Today I’m covering a topic that I’ve been wanting to get to for ages! I’m going to discuss how to measure flour by weight and volume, and why it’s so important to do it properly. We all know that baking is a science, and adding too much or too little flour to a recipe can make a huge difference.
The Importance of Measuring Flour Correctly
Many of the older recipes on my site only list flour (and sometimes other dry ingredients) by weight measurements. These days I try to include both, and when I have time I go back and add in the cup measurements. But doing so isn’t as simple as you might think.
When I get comments or emails requesting this, I explain why I was originally so stubborn. The bottom line is that a cup of flour can vary in weight dramatically (anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 ounces) if it’s not measured correctly. This will significantly impact baked goods.
Handle the Heat wrote a blog post called The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies that demonstrates this perfectly. There are photos. Look at the difference between her control recipe and the cookies where she adds more flour! If you’ve ever wondered why your cookies didn’t look like the ones on a recipe you followed, there’s a good chance it had something to do with the flour.
How to Measure Flour by Weight
Measuring by weight is very straightforward. Place a bowl on a digital kitchen scale and turn it on. It should read “0.” If a weight is listed, that means the weight of the bowl has registered. Digital scales have a button to “zero” out the weight. Press it and you’ll be ready to go. They also typically have a button that lets you shift between ounce and gram measurements.
This is the preferred method by professional bakers and pastry chefs because it guarantees the same exact results every time. This is what their customers expect. I’m assuming this is what you expect when you visit your favorite bakery.
This is the kitchen scale I currently use. It has lasted me for years, and at this moment costs $30. If that’s out of your budget, look around on Amazon. I’m sure there are cheaper options.
How to Measure Flour By Volume
I realize that many of you don’t want to switch methods for whatever reason. You do you! There are still ways to make sure measuring by weight is done as accurately as possible.
There are two ways to measure by volume:
- The “scoop and sweep” method
- The “spoon and level” method
If you see an online recipe that only lists the ounce or gram measurements, ask the author if they can recommend one method over the other. If they’re not sure, take a guess, hope for the best, and try not to get mad at them if your results are different (it makes us sad).
The Scoop and Sweep Method
Scoop your measuring cup into the flour, making sure it’s full or overflowing.
Use the flat back of a knife (or similar) to sweep across the top, leveling it out.
For reference, when I checked this method on my kitchen scale, I got a reading of 5 1/8 ounces.
The Spoon and Level Method
Spoon the flour into the measuring cup, then once again level off the top. (Note: some bakers whisk or sift the flour before this step to aerate it, which may result in a lower weight).
This method yielded 4 1/4 ounces on my scale. This might not seem like a huge difference, but keep in mind that most recipes use more than 1 cup of flour!
This is why I don’t trust sites that only list cup measurements, unless they’re very clear about which measurement they’re using. Serious Eats and Sally’s Baking Addiction are great examples of sites that offer reliable volume measuring. They’re very clear about which method they’re using.
What’s the Difference Between Ounces and Fluid Ounces?
I want to jump slightly off topic here, because this has come up in my comment section before, as you’ll see below.
There’s confusion about this one, even as it relates to flour. The short version: Ounces refer to weight, and are used to measure dry ingredients like flour and sugar, as well as thicker ingredients like sour cream. Fluid ounces refer to volume. They are not interchangeable.
This is why you’ll see both dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. If you look on the side of your liquid measuring cup, 1 cup will equal 8 fluid ounces. However, if you were to weigh a heavier liquid on the digital scale (say, a smoothie or tomato sauce), it might weigh more than 8 ounces.
Yes, it’s confusing.
1 Cup does NOT automatically equal 8 ounces.
Back to flour. Every now and then I get a comment on recipes where I’ve offered both weight and volume measurements along these lines: “Well, which is it? 5 ounces of flour or 1 cup???” To this person I always use the classic example of 1 cup of rocks vs 1 cup of feathers. Guess which weighs more?
Much of this confusion comes from the fact that 1 cup of water does in fact equal both 8 ounces and 8 fluid ounces. Yay.
How to Convert Volume Measurements to Weight Measurements
Different ingredients have different weight to volume ratios. I’ve listed some common conversions below, but for a more extensive list, check out this fantastic weight chart from King Arthur Flour. I’ve use it on many occasions.
All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup, 4 1/4 ounces, 120 grams
Almond Flour: 1 cup, 3 3/8 ounces, 96 grams
Self-Rising Flour: 1 cup, 4 ounces, 113 grams
Sugar (granulated): 1 cup, 7 ounces, 198 grams
Sugar, dark or light brown (packed): 1 cup, 7 1/2 ounces, 213 grams
Sugar, confectioners’ (unsifted): 2 cups, 8 ounces, 227 grams
Cocoa Powder: 1 cup, 3 ounces, 85 grams
Cornstarch: 1 cup, 4 ounces, 112 grams
More Baking Tutorials
If you found this tutorial on how to measure flour useful, you may also enjoy learning about baking soda vs. baking powder, natural vs. dutch-processed cocoa powder, and why egg size matters in baking! I also have more “how to” articles including: