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Oct 21, 2008 03:35 PM

cup to scale conversions

if a recipe calls for ingredients in cups, what chart can i use to convert into ounces? what is your guideline for AP flour, white sugar, etc?

since the serving size of 1 cup flour can vary from 4 1/4 ounces to 5 ounces, i just wonder what to follow if it's not provided in the recipe.

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  1. Even with a conversion chart, you'll find a wide range of ideas about how much a cup of flour weights. Typically, it's set at somewhere between 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 ounces.
    This site lets you calculate cups, teaspoons, Tablespoons and may be helpful.
    Incidentally, I use the figure 4.75 ounces per cup.
    Because there's no way of knowing how the ingredients in a given recipe were measured (some will stipulate, but most do not) I assume they use the dip/level/pour method. Nevertheless, the first time I work with a recipe I use the 4.75 ounce figure as my starting point. My cook books are filled with columnar notes that indicate how each recipe finishes based upon the measuring method that I finally decide on. Where the recipe calls for sifted flour, I use the base of 4 ounces.

    1. Why do you want to convert the measures to weight?

      Weight can give more accuracy (where it matters), but that only applies to recipes that have tested using the weights. If all testing was done with the volume measures, I don't see how converting to weights would improve matters.

      5 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        Once you've figured out the correct weight of the ingredient (e.g. flour - it's probably the most important variable) to produce the best result in a recipe, you can always duplicate it almost precisely. If you use the dip/level/pour method, unless you have the perfect "touch" to get it the same every time you dip, you'll come up with a range of ingredients that could vary by as much as 20% by volume. So it's decidedly better to weight than to dip. I've worked with a number of professional bakers and none of them would measure flour (or sugar) any other way except by weight.

        1. re: todao

          In effect you are coming up with your own test weight-based recipe.

          A way to start this process is to make the recipe following the volume measures, noting the weights along the way. In other words, scoop, pour, or sift the cup of flour as directed, weigh the result, and write that down. That then forms the starting point for the next batch. This can be done without any conversion tables.

          1. re: paulj

            One of the problems that you run into is that different flours weigh different for the same volume of measure. This can vary from batch to batch of flour from the same manufacturer and from different manufacturers. There is also no standard in recipes, for example Fine Cooking magazine lists a cup of flour at 4.5 oz. but Cooks Illustrated and Williams Sonoma list a cup at 5 oz. for All Purpose Flour Un-Bleached. Each measure will lead to dramatically different results. When you measure by volume your weights can vary from 1 to 2 oz. per cup over or under the standard. If you measure by by volume and then weigh and your weights are 10 to 20 percents high or low, and you use that as your standard, you could possibly end up with a product that doesn't have the same characteristics as the recipe writer envisioned and produced with the recipe.

            I think Todao is on the right track, by standardizing the system for his or her kitchen and cooking techniques.

            1. re: Grillncook

              But if you use the 4.5oz 'standard' when the authors really meant the 5.0, you are still off. If the cook book does specify a conversion, the use it. First time through a recipe it is a good idea to use what ever clues that the authors provide to produce the result they intend. But with skill and experience you can tweak things to get the results you want.

              My basic point was that prematurely making the conversion to weights, or using the wrong conversions, does not gain you anything. Also watch out for numbers that give you a false sense of precision.

              1. re: Grillncook

                thanks everyone for the replies.

                the reason i want to weigh the ingredients instead of measure is because it saves me from fumbling with measuring cups (and filling my dish washer).

                i'm going to take the suggestion to come up with my own conversion chart for AP flour - sifted, scooped, packed brown sugar, etc. if the recipe doesn't already provide those details.

                thanks again.

        2. The nutritional information on the bag of flour will give you their standard equivalent - a volume measure with metric weight in parenthesis.