* Updated (a lot) from 2 years ago *
A lot of American home bakers are turned off by the metric system and recipes written in grams. What even is celsius? Kilometers?? I get the confusion. We don’t commonly use grams in the United States, but let me convince you of their merit and explain why the rest of the world and almost all professional bakers prefer to weigh their ingredients.
Weighing your ingredients, whether in grams or ounces, is far more precise than using measuring cups. This is because measuring cups attempt to estimate mass using volume –whatever fits in the cup is what is measured – even though the density of ingredients such as flour can vary considerably and affect your baking. To see how important proper measurement technique is, I did an experiment testing the variability of flour measurements. For reference, the accepted weight of one cup of flour is between 120 and 130 grams. I found that with the most common way to measure flour using a measuring cup (dipping the measuring cup into the bag of flour and leveling the top), what counted as “one cup” measured on average 30 grams too much flour. This may seem insignificant to start, but in recipes calling for multiple cups of flour (most), this extra bit of flour ends up being multiplied and could easily add up to a whole additional cup. So should you continue to measure with a measuring cup and just scrape some off the top? Unfortunately, the extra weight was not the only problem; it also had a high degree of variability. With a standard deviation of almost 10 grams, most of the time (68%) you can expect “one cup” to vary from as light as 145 grams (still way too much) to as heavy as 165 grams. You might as well be throwing in your ingredients blind.
Now that I have hopefully convinced you with the math, you might still be thinking it’s more work to weigh your ingredients. In fact, it’s the opposite. Your baking will become much more efficient because you don’t have to waste time with fumbling countless cups. All you do is put your mixing bowl on the scale, hit the tare button (this button subtracts the weight of the bowl), and add your ingredient. What I do is pour the ingredient directly into the bowl in small increments until it reaches the weight. After each ingredient is added, I tare the bowl (and its contents), and add the next from 0 without doing any weird math.
Now if you’re thinking –”How will I know how much everything weighs?” – don’t you fret. Many websites (mine included!) and cookbooks give both weight measurements and volume. In addition, after only a little practice, you start to remember the weight of common ingredients automatically. Within no time, you’ll be able to look at a recipe without weight measurements and be able to calculate the grams off the top of your head. In the meantime, if you want to make a recipe without the weight given, refer to this master list of ingredient weights.
If you’re wondering why I use grams instead of ounces, it’s only because ounces can get confusing as they turn into pounds. Grams are easy to calculate in your head, and are slightly more precise. Even so, my scale (and most scales) has options for Metric and Imperial systems, so I still use cookbooks and recipes that give ounces if it’s already there. I just don’t change recipes written in volume into ounces because it’s trickier than grams. And aren’t you tired of eyeballing how much chocolate is 6 oz?
I bought my scale off of Amazon for $10 and it has been going strong for over two years. The link is below, you are welcome.
I hope I’ve convinced you to switch to weight measurements. It’s so much better!
Jeremy Scheck spent high school perfecting his signature cupcakes, making quiches and coffee cake by the dozen at a local bakery, and teaching cooking demonstrations at Williams-Sonoma. As a 10th grader in 2016, he began documenting his favorite recipes on a blog called The After School Bakery. In college, Jeremy learned to make 50 gallons of ice cream in the food science lab, how to prune grape vines in the teaching vineyard, the best way to milk a cow in Northern Italy, and why film photography is an art worth saving. As a sophomore in 2020, he traded blog photos for video and became a TikTok culinary sensation. Jeremy has been featured on the Today show, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, BBC Radio, People, and Access Hollywood, among others. Jeremy is a graduate of Cornell University with a double major in Spanish and Italian, and significant coursework in food science. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Jeremy.