Food

Cups, grams and glasses: Why measuring matters in cooking, baking

Ayla Coşkun

ISTANBUL : Measuring ingredients properly is imperative if you want to do miracles in your kitchen. So, let’s learn all details for a correct calculation

If you have been reading our recipes here at Daily Sabah regularly, you’ll notice that I try to give measurements in grams and milliliters, whereas for smaller measurements I use tablespoons and teaspoons. While speaking with some colleagues of mine, I discovered their concern about measuring out the flour and other ingredients I had listed in the recipes. I don’t mind measuring stuff – maybe it’s my German side showing – but many recipes in Turkey lack any measurements at all.

I mean the best example for this would be “aldığı kadar un,” one among many other weird phrases in Turkish cuisine, which means that you should add as much flour as the other ingredients can take to usually achieve a soft-ish dough.

If you don't have a measuring cup handy, reach for your run-of-the-mill water glass. (Getty Images)
If you don’t have a measuring cup handy, reach for your run-of-the-mill water glass. (Getty Images)

What I want to say in this long-winded introduction is this: Measurements matter, and while I’ll always love the precision of the German way, we have to take a look at other ways to measure.

Turkish water glass vs. U.S. cup

If you have any interest in cooking, you’ve probably stumbled upon both the Turkish “su bardağı,” sometimes abbreviated as “S.B.,” or the American cup. The beauty about these two is that they are the same.

What I mean is that they have the same volume. A standard Turkish water glass, not the huge or decorative ones, but the ones you see in almost every household throughout the country, can hold 200 milliliters of water. The same goes for the U.S. cup as well. This for one is super practical to know if you are like me and can’t be bothered to wash your measuring tools in the middle of cooking, having some glasses at the ready is a great solution.

Nothing is more frustrating for an aspiring chef than confusing measurements! (Shutterstock Photo)
Nothing is more frustrating for an aspiring chef than confusing measurements! (Shutterstock Photo)

Another popular measuring device is the “çay bardağı,” the Turkish tulip-shaped tea glass. The standard ones can hold 100 milliliters of fluids and are used just as commonly as water glasses. But with the popularity of ever bigger tea glasses, you need to keep in mind that I mean the smallest ones. If you don’t have any, just use a water glass but fill it halfway.

The problems start when you add stuff that can be packed, though. If you are lazy and don’t want to check how much something weighs, a quick google search will reveal that a cup of flour can range from 80 grams to 125 grams.

Now, you might say, “some 20 grams shouldn’t matter much” – and you’d be right. The problems start when a recipe calls for 5 cups and those 20 grams accumulate to 100 grams above what is needed. I have ruined many a recipe for this very reason.

But keep in mind: When flour is mentioned in a recipe, never press it down. Leave it as fluffy as possible. Adding a bit more flour afterward is always easier to balance than extra fluids.

The deal with spoons

Tablespoons all around the world are more or less the same in size and are a great way to measure stuff. Yes, much like with the flour dilemma, you shouldn’t press any ingredient here but there isn’t much room to do so anyway. Instead, you have to be careful not to make a mound on the spoon. Aside from that, tablespoons are great as they usually can hold about 10 milliliters and make for a way to measure for flour, sugar and other ingredients with similar densities. And to be fair, who hasn’t got a tablespoon or two on hand at home?

Two silver tablespoons of sugar and flour for cooking a cake. (Shutterstock)
Two silver tablespoons of sugar and flour for cooking a cake. (Shutterstock)

The teaspoon is a different story here. This spoon is called dessert spoon (tatlı kaşığı) in Turkish as well is usually half the amount of a tablespoon. Why do we use a different name? Because the Turkish teaspoon (çay kaşığı) is tiny, holding half of a teaspoon. To clarify, here’s a list to use as a reference:

1 tablespoon = 10 milliliters = 2 teaspoons/tatlı kaşığı = 4 çay kaşığı (Turkish teaspoon)

So whenever you see a recipe in Turkish, keep in mind that spices, in particular, are measured using çay kaşığı, so be careful not to ruin your hard work!

Five Turkish teaspoons filled with various types of spices, namely salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric and curry powder. (Shutterstock Photo)
Five Turkish teaspoons filled with various types of spices, namely salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric and curry powder. (Shutterstock Photo)

But as straightforward as this seems, some pages on the internet claim a tablespoon is 15 milliliters, which causes other measurements to fly out of whack accordingly. My take will be always the same: weigh or measure your amounts with decent equipment.

Some references

While I always advocate for measuring out ingredients precisely in grams, I get lazy and use my glasses sometimes. If you’re like me, this helpful list of the most common measurements you are likely to see will come in handy. But keep in mind: These are averages!

Fluids

Great for all that is liquid. From water to milk, to oils and so on.

1 U.S. cup = 1 Turkish water glass = 200 milliliter = 2 çay bardağı

Flour

Here we’re talking about standard white, all-purpose flour. Depending on which kind you are using, such as fine pastry flour or thicker whole-grain, these measurements will be different.

A teaspoon alongside mounds of spices. (Getty Images)
A teaspoon alongside mounds of spices. (Getty Images)

1 U.S. cup/1 water glass = 110 grams (between 100-120 grams)

Baking powder

The standard packaging in many countries for both baking powder and baking soda is 10 grams. But not every country does this, so we can easily say that:

1 flat tablespoon = 2 teaspoons = 10 grams baking powder

For all the other things: Please weigh!

The most frustrating thing I encounter every day is when I look into American recipes: The most basic things, such as tomatoes for a salad, are measured in cups. Why? Tomatoes come in all shapes and forms, so I can easily fit double the amount into a cup when I cut them down a bit. It is not like rice or other ingredients that come in small pieces. I’d even feel better if they wrote “a handful.” While I’m aware that hands all around the world are different sizes, it still gives a better sense of the amount you need.

Now that we understand the huge impact measurements can have on the final product, I leave you with these parting words: When in doubt, weigh it out!

Courtesy: (Dailysabah)

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