Weekend Cooking: Taking Measures

Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. It is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Dille en Kamille Cooking Shop

Dille en Kamille Cooking Shop

As a Dutch person, having lived and cooked in England and having tried out lots of American recipes, you’d think I have no problems with the different ways of describing quantity of food stuff.

Pounds, grams, lbs, pints and cups? Not a problem for me! Yes, that’s what you’d think.

A pint is about 570 milliliters. A (English) pound (lbs) is 450 grams and consists of 16 ounces (oz). A Dutch pound is 500 grams and exactly half a kilo, and a kilo is 10 ounces.

Scales measuring in grams

Scales measuring in grams

My scales can do grams or lbs, it has a little switch at the back that you push in to go from grams to lbs or the other way around. So, whether in England or the Netherlands, I’m all set for cooking. Until I have an American recipe on my hands! American recipes like to give the ingredients in cups rather than grams. So, a recipe can have 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water.

Figure this: an American cup measures volumes and not weights. So, a cup of sugar weighs something else than a cup of flour. Why is this? The amount of sugar that fills a cup is heavier than the amount of flour (think of it as filling a cup with feather or with lead, is there a difference in weight?).

So, the challenge is, to find out how much a cup of sugar weighs, a cup of flour, etc. That’s what we have the internet for, right? There you can find exactly what a cup of these, and other food stuff, weighs.

Until you get to something like dessicated coconut! In Tes’ lovely coconut macaroon recipe, we needed 2 cups of the stuff. Now, is this like sugar, or like flour, or something in between? In the end, we went for something in between but I think we still had too much, it didn’t stick very well to make individual macaroons (see the results on my son Roo’s blog).

Measuring cups
Measuring cups

Of course, our problem was quite easy to solve: not the internet, but good, old fashioned measuring cups were the answer. So, after taking my sons to a cookery shop in town, we are now the proud owners of measuring cups!

They can help us with the following quantities: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup. With those, we should be able to tackle any recipe! I should have thought about buying those before, it would have made our cooking life a lot easier!

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

21 Responses to Weekend Cooking: Taking Measures

  1. rikkiscraps says:

    I have already admired your cookshop picture on Roo’s blog. very nice!
    A very helpful post that every European who ever tried to cook or bake according to an American recipe can relate to.
    My biggest question is how do Americans fit butter into a cup?

    • leeswammes says:

      I hope an American reader will answer this question…. I’m not really sure!

    • Donna says:

      I know I’m jumping in the middle of a conversation; but if you’re talking fitting butter into a cup for the purpose of measuring, most of the butter I’ve purchased here in the U.S. comes with measurement marks on it like this: . So there’s no need to actually measure it. But this brings me to another question. And I haven’t measured any melted butter to see if, say, 2T that I cut off the stick also equals a liquid measure of 2T. Having said that, if you’re talking about fitting butter in a cup for another reason, I stand corrected; and I guess I need to read the whole thread.

      • leeswammes says:

        OK, much like our butter here in the Netherlands, but here it’s marked by the 50 grams. But yes, that was really the question: how can you measure 1 cup (or 1/4 cup) of butter? The answer you gave is indeed the solution: you don’t fit it in the cup, you look at the wrapper. Thanks, Donna.

  2. Novroz says:

    I’m not a cooking person…but that measurement really raise questions, why do American measures differently?

    • Carin B. says:

      Ugh! I’m an American and I ask myself this question ALL the time! Most of the world uses the metric system and I don’t understand why we don’t switch! It makes life so much harder when we travel!

  3. Beth F says:

    Your macroons look great! But I know what you mean about measures. It was really difficult when I lived in Guernsey to go from UK to USA to French measures for recipes. But in the end, I did what you did: I have a set of US measuriing cups and spoons and a set of UK measuring cups and spoons and a scale. We should just all get together and standardize our measures!

    I haven’t been to Utrecht, but on my next trip to the Netherlands, I know where I’m going!!

    • leeswammes says:

      Beth, having all the different measurings cups, spoons and scales definitely helps when preparing a recipe!

      Utrecht is very nice actually, it has canals, a great cathedral, narrow streets with old houses, and it’s a lively student town. And from Amsterdam Central to Utrecht Central (by train) it’s only 30 mins. So, worth a visit!

  4. yes, the vast majority of butter in America come in sticks, four sticks to a pound box. each stick is marked on the wrapper in tablespoons..8 TBS. = 1 stick = 1/2 cup. so there is never any need to actually measure it in a cup measurement. at least not one I can think of.

    I have a number of Irish cookbooks and all the measurements are in metric or by weight..in kilograms. Happily, my electronic scale, like yours, can easily switch between the two and all my cup measurements have metric too these days.

    The problem is only in my head, keeping it all straight.

    • leeswammes says:

      Hi Caite, so you’ve got Irish cook book books, very nice. That reminds me I was planning to make soda this week. What Irish recipes do you make?

  5. rikkiscraps says:

    Ah, that’s interesting. So you don’t have to fit the butter into a cup at all.
    In Germany butter always is a 250g piece without any marks on it. So we always have to weigh it.

    Donna, interesting question. I could imagine melted and solid is not the same.

  6. bermudaonion says:

    I don’t know why we have to do everything so different in the US! It would be much easier if we would convert to the metric system. Your solution is great, though – I hope you get lots of use out of your new measuring cups!

  7. Margot says:

    I agree with Kathy – the US has tried for decades to change to the metric system but never seems to accomplish that. It would make things a lot easier. I think that the internet, which brings people around the world close like neighbors, is what will eventually do the job. Interesting post and discussion this week.

  8. Carin B. says:

    That was a really interesting post! I actually didn’t realize just how different the measurements were! I had a friend send me some Nanaimo Bar mix from Canada and I think I ruined it because our measurements are different from theirs and I don’t have a scale. My spoons do have a conversation from our measurements to mL, but I don’t think my cups do. The Nanaimo Bars tasted ok, but I have one more box that I think I might try to do a little different.

    I’m with the other Americans that commented about switching to the metric system. Please American government…make the switch! I have to admit that it’s isolating to go to another country and not be able to tell how cold or hot it will be based on the news! Driving 80 kph is VERY slow but looks VERY fast! If we switched it wouldn’t feel so weird! I do love travelling to other countries and talking online to people from other countries because it has forced me to learn some of this stuff.

    • leeswammes says:

      Carin, while I do think it makes sense to have a metric system (cups are so archaic), I don’t think you really need it in the USA, at least not for reasons to do with being the same as other countries. You’re a large country, quite insulated (there’s Canada, there’s Mexico and that’s it), so you don’t really need to conform to other countries’ standards.

      Now the UK, that’s a different story (although they are literally insular!). With so many European countries on grams and liters, it would be handy if the UK finally gave in and used the same system. Well, they don’t even have the same currency AND they still drive on the left – they do things a little different! 🙂

  9. Marieke says:

    This post (and comments) made me laugh because I have had so many difficulties trying British recipes where you have to weigh the ingredients — I find using the cups and spoons system in U.S. recipes a hundred times easier!

    And yes, I’ve really struggled with butter — I can never get the right amount into a recipe because the butter doesn’t come in the marked sticks.

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