It's important to measure flour accurately when baking. I've answered all your questions on weighing, details the spoon-and-level method (like what tool is used to level off when measuring flour) and why it matters.
Measuring flour properly: Why it matters
There are two basic ways to measure flour: by weight and by volume. When you measure by weight, you're guaranteed consistent results. When you measure by volume, it can be a real crapshoot. The actual amount of flour in a cup of flour can vary by upwards of 50 grams depending on how you do it.
This matters because if you end up with substantially more flour in your recipe than it calls for, it will be too dry and dense, among other potential problems. And you'll never see it coming, having followed the recipe exactly.
When you can, measure by weight. But if you need to measure by volume, I'll show you how.
The best way to measure flour: weigh it on a digital scale
A digital kitchen scale is the best gift you can give yourself to simplify and improve your baking. This tool is relatively inexpensive, and you'll find lots of ways to use it. I leave ours out on the counter and use it pretty much every day.
Weighing flour is very simple. Place a bowl on the scale and "tare" or zero it so the weight of your bowl won't be counted. Then simply spoon flour into the bowl to reach the specified weight.
Grams are much, much smaller than ounces, so it's best to measure in metric. See the section below for a conversion chart.
How to measure flour by volume
Ideally, a recipe that lists measurements by volume will tell you exactly how they want you to to measure the flour. For example, I make an effort to always specify "spooned and leveled" in my baking recipes. However, it doesn't always go down like that.
I think there's a much greater risk of adding too much flour than too little, so when not measuring by weight, I recommend defaulting to the spoon and level method.
The spoon and level method (also called spoon and sweep)
To spoon and level your flour:
- Start by fluffing up the flour a bit with a spoon, right in the bag or container.
- Next, spoon it lightly into your dry measuring cup until it's heaped up over the top.
- Then run the flat back edge of a butter knife over the top of the cup, making contact with the cup's rim, to level off the flour exactly. That's it!
A cup of all-purpose flour measured this way should weigh just about 120 grams. If the recipe you're using calls for a specific weight higher than that and you don't have a scale, you can add just a little bit more. Some recipes use 135 grams for a cup of flour. The 15 additional grams would be two tablespoons, spooned and leveled.
Expert tips and FAQs
I like to use the back (flat side) of a butter knife. You can use any tool with a flat edge that's longer than the diameter of your measuring cup. That way, you'll easily get a perfectly level surface when you run it across the top of the measuring cup. You can see this in action in the video.
A dry measuring cup is used to measure dry ingredients like flour and sugar. It will look something like the one pictured in this post. The idea with a dry measuring cup is to fill it to the top and level it off.
Measuring cups for liquid ingredients hold an equal volume, but they're designed with extra headspace above the fill line. That way you can add your liquid and still move the cup measure around the kitchen without spilling.
Weight and volume conversions for flour and sugar
You can use this easy guide to convert flour and sugar from weight to volume. Keep in mind that ounces here are a measure of weight. They're different from fluid ounces, which measure the volume of liquids.
- All-purpose flour: 1 cup = 120 grams = 4.25 ounces
- Bread flour: 1 cup = 120 grams = 4.25 ounces
- Whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour) 1 cup = 113 grams = 4 ounces
- Self-rising flour: 1 cup = 113 grams = 4 ounces
- Granulated sugar: 1 cup = 198 grams = 7 ounces
- Brown sugar, packed: 1 cup = 213 grams = 7.5 ounces
- Confectioners sugar: 1 cup = 113 grams = 4 ounces
- Any kind of flour
- Digital scale
- Dry measuring cup
- Butter knife
- To weigh flour: Place a bowl onto a digital scale and press the button to zero or "tare" the display. (This means the weight of the bowl won't be counted.) For the most accurate measurement, set display to metric. Spoon flour into bowl until you reach the weight specified in the recipe. That's it!
- To spoon and level flour: If you don't have a digital kitchen scale, the next-best option is to spoon and level your flour. Start by aerating the flour in the bag or container — fluff it up a bit with your spoon so it's not too dense. Then spoon it lightly into a measuring cup until it's heaped over the top. Run the back of a butter knife over the top to level.
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