weighs but if you are new to using a kitchen scale or just curious, on an every day practical level, when I’m baking, I don’t measure each cup of flour for a recipe one-by-one like this. I usually place a bowl on the scale, use the tare feature to zero it out, and then add the dry ingredients to the bowl until it gets to the desired weight (this goes for flour, sugar, oats, cocoa, and on and on). If you are adding several different dry ingredients to the same bowl, you can keep using the tare function to add the ingredients together, zero-ing it out everytime to get accurate weights for each ingredient (this will save you from using lots of separate bowls so you feel like using a scale is actually productive and efficient).
When I use recipes from other sources and weight measures are not included, I always stick to my dip & level method. That’s not to say the recipes turn out 100% of the time (ha!) but unless I know the recipe has been tested using a different method, it’s just what I do. You could always email the blogger/source and ask them how they measure their flour so you can try doing the same when using their recipes.
Too much flour can lead to dense cakes and breads, cookies that don’t flatten at all, and a lot of other problems. Not enough flour could mean gummy or spongy cakes, bread that falls and pancake-thin cookies, among other things.
Updated to add: remember (all my lectures over the years about this should be somewhere present in your mind) that when it comes to yeast breads and rolls and other doughs, I almost never use a specific volume or even weight of flour – based on a million different factors, I go by the texture and feel of the dough. Bread making is it’s own separate animal. The flour info in this post is most appropriate for technical baking like cookies, cakes, brownies, quick breads, muffins, etc.
Because I want you to be a complete rock star in the kitchen (and to kill it with the recipes I have posted here), I wanted to clarify how I measure flour (and I don’t want to sound bossy, but how I think you should measure flour, too).
And. I think that is all.
Who knew I could wax so long and poetic about measuring flour.
And if you are interested in appeasing my curiosity, how do you measure your flour?
As always, this post is unsponsored; I’ve included a few affiliate links in the post above to the kitchen scales I highly recommend and use on Amazon.
105 Comments on “Let’s Talk: How You Measure Flour Makes a Difference”
I use the do and level method. When they give weights, it confuses me.
However i recently got a scale, so I will make sure I’m using correct amount of flour. I knew how to use the tare thing, but I didn’t know I could keep zeroing it out like you explained. This has been most helpful for me! Thank you!
The consensus on flour is 130 grams equal 1 cup for unbleached all purpose. 236 grams for water and 242 grams for milk. How I came up with the measurements is; I googled them. There were varying opinions so what I did was I went with the amount that appeared the most and was the most reliable source. No matter I’ve adjusted all of my recipes using the Bakers Percentage which is your flour is 100% and the rest of the ingredients are a percentage of the flour. If you weigh out all of your ingredients in grams it’s easy to adjust all of your ingredients
I have been baking for a long time and purchased a kitchen scale a few years ago. The weighing of the flour provides consistent results, in your baked items. I use King Arthur Flour and their recommended weight, on their package is 120 grams per one cup.
However, I spoke to a bakery owner and their recommended weight is 140 grams per cup.
The scale is very helpful when making bread!! Im using the 140 grams per cup now……
Great information, thank you! I DID see/hear/read the dip and level was the proper way several years ago, but it was a real revelation to me. I’ve never been a great baker so I’ve never done much of it. But my family all tend toward being heavy and don’t NEED baked goods often. THen I was hit with being gluten-intolerant 15 yrs ago. That pretty much put an end to any baking I was attempting. With the evolution of available gf flours and products, I’m more interested in trying a few things. I like your suggestion of the scale. I had also read years ago that was fairly necessary but at the time it struck me as way too fru-fru and only for REAL bakers, which I was barely at all. It’s now on my Wishlist.
Thank you! This explains a lot. My cookies are always flat. Thanks for posting. I’ve got a scale, time to pull it out. BTW, I’m a “lightly spoon and level” kind of gal. That’s what I remember from Home Ec. in the Summer of ‘72.
MELS: Re flour measuring
I use a small 2 inch sifter and scoop out flour in it. I shake the flour into the measuring cup and just use the bottom of the sifter to roughly level the flour in the cup.
I check the dough ball while making the dough and add water or flour to get a soft and just slightly tacky dough.
Works for me
I was taught to always sift my flour before measuring. Is this considered fluffing . Should I wait until after sifting to add my other ingredients. Your help greatly appreciated.
Sifting will produce a finer/lighter result than fluffing.
Thanks for the article on measuring flour. Even though I had Home Ec in school, I didn’t feel confident about it! I also worry about when my flour should be sifted or not. What’s the rule on that? Thanks!
I use your way of measuring flour; I use my Bosch Universal Plus Mixer, same bench scraper as you and same bread knife as you without having know you use them when I got them!!
Question: Since KAF recipes are based on 1 cup=4oz, while others such as Cook’s Illustrated are based on Gold Medal Flour, with 1 cup=5 oz, if one wants to make the Cooks Illustrated recipe and only has KAF flour, do you recommend using the 10 oz called for in the recipe based on Gold Medal?
In other words, when substituting flour is it the volume or the weight that is important?
Such a good question, Rosemarie. My advice is to use the measurements in the recipe you are using since it’s been tested that way. I don’t think it’s an issue of the type or brand of flour, it’s more an issue of how the recipe has been tested. For instance, I follow 1 cup = 5 ounces. But if I’m making a recipe from King Arthur Flour, no matter the brand of flour I use, I use their 4 ounce per cup measurement. If a recipe doesn’t give ANY weight measures, I fluff the flour, scoop lightly and level off (and don’t use weight measures at all). If you are making a Cook’s Illustrated recipe with King Arthur Flour I would use Cook’s Illustrated’s 1 cup = 5 ounces measurement since that’s how the recipe has been tested. Does that help?
I do dip and level but did not realize that I needed to fluff before measuring! Amazon loves you—- I ordered my kitchen scale!
Im ordering a scale and will try baking with it. Using a scale, how will this effect my liquid ingredients? My measuring cups are 8oz. Measures.
I’m making your sandwich bread now.
Different flours will weigh different, look on the side of the package for the manufacturer’s numbers for each flour as to how many grams are in a cup. As a side note measuring grams it’s way more accurate. King Arthur unbleached white flour is 120 grams per cup.
For cakes, breads and baked goods, I always do either the spoon in an level, or better yet, just weighing it out. I lean towards the 4 1/4 oz per cup, unless the recipe says sifted. Most of my cookbooks for cakes and breads have the weight equivalent of 4.25 oz. I’ll make sure to use a full 5 ounces with recipes from this website!
Hi Mel! Do you use bread flour at all? Or would you say most, if not at all, of your recipes call for all-purpose flour? I just noticed that your French bread rolls call for all-purpose four and I’ve been using bread flour. Thanks!
Hi Marcie – I don’t usually keep bread flour on hand, so I almost always use unbleached, all-purpose flour and if I want bread flour, I’ll add in a couple tablespoons of gluten (since I always have that on hand for whole wheat bread making). However, bread flour will sub really well for the French bread roll recipe and a few other bread recipes on my site (like the French bread). It adds a bit more chewiness.
Thank you for the info. I guess the recipe I have must mean that she uses more flour by packing it down so that the cookies don’t flatten. Will save your blog . Shirley
My mom always did the spoon and level method but I usually just shake it down. Oops!
I did notice while in Australia, a lot of recipes are in grams which is really nice because it makes it super easy to weigh ingredients. I wish more recipes were in weight because it can make a big difference!
My baking has changed for the better since I started using a scale to measure ingredients! I do not do it for everything I cook but now I always use it for cookies, cakes, and breads!
Earlier I asked a question on your post for your best carrot cake to clarify which method you use to measure the flour when making the cake, and you indicated it was by weight. In the tutorial above you note that when you’re not measuring by weight you use the dip & level method for flour. However, I noticed that in your recipe for your best pie pastry you use the spoon-and-sweep method for measuring flour, which would give you less flour than if you dipped & leveled. Is the pastry an exception to your usual rule?
Yes, it’s the exception; I’m actually updating that recipe as we speak with a video tutorial as well as weights for the pie crust. For recipes like that – that don’t follow my dip and level method I’ll put a note like I did in that one. My goal is to get all the baking recipes on here streamlined with weight measures.
Your recipes are extremely well written and detailed. Even if you’re a seasoned baker, it’s helpful to have everything spelled out in a recipe. Thank you!
I am feeling really stupid right about now. I have the same scale you do. I use the tare feature all the time to X out the weight of the bowl. NEVER did it even cross my mind to use it and continue adding ingredients. Mind blown.
Great article..I use King Arthur a lot also! They do flour 4 1/4 oz. per cup I believe! So, when you do their recipes do you go by their weights or yours? Just always use the weights the recipe has I understand, but when just by cups no weights, what is best..Use a 5oz. cup or a 4 1/4 house cup???? They do spoon and level, I like your way better!
If I am using a recipe with no weights, just cup measures, I use the dip and level method (with fluffed flour) which gives me right around that 5 ounces per cup mark. If I’ve done that and a recipe doesn’t work out (cookies don’t flatten or vice versa), I know to either cut down or add a bit to the flour amount next time. When I use King Arthur Flour’s recipes, I use their weight measures, never cup measures – but if I ever repost an adaptation, I always convert it to use my go-to way of 5 ounces per cup, if that makes sense.
I either use the fluff, spoon and level or scale methods, depending on what I’m making. Getting ready to make my aunt’s roll recipe and will make half into cinnamon rolls. For this recipe I just use the spoon and level method. Sifting also depends on what I’m baking. Always get rave reviews on my baking/cooking
I love when you get all up in my cooking business 🙂
I’ll throw in my two cents that elevation makes quite a difference too! My grandmother lives at sea level, and if she doesn’t sift her flour, it just doesn’t get fluffy enough and a measuring cup always ends up with too much flour in it. Even “fluffing” it with a spoon or something before measuring.
But I, on the opposite spectrum, live over 4500 ft, and I have never sifted in my life. But my recipes all turn out like hers. I think it’s because the flour doesn’t compress as tightly as it does down there at sea level.
This was very helpful and informative. Thank you Mel!!
Ugh…this is discouraging. I have been baking for years and have never weighed flour. Never heard of it and no, I don’t live under a rock. How I measure flour is spoon it into the cup and level It off.
Don’t be discouraged, Becky! Stick with what works for you. If you’ve been baking for years and your baked goods turn out, no need to fix anything.
Years ago, I “invested” (a whole $15 or so) in a digital. One of the top three best budget kitchen buys I EVER made. I use it everyday.
I’m love cooking, but baking is a chore for me. Which is why I prefer European sweet recipes…..their recipes always come in weights instead of dry measures.
Listen to her, Girls! BUY A SCALE!!! You won’t spend much and you’ll have it for years and always have consistent outcomes.
I make homemade pizza every week. What I use is a measuring cup with a scale attached to it. It has an icon for flour sugar water oil etc. which makes it easy for me to be exact.
I love your “classes,” Mel, and would be grateful for more. If you were here in person, I would give you a thank-you hug. I am 65 and enjoy baking but have been frustrated many times with my cakes….mostly chocolate cakes. Maybe this is why – I dip, shake and level!! This evening I am making chocolate chip cookies for my Sunday School lesson tomorrow 🙂 and I am going to be sure to dip and level only! Many thanks!
Fluff, dip, and level here. And I use our kitchen scale fairly often. I originally learned about dip and level from the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes” folks and then was gratified to have that reinforced by you awhile back (maybe in that kitchen tip?). I occasionally bake with European recipes, and the scale is indispensable for those. Thanks for the great post!
I always use the lazy way and do the dip and shake. *gasp* the horror! Here’s the weird thing…. At least when making breads, I ALWAYS have to ADD more flour than the recipe calls for to get the right texture. And if I ever have trouble with another baked good, it’s always the “not enough flour” problem – cookies that go TOO flat, gummy cakes, etc. Now I’m curious… I need to go measure how much flour I get using the dip and shake because it would seem from my results that I’m getting less than I should. Interesting…
I went and weighed a cup the way I always measure it. Did it a few times. Turns out that I always get between 4.6 and 4.8 oz with the dip and shake method. Unless I deliberatly and consciously way overfill the cup before I shake it. Then I get a weight consistent with yours. Very interesting. Apparently, the weight on the dip and shake method depends on how full you make the cup before you shake it.
I think you’re right, Jen! Thanks for checking back in.
I almost always scoop and shake (after loosening the flour like you do). But I usually end up with a scant cup of flour so i don’t think I end up with the extra half ounce.
I know you say not to use weight measure for bread, but I’d still love you to weigh it just one time for me. I’m still trouble shooting my bread a bit, and I’d like to know how much further I should go on flouring. I’m still having trouble eyeing the feel of my dough before it’s been kneaded in the Bosch. And then once it’s been kneaded it seems too late to add more…
Yes! I forgot about that…I’ll weigh my flour for the whole wheat bread next time I make it.
Please excuse the jump in here … I have learned so much from Mel reading ALL of the flour and dough posts – and I’ve been making my own yeast doughs for 40 years! In the last 4-5 years, I’ve been making mostly no knead which I still knead just a wee bit. Anyway, if you are having trouble getting a feel for the dough, maybe a couple of rounds skipping the Bosch and hand kneading. There is a point where the dough starts cleaning your hands of flour and it changes to a soft, elastic-y texture. I go a bit more with not much more flour. I think working by hand helps with understanding what you are going for. A caveat being that I’ve never used a mixer to knead dough.
I use the dip and level method for making bread, because that is what the book I got the recipe from said to use. lol. However when using the older recipes that I have been using for decades ( I’m a retiree) I use the fluff really well, spoon and level method. Because my mother sifted, spooned and then leveled. I suspect this comes closer to the 4 ounces than the 5. I still use biscuit recipes from way back when, and have noticed that they work better when I am careful not to get too much flour in the cup and to fluff very well. I would suggest that anyone using older recipes might want to use the spoon method instead of dipping.
I’m thinking about getting a digital scale and weighing ingredients. It would entail some extra work adding weight to the recipes, but I think you have convinced me it would be more accurate. I do use a non digital scale for measuring bread dough for loaves of bread and other such, but have never used it for baking ingredients. Thanks for letting us know how you measure, it does make a difference.
I’m wondering if weighing the ingredients matters for everyday recipes as much as it does for fancier or fussier things- like chiffon cake or cream puffs or macarons. I have always used the fluff-scoop-level method and get really good results for cookies, muffins, coffeecakes. I’m pretty accurate about measuring all ingredients, since baking is more sciency that soup or something. I don’t have a scale but I’m considering buying one.
The more accurate the measurements, the more reproducible and consistent the products will be.
I have not used a sifter for a very long time, and I think it would be an interesting talk about if sifting is still necessary or is that becoming a thing of the past. Aerating the flour in my container first, then measuring, seems to give the results I like. Also- I’m interested in the way measuring evolved. Did pioneer women all have standardized spoons or cups, or was it just alot of guesswork? who decided what a cup is, or a tablespoon? Sorry to ramble– when I’m out on my riding mower I have wayy too much time to think about these things. lol.
Great thoughts, Barb. 🙂 Ultimately, I think if you are getting good results, stick with what works! I think the pioneer women (and even some of our older grandparents) baked a lot by texture and look and feel. It would have stressed me out!
I never understood why things need to be weighed until I found your site. I’ve been using my scale now, because there is nothing worse than a recipe not turning out after all the work you’ve put into it. And it is super easy. I have a non-digital scale, and it seems to be really accurate and hasn’t disappointed me. Making your chocolate zucchini cookies sold me even more on the importance of weighing. And, by the way, every person who has consumed one of those cookies has asked for the recipe 🙂
I love my digital scale! In addition to measuring baking ingredients, I have used it to make sure the same amount of batter is in each cake pan or loaf pan for pound cake or quick breads. It’s great for dividing mixes into smaller portions for just my husband and me. I have also used it to weigh packages for postage estimates. I will never be without one again. I do think that using cups is still a pretty good method if people use proper technique. I have used the same sets of stainless steel and plastic measuring cups for over 30 years. Before measuring cups, home bakers cooked by touch and feel. My mother used measuring cups in high school about 1940, and convinced my grandmother to start using them. Before that, grandma would make a “try cake”, bake a little batter to see whether her proportions would work. She did not enjoy baking much. Measuring cups took a lot of stress out of baking, and they are an inexpensive, durable method for home cooks.
I’ve read that King Arthur has a higher protein content than other brands. Maybe that’s why they use 4.25 oz. per cup and other brands use 5 oz. per cup?
I grew up with the dip and sweep method, it’s what my Mom has always used. But like you, I learned the value of digital scales and use them as much as possible. Thanks for sharing your results from the testing, I had figured dip & sweep would be heavier! So it’s nice to know that’s a good option if I’m in a hurry.
Hi Mel:) this is a great post! I use the dip and level method, and I always just fluff the floor in my container with the measuring cup I’m going to use. I was raised sifting the floor into the measuring cup, then leveling it, and I haaated that method! I started fluffing my flour when I grew up and had my own kitchen, although it felt like the lazy way to get around sifting. So I’m happy to hear that fluffing is the way to go! Hurray!! (And I’m guessing that sifting would probably be lighter than the 5 oz of flour per cup)
I use a digital postal scale I got off eBay for $8.00 including shipping. I can’t drive to the mall for that price!
I’m still on my same set of batteries, too and I use it daily.
I’m a home ec (family and consumer science) teacher in Utah and on our annual state test the correct answer for the proper way to measure flour is “spoon and level”. But that being said, the state test is sooo out dated. I think our Grandma’s wrote it, truthfully. They have tons of outdated things on it like “when cooking on the range”…Hand raised…”What’s a range?” “When cooking your fresh broccoli in the microwave, how do you position it?”….Hand raised… “Who cooks delicious fresh broccoli in the microwave?” You get the point. I do the “dip and level” and it works like a charm. 🙂 Thanks for your post.
Haha. That made me laugh!
As a culinary school grad I weigh pretty much everything. It becomes a natural way of baking after a while and well worth the effort when recipes turn out the same every time. This is an excellent post, thanks Mel.
I’ve been wondering lately what kitchen scale you use and I’m so glad you updated your post. I’m ordering my scale right now Mel!
Honestly I typically do the dip & shake, but I don’t usually have a mound on top to shake off. For me I’ve noticed the humidity has more of a factor in my recipes rather than the way I measure the flour.
Thanks Mel! Can I just say, you have one of my favorite food blogs! You keep it real:0) I feel like you are one of the last true-blue un-commercialized food blogs out there. Your love for good food and your readers is apparent. Thanks for all you do to make our lives a little easier and sweeter!
Back in my 4-H days I was taught the scoop and level method. Over the years I got a little lazy and was using the scoop and shake, but lately I’ve been mending my ways.
I simply love this post. I already wrote down on a post-it note that my one cup of flower needs to equal 5 ounces weighed. I then stuck it up on my inside pantry door. Way to go Mel! I ran into a teacher you know- Amy. She has had your kids in her classes. Fun to talk about your blog to one another.
I fluff, dip and level like you but I used to dip and shake (because like you said, it was easier and you didn’t have to find a knife to scrape with!). I never liked the spoon and level method so I’m glad that isn’t what you use. I also have to say I got excited when I saw that I have the same scale as you!
It’s a great scale! I actually just started using another one I had bought on Amazon a few weeks ago because after having the one pictured in the post for probably three years, it fell of the counter one time too many and bit the dust. I’ve linked to both in the post because they are equally good scales.
Thank you for these guidelines! Do you store your flour in a giant bowl? I’d like to start using your method, but I purchasr flour by the bag and generally just scoop right out of the bag.
Hi Aileen – I store my flour in a giant bin that sits on the floor of my pantry (I work through an insane amount of flour – I buy the unbleached all-purpose at Costco). This is the one I have on Amazon (I bought it at Costco several years ago):
I use my scale a lot and love when recipes have weights for everything…then I can just weigh it all in the bowl without breaking out a bunch of measuring cups. As far as measuring though, I’ve always used the spoon and level method thinking that dip and level would pack the flour in too much. I haven’t had any issues with any of my recipes (that I’m aware of) but you had me curious and I went to the kitchen to try it myself in the middle of typing this comment. I tried the two level methods three times each, knowing the flour was getting fluffier each time I started over and therefore changing a variable. Spoon and level came out between 4.5-4.75 ounces each time. Dip and level came out between 4.75 and 5.12. Like you said, 10 different people could measure it differently, and I’ll just add that one person measuring it many times will also come out with different weights. For me, that was about a 1/4 ounce variance. So, it looks like my cup is generally 4.75 ounces and I’m going to have to leave it there or I might make myself crazy 😉
Ramona – thanks for checking in on this and experimenting in the kitchen! You are right, a cup of flour can weigh differently each time even with the same person, which adds more weight (haha) to the theory that when possible, using a scale is the best bet for accurate baking. 🙂
PS: and I have to echo what others have said in the comments, the great thing is that even though the sound of “weigh your ingredients” or “using a kitchen scale” may seem intimidating, it’s actually shockingly easy and kind of fun.
This tutorial is so great–I’m so glad you are spreading the word on the matter. I went years with not understanding this concept and it resulted in never being successful with baking, particularly yeast breads. One thing I learned was that the flour I use regularly is a very heavy flour. Once I weighed a cup of that particular flour, I could then visually see what it looks like/feels like in my measuring cup (I tend to use the same measuring cup for flour only–so weird but helpful). I can now safely use the dip and shake method of measuring and it works great especially with the tried and true recipes I use frequently (that are from your blog thank you very much). I just wanted to point out to the scale-shy people that weighing in the beginning is so helpful and then you don’t have to be tied to it all the time.
Thank you, Nancy – I value everyone’s experiences so thanks for adding yours.
Mel, when you do your baking, are you taking into consideration the type of flour? On the King Arthur site it indicates that a cup of white, whole wheat flour weighs less than a cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour. As you said, it is a bit confusing —–with all the different flours, different sites stating different weights, etc. I guess the main thing is that we know that you go by 5 oz for 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Thanks for helping us move towards improving our baking and getting consistent results!
Hi Ruth, great question. In this post I’m referring generally to all-purpose flour (I use unbleached all-purpose flour). Cake flour is usually 4 ounces per cup (that’s what I use for my recipes using cake flour). When it comes to whole wheat flour, it’s a little tricky. I feel like whole wheat flour absorbs liquids differently and as we all know, it has a different texture which can impact baked goods. However, since I use a lot of whole wheat in my baking, I still use the 5 ounces per cup of flour (I measure it the same with the fluffy flour + the dip and level method). However, now that you bring it up, I think I’ll do some more experimenting and see if that needs adjusting. 🙂
Oh my gosh! I’m totally guilty of the dip and shake! No wonder I hate baking, nothing ever turns out perfect, and now I know why! Thank you so much for posting this. Seriously, this just changed my outlook on baking, I can’t wait to try out your tips. Thanks Mel!
Do you have a printable chart for the different measurements? brown sugar, white sugar, etc. I would really, really like to have something that I could go to.
Sorry to chime in–I use this King Arthur weight chart all the time. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html
I don’t have a printable chart, Colleen, but I’ll add it to my list of things to come up with. Generally speaking, I use 5 ounces for a cup of flour (both unbleached all-purpose and white whole wheat), 4 ounces for a cup of cake flour, 7.5 ounces for a cup of granulated or brown sugar, 4 ounces for a cup of oats, and the standard 6 ounces for a cup of chocolate chips (handfuls of chocolate chips consumed in closed pantries are never weighed!).
Thanks so much!
I.love.measuring.with.kitchen.scales!!! Not only do they support consistent results from the kitchen, measuring things like shortening, oils, peanut butter, mayo, honey, agave, etc. makes cleanup a breeze…just add to the mixing bowl instead of gunking up a measuring cup! Back to the mysterious flour measurement…I think the flour amount IS one of the trickiest in most recipes because whereas we know what 1/4 cup of butter is, flour can (as you say) be fluffed, compressed, etc. It is SO nice that you give us insight to “your” way of measuring so we can be successful! Thanks, Mel. Just to add additional fun confusion to measuring flour I am quoting two other sources that, again, confuses … the very, very general nutrition database [you can google it] puts 1 cup of “wheat/white, all-purpose, enriched, unbleached flour” at 125 gm. And then…the nutrition label of Lehi Roller Mills has their same type of flour at 1/4 cup equalling 30 gm (putting 1 cup at 120 gm). I’m kind of a measurement enthusiast, so I just find this fascinating! Don’t even get me started on brown sugar…another tricky ingredient to measure! AGAIN, Thanks Mel for all you do. You and your recipes are amazing!
I love it, Sherri! Kitchen nerds unite! I could talk about this all day long and it has provided endless hours of “scientific” experiments and research in the kitchen, especially with the kids. I do think the 5 ounces per cup of flour is higher than many sources (other than America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated) – it seems like the ones you quoted and King Arthur Flour and others use between 4 and 4.5 ounces per cup. It’s actually not a problem if they include weights in their recipes and you have a scale – I get a little hung up on it being that low when it’s impossible for the every day home baker (who may not be able to afford a scale or who hasn’t bought one yet) to measure a full cup of flour at below 5 ounces (unless they know to only fill it 7/8 of the way full which is silly). And yes, brown sugar! So tricky. My recipes all account for about 7.5 ounces per cup of brown sugar. Actually your comment also made me remember that I’ve wondered if ounces or grams is more valuable in recipe ingredients – which do you prefer? Both? I usually just include ounces since that’s what I keep my scale set at but grams is a little more precise (there are online calculators for converting, I suppose, if people need them but that’s an extra step).
Sorry, on last thing. I think mostly I want people to know that measuring/weighing doesn’t have to be intimidating. Don’t you think? Find a method that works for you and you can start “regulating” your baking that way. Even though it’s fun to talk about the intricacies and differences behind it (again, kitchen nerds…), not everyone has to care about that as long as they have a system for measuring flour that works for them. Of course, since I’m more than slightly bossy, I highly encourage the fluffy flour + dip and level method and/or a kitchen scale. Ok, I think I’m done now. 🙂
I suspected you’d have an answer for the brown sugar (high 5)! I love the grams…but with one button touch on the scale, I can have the other type of measurement too. BTW, my favorite gift for newlyweds is a kitchen scale. My intent is to also add a list of weight-worthy ingredients with that gift…still working on that!
Brown sugar is measured by packing it solidly in the measuring cup unless the recipe says otherwise. Or, use the mfg. weights on the package.
I’m a fluff, dip and level gal. Thanks Mel for your talk about measuring. I keep thinking about using my scale for breads and doughs…now I will. Have a wonderful weekend and keep up the good work here, you are a rock star!
I’ve always used the dip and shake method, knowing it probably wasn’t the best. After this post, I won’t do it again! Thanks for sharing. I’m amazed at the difference the measuring method makes. It might be time to buy that scale after all…..
Does it matter how much your measuring cup weighs?
I just updated the post so it’s less confusing – but when I’m in the kitchen baking recipes using my scale, I don’t weigh the cups of flour one by one like I show in the post (I was highlighting how different measuring methods can result in different weights). Instead, I use a bowl and spoon in the dry ingredients until it gets to the desired weight. Most kitchen scales have a handy tare feature which allows you to place a bowl (or measuring cup) on the scale and then zero out the scale before you add any dry ingredients so that the scale reflects only the weight of the ingredients you are adding. Does that make sense?
I kind of see a video on using the scale 🙂 !
I think it would be great for those who have not used a scale to see how easy and how few utensils are involved when you use a scale/bowl. So that is my 2 cents for a suggested video.
I’ve always done the spoon and level method, but I’m definitely going to use my kitchen scale and try your baking recipes that have weights. I have the large measuring “cup” digital scale version (extremely versatile to measure weight and also use for volume). I love it for cooking, but I will look forward to getting some baking recipe (with weights) so I can use it for that too. Thanks for this, I really enjoyed reading it this morning!
Excellent article! I’ve struggled with this. I started making bread (namely sourdough) about 2 years ago. Okay- so that was my gateway bread into the world of baked goods. lol The King Arthur website really suggests weighing. I will say that if you weigh- you definitely increase your odds of it turning out unless you do something hairbrained like mess up your liquids or salt or something else like liquid. lol Not that I’ve ever done that! ha ha ha I do on occasion weigh my flour and it turns out great. I do notice like with authentic sourdough- as I was learning, you develop that “feel” for when you are kneading it and know to add more flour or not. Then I got a bread machine- while I don’t use it for my sourdough, I do use it for basic dough for bread, pizza and rolls. I do the dip and level method. I do like your scale though- mine was a “Costco du Jour” item and I’m not enthused with it at all- oh it’s accurate and all that but the screen doesn’t stick out far enough. Meh…
Where would you recommend a beginner bread maker start? Your post caught my eye about sourdough (which I LOVE), but I’m a little intimidated.
You are exactly right, Andrea. I’m not a sourdough expert, but I make a ton of bread and rolls and I never go by a specific volume or weight of flour for those recipes instead going by the texture and feel of the dough. Bread making is it’s own separate animal. 🙂
I have always used the scoop & sweep method, like my mother. Unlike her, though, I’ve never bothered with sifting anything. Most recipes these days don’t call for it any more anyway. If a recipe specifically calls for weighing the flour, I will (some Alton Brown recipes do), but for the most part I don’t. I’ve recently started making breads, and many of those recipes have non-specific amounts of flour, because you go by feel for how much to add, so measuring doesn’t seem as critical there.
Thanks again! This is great to know, especially for people like me who just dump the flour out of the bag into a measuring cup. Now I know the value of a kitchen scale, and I’ll be buying one soon!
Thanks for this! It is so helpful. Measuring by volume is really a terrible way to go, as you’ve shown so clearly. I do own a scale, but it seems to have lost its accuracy so I really must get a new one.
I was taught (in Home Ec class a million years ago in middle school–and taught my kids–to use the spoon and level method. Hmmm…So until I get my new scale, I’ll use your way.
I use a scale. I generally put a bowl on the scale, TARE the scale and start spooning my flour in the bowl until I have the correct weight for the recipe. I do stir up the flour before adding it to the bowl. I use a bowl b/c chances are good that for most recipes I’m going to have messy up a bowl to combine all ingredients anyway!
Thanks for this great information!
Hi Donna – yep, that’s what I do, too. In the post I was highlighting the weight of different cups of flour but on an everyday basis, I put a bowl on my scale, tare it out, and then add the dry ingredients until it’s the correct weight (the great thing about most kitchen scales is that you can add a dry ingredient to the bowl until it’s the desired weight, tare out the scale and add another ingredient – assuming you want them all in the same bowl!).
I switched to a scale several years ago and although I don’t make much in the cake and cookie line … mostly doughs that require a certain “feel” vs highly accurate measure … I still use the scale for the starting proportions. It is faster and less utensils are used. We (U.S.) are one of the few countries who persist in using volume instead of weight … kind of crazy as well as inaccurate.
Flour weights – most bagged flour has a measure in grams of 1/4 or 1/3 cup. And they vary per type of flour. King Arthur publishes a page of their flours with weights in ounces per cup and it ranges from 3 3/8 for their whole wheat pastry flour to 5 1/8 for their perfect pasta blend. Kind of interesting as the pastry flour is likely to be used in recipes that require a high level of accuracy.
For white and whole wheat, I use Wheat Montana flour which weighs 38 grams for 1/4 cup vs many commercial brands which weigh 30 grams for 1/4 cup.
The other problem with measuring flour by volume, no matter which method used, is that a cup of the same flour measured the same way by the same person in a dry area of the country is going to measure different than in a humid area. Weight is going to stay consistent.
Thanks for your insight, Liz!
I would never have brought a kitchen scale if “Mel” had not recommended owning one. When you give out cooking/baking advice, I listen. My baking always seemed to be good with the dip and level method. I had mine for a few years now and have noticed how improved my baked goods come out. They are not as “heavy” and they are more tender and delicious. I had no idea about fluffing up the flour so this I will try in my next batch of baked goods.
I have found I love using the scale for so much more than just baked goods. A lot of recipes will call for 2 lbs. of chicken or 10 ozs. of broccoli or 7 ozs. of pasta. I always had too much meat with too little marinate and was then too lazy to dig the utensils out of the dishwasher and pull the ingredients back out of the food cupboard.
My favorite way to use the scale is my continuous making of your bread into rolls. Every roll is the same size. Thank you for all the helpful advice you share.
Great point Sheila! I also use my scale for more than baking … right now weighing fruit for jam.
A kitchen scale is a handy little gadget for so many things, I agree, Sheila!
I love stuff like this! Do you weigh your measuring cup and then adjust the scale so it reads 0 when you put the cup on the scale empty?
BTW I don’t own a kitchen scale (but may soon) & I used the dip & level method.
Hi Michelle, I didn’t really specify in the post (I’ll go update it) – for this particular post, I was highlighting the ins and outs of just one cup of flour but on a practical, every day basis, when I’m baking, I don’t measure each cup of flour out like that. I usually put a bowl on the scale, use the tare feature to zero out the scale, and then add the dry ingredients (this goes for flour, sugar, oats, whatever) until it’s the correct weight.
You’re the best!
Awesome post with great info! I too always thought a kitchen scale seems so “fussy”,but I think you have convinced me to spring for one. Really surprising to see the different weights.