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Spoons, cups and scales – does it really matter?

an image of measuring spoons, cups and a Thermomix scale

You would think measuring spoons and cups were the same everywhere – sadly, they’re not! Our Australian standard for a tablespoon is 20ml, American is 14.76, and in the UK, it’s 17.75 millilitres. What??

I have observed that there is a lack of consistency in the quality of kitchenware products sold in various shops throughout Australia. Measuring equipment being manufactured globally often results in sellers unknowingly stocking products with varying standards, even on the same shelf.

Classes if you are local (Melbourne) or Zooms from anywhere 🙂

How to get recipe amounts right

When a recipe specifies weight measurements, having accurate scales that can handle the quantities involved is essential. To ensure we can accurately measure everything from small amounts of saffron to larger quantities of water, sugar, and flour, we use a range of different scales. The TM6 Thermomix we use has built-in scales that weigh from 1g up, which is incredibly convenient when cooking Thermomix-specific recipes.

For optimal results when cooking with recipes that use measurements like spoons or cups, it is recommended to use measurements from the same country or region. It is even better if the measurements come from the same country or region as the recipe.

Perhaps you’ve come across a recipe that only requires one measure, which means all the ingredients are measured in cups. The good news is that it doesn’t matter what size cup you use, as it won’t affect the ratio between the ingredients.

Measuring scales with walnuts on it, and measuring spoons near a baking tin with flour in it.
Good scales are important too.

Small measures, big results

Some of the ingredients usually added in small quantities (i.e., teaspoon or tablespoon) are important.  Why?  Because ingredients added in small amounts are often powerful ingredients that create significant results.   For example, salt, baking soda, baking powder and so on.

American cooking measuring spoons.
American standard 15 ml Tablespoon
Australian cooking measuring spoons.
Australian Standard 20 ml Tablespoon

The recipes that we create from scratch or significantly re-develop are always in grams. This includes the liquids, such as water, milk, cream etc.  This avoids the problems with different measuring standards.

Why I don’t like to use measuring cups

When I was teaching years ago at Chisholm (i.e. government education facility with large classes), I would get all 16 students to grab 1 cup of flour, bring them to the central bench and weigh them.  You would be amazed at the varied results.  Did they scoop and flatten, did they sift, did they pack? Did they have any lumps? The issue is those volume measurements are subject to too many variables, whereas we DO have a very accurate means for weight measurement – the electronic scale.

Another issue with certain measuring jugs is where they actually stick the measurements. One common issue with certain measuring jugs, especially those purchased from discount stores, is the inaccuracy of the measurement markings. Our testing has shown that these markings can often be unreliable.

Bakers conversion guide

We’ve created this handy free guide to download to help you easily convert your recipes (in Australia).

Australian conversion chart (free download)
Australian conversion chart (free download)

What measuring tools do I use for cooking?

  • To enhance the precision of your creations, I recommend you use a kitchen scale that can gauge in 1g increments. If such a device isn’t part of your arsenal yet, it’s definitely worth considering. Transitioning your recipes to gram-based measurements can significantly boost accuracy.
  • My preferred tools for measuring are stainless steel spoons and cups due because they last and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Moreover, I recommend using the same set consistently to maintain uniformity – an aspect highly valued by chefs.
  • In my kitchen, I abide by the Australian Standards, converting new recipes to fit these guidelines where necessary. Our six-page conversion chart makes this job easy.
  • I prefer oval stainless steel measuring spoons, which facilitate effortless scooping from jar tops without creating a mess. It’s so frustrating when you can’t fit a round tablespoon measure in the top of a jar.
  • Unless the recipe indicates otherwise, I stick to flat, unpacked measurements, weighing every possible ingredient. To ensure repeatability or enable modifications in future, I make it a practice to note down the measurements used directly onto the recipe.

When creating my own recipes, I ensure that any ingredient that can be measured by weight is measured in grams. For ingredients with very low weights, such as saffron, I use drug (gold) scales. Weighing ingredients makes sense because it guarantees consistency regardless of the country you are in. You see, 10 grams is 10 grams anywhere in the world. Teaspoons, which are typically 5mls, are relatively consistent worldwide. However, tablespoons and cups can vary from country to country.

Suppose I’m trialling a recipe from one of my many cookbooks.  I have a library, you know. ???😜🤪🤣 I note where the chef is from and find the page that tells me what standard they’re using.  Then I go about making adjustments so that I can repeat the recipe with ease and consistency.

The teaspoons found in cutlery sets and used for eating can vary quite a bit in capacity. I don’t recommend using them for measuring ingredients such as salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices.

Here are a few of my favourite things…  (When the dog bites, when the bees sting, when I’m feeling sad – wait, that’s not right.  Did that make you think of that too? 🤣🤣🤣

  • Oval Measuring Spoons  (oval spoons fit through jar lids easier)
  • Measuring Cups (I love stainless, but plastic is ok too)
  • Measuring Scales (I have two sets, drug or gold scales and scales that weigh in 1g increments)
  • No matter what set you own, ensure they’re all of the same standards

We use all these items in our cooking school. We’ve had them for just over twelve years, and they’re all pretty much as new.  We also have a large scale set in a permanent position (in the weighing area), and a few of these Avanti scales for students to move to their benches.  They measure in 1g increments (convenient) and measure up to 5 kg.

Better baking with accurate measurement

So, if you like to bake successfully, take note of what the recipe author means for ingredient quantities, and consider adopting a standard set of spoons, cups, etc., for your baking. Even better, take notes (in grams) when you bake so that you can repeat a great recipe another day.

Happy baking 🙂

15 Comments

  1. The other important measuring tool for baking is an oven thermometer! Important to ensure your oven is the correct heat for the bake, as this may differ from what the dials (or screen) imply.
    Whatever tools you buy, make sure it is a reputable brand from a reputable store, be that a department store or kitchen store.

  2. Thanks – I thought it was just me when I went into a kitchen shop to get measuring spoons & said they weren’t Australian, & was told there was no difference – I explained that there was & refused to buy them ?

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