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Jul 5, 2012 04:16 PM

Metric measures

I would like to see metric measures as well as US measures on recipes. The US was one of the first countries to adopt the metric concept. Most of the world uses metric measures. It would be a great service to your international subscribers and very educational for yourUS ones as well.

JohnMich from Australia

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  1. "The US was one of the first countries to adopt the metric concept." Say what? The U.S. is one of the last countries not to adopt the metric system for anything but science, along with Liberia and Myanmar. The only American cookbooks I've seen with metric quantities (as well as English) are by that one-of-a-kind science-obsessed geek, Alton Brown. As for the education value, I'll learn metric when I actually have to, thank you very much. :-)

    When I visit European and other sites that give distances, quantities, and temperatures in metric, I use one of the online converters. is straightforward and easy to use. The same services are available to foreign users of American sites.

    4 Replies
    1. re: John Francis

      If you use Google as the search engine, no need to go to a site. Just type the conversion you seek into the search bar, hit enter and it's done. :-) Try it.

      1. re: John Francis

        "Learning" metric? Multiples of 10? Really? Oh, my.

        1. re: John Francis

          JF you seem to use Wikipedia and so do I. My statement that the US was one of the first countries to adopt metrics as a system was entirely accurate ex Wikipedia -

          "In 1875, the United States solidified its commitment to the development of the internationally recognized metric system by becoming one of the original seventeen signatory nations to the Metre Convention or the Treaty of the Meter. The signing of this international agreement concluded five years of meetings in which the metric system was reformulated, refining the accuracy of its standards. The Treaty of the Meter established the Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM, International Bureau of Weights and Measures) in Sèvres, France, to provide standards of measurement for worldwide use."
          Unfortunately the US did not follow through hence now its grouping with those international leaders Liberia and Burma.

          1. re: JohnMich

            Nonetheless, the U.S. still has not adopted the metric system, as a visit to any American food store and a drive along any American highway in an American car makes obvious.

            We signed a treaty 140 years ago to establish an international bureau of weights and measures, but that's not at all the same thing as actually adopting the system.

        2. I do believe that many of the recipes are reader/user supplied. Which means that they write in the measurements they usually use, either US or Metric. However, Chow developed and created recipes, really show show both, I agree.

          1. As discussed on a 'recipe peeves' thread, US to metric conversions can have varying degrees of quality. The simplest just plugs the numbers in to a table or calculator. A further refinement requires rounding the numbers intelligently. But ideally the converted recipe should be tested, and adjusted if needed, so that the metric measures work just as well as the American ones. But even if the units are converted correctly, ingredient names might still be a problem.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              I agree PJ. The version used by the massive site comes up with some very weird results because of exact conversions like 1/2 cup = 118.29 ml. Intelligently rounded conversions are the go. I do not agree with you about the need for testing because as many cooks say the slight variations are no more out of whack than commonly occurs in general cooking. The main stress is that one does not go about using a mix of units ie. metric and US in the same recipe.
              If a metric cup is rounded to 240 ml then it is not a big stretch from the 236.6 ml of a US cup, in fact about 1.4% or about 1/2 a teaspoon! Cups are very popular measures in US cooking where as you know they are used for liquid and dry meassures, so converion to rounded metric is not much of a change.

              Ingredient names are never an issue. If you do not know what an ingredient is then google it preceded by the word define as in 'define chipotle' say, which I did recently. I got back "
              A smoked hot chili pepper used esp. in Mexican cooking" - that took about 1 second.
              Thanks for the reference to the peeves thread, I'll have a look.

            2. how about, as an exercise and example, we (as a group of posters) try to convert this recent CHOW recipe

              Zucchini Layer Cake with Tangy Buttercream Frosting Recipe

              It would given an idea of the issues that have to be addressed. One that comes to mind, right off the bat, is that ingredients like 'zucchini' might have to be translated (vegetable marrow?).

              5 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                If you're aiming to translate to British English, courgette.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  I Australia a zucchini is a zucchini.

                2. re: paulj

                  Paul there are no issues to address re: zucchinin. In Oz that is exactly what they are called as I learnt from SWMBO when I brought back a cucumber instead of the zucchini I was told to get.

                  The only real problem relates to the zucchini measurements. The first measure stated is 14 ozs. which in the US is 396.83 gms but at the end is said to be about 3 cups which in US volume is about 710ml. Now that just can't work out because zucchinis are about 95% water so what is being said is that the 14ozs = 397 gms = 397 mls of H2O yet 3 cups is about 710 mls of H2O that makes the 3 cup measure about twice as heavy. I would rely on the 14 oz measure if I was making it

                  Now the rest is a piece of cake LOL. 1 US tsp is 4.9 mgs = metric 5 gms; US 1/2 tsp is 2.5 gms = M 2.5 gms; 1 US tbsp = 14.9 gms = M 15gms; a US cup = 236.6 gms = 240 gms M, and so on. In other words any variations are 11/13th of FA, where FA is a very small number.

                  If you are interested I will send you a table of exact and rounded concersions which I concocted many years ago when I first realised that the US had some great cookery sites but did not know much about metrics. Incidentally the US customary use of cups as weight AND volume measures leads to much greater variations in measures than metric conversions. There is a vast difference between the weight of a cup of brown sugar just poured into a cup until it is full than one where the sugar has been tapped (packed) down as it has been filled, for example. 10% as a guess? Only the US uses cups for ingredients which are more accurate if weighed.

                  My source for all measurement comes from a brilliant site at the University of North Carolina thus >

                  1. re: JohnMich

                    The zucchini measurement isn't a problem, just use 400g. It's saying that 14 ounces of zucchini, once trimmed and grated, will be 3 cups by volume in our measuring cups, not 24 fluid ounces.

                    You would be mighty unhappy if you used 240g for each cup of (non-liquid) ingredients called for. Different dry ingredients have different densities, so you can not convert our volume measures to metric and assume the same weight for all ingredients. Across-the-board conversion only works with fluid ounces -->ml. Consulting a cake book I own, 1 cup of flour weighs around 120g, or half your "cup"; 1 cup of granulated sugar is around 200g; 1 cup packed brown sugar, 220g.

                    So yes, it does take testing on the part of the recipe writer to do accurately.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      That is not correct. People outside the US would not, unless faced with a real problem eg. their scales just broke, would ever consider using a cup as a measure of dry ingredients unless they had looked up a table of equivalents listed by ingredient for exactly the reason you state, and just as you did in your example, with the probable exception of flour because it is such a common baking measure.
                      However that being said that it is a long stretch to saying that every recipe needs testing. That was just thrown in to add a pseudo intelligent obstacle to a common enough practice. Virtually all recipes which are converted using rounded conversions work perfectly well because the variations are so slight as to be inside the variations caused by the care of the cook in measuring anyway.
                      Incidentally I have just seen that according to 1/3 (33%) of Chow site visits are by people from metric measure countries ie. ex US, Liberia and Burma.

                3. This is the best conversion site I've found:


                  Gives you the ability to choose the ingredient...which is a major difference over strictly doing the math.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Certainly that can be very helpful, Sunshine, but the catch is that it does not say anything about how well an item is packed into the measure. For example a cup of brown sugar can be quite difference in how much sugar that is depending on whether it is just poured in, tapped down by tapping the cup on the work bench or pressing it down tight. Only weights can say for certain what the cook really meant. And the real point of that is that if the recipe tells you the weight then you don't need the conversion. That's why most metric recipes tell you the weight of the dry ingredient - it makes things much simpler.

                    1. re: JohnMich

                      but anyone familiar enough with cooking and baking to go to the trouble of trying to convert a "foreign" recipe probably also knows that brown sugar is supposed to be packed.

                      Not 100% failsafe, but the exceptions are going to be fairly small. (Because even for bakers living in countries where brown sugar isn't used...the recipe usually says "packed")

                      US recipes can't agree on whether flour should be scooped and leveled, or sprinkled, so THAT issue isn't going to be solved any time soon, anyway.