How to Measure Ingredients the Correct Way

Ensure delicious results no matter what you're cooking with our foolproof tips for measuring dry and wet ingredients properly.

Measuring ingredients is the most fundamental cooking method for new cooks to master. It's really all about the tools. The golden rule of measuring is simply this: Use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and liquid measuring cups for liquid ingredients.

Measuring Dry Ingredients

First things first: To measure dry ingredients, be sure you're using graduated dry measuring cups (those cups that stack inside one another, for ¼ cup, ½ cup, etc.) or measuring spoons for smaller amounts.

Before measuring any dry ingredients—such as flour, cornmeal, oats, panko, and sugar—stir them in their containers. Use a large spoon to fill the measuring cup without shaking or packing the ingredient. Use a straight edge to level off the excess into a bowl or back into the container.

Treat ingredients like applesauce, hummus, peanut butter, sour cream, yogurt, and others that aren't "dry" per se—but also aren't liquids—as dry ingredients for measuring purposes. Spoon the ingredients into the measuring cup or spoon and level them off.

Measuring Liquid Ingredients

Measuring red liquid in liquid measuring cup juice wooden table

To measure milk, water, oil, broth, and other liquids, pour the liquid into a liquid measuring cup (those clear cups with a handle, a pouring spout, and measurements marked on the side), with the cup on a level surface. Bend down so that your eye is level with the markings on the cup, then add or remove liquid until the bottom of the meniscus is at the level you need.

Note: Some newer liquid measuring cups have a slanted piece on the inside of the cup with markings that can be read from above without the need to bend down to eye level.

To measure small amounts of liquids—a tablespoon or less—turn to your measuring spoons. Fill the appropriate-size spoon to the rim without allowing liquid to spill over.

How to Measure Sticky Ingredients

If you've struggled measuring peanut butter, honey, molasses, syrups, and other ingredients that stick to the measuring cup or spoon, we've got the trick you need. Before measuring the ingredient, spray your measuring cup or spoon with nonstick cooking spray. When you pour, the ingredient will slip right out, or at least come out easily with the assistance of a rubber scraper.

How to Measure Butter

How to Measure Butter

Sticks of butter have tablespoon markings on the wrapper—eight tablespoons per stick. Make sure the wrapper looks like it's on straight. Just cut off what you need. You'll find these same kinds of markings on block cream cheese and shortening. Measure them the same way.

Measuring Shortening and Cream Cheese


As mentioned in the section on butter, if your shortening or cream cheese is in block form, it will likely have measurement markings on the package. If you're using nonblock shortening or cream cheese, spoon each into a dry measuring cup. Pack it firmly into the cup and level off the top.

How to Measure Pasta

Measuring dry pasta on a scale wooden table cups

If you're feeling uncertain about how to use measuring tools to measure spaghetti and other pastas, you should be. Measuring cups are not ideal for pasta in its dry, uncooked form. Dry measuring cups will work for short dry pasta shapes like elbows and orzo, but other shapes are too large or will leave large air holes based on how they land in the cup. Your best bet is to use a kitchen scale to get the dried pasta's weight (especially for spaghetti, angel hair, and other long pastas). Most recipes will list a weight and approximate cup amount to make cooking as easy as possible.

Measuring Tools

By now you've figured out there are three primary kitchen tools for measuring: measuring spoons, liquid measuring cups, and dry measuring cups. A kitchen scale is also helpful for measuring ingredients, as it can be used to measure pasta, or for more precise amounts. The precision gained from weighing on a scale is a benefit for baking.

Measuring spoon sets always include ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. Larger sets include ⅛ teaspoon, ⅓ teaspoon, and ½ tablespoon, which are helpful for cooks who don't know all the measurement math. The same goes for dry measuring cups: sets always include ¼ cup, ⅓ cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup. Larger sets have ⅔ cup and ¾ cup. Most liquid measuring cups are 2 cups in capacity, but you may find it helpful to invest in a 1-cup measure, 4-cup measure, or other sizes, depending on how often you use them and what the use twill be. These are the basic measuring utensils to stock in your kitchen.

Cooking Measurement Conversions

Now that you've mastered measuring, it's helpful to know how many teaspoons in a tablespoon, how many tablespoons in a cup, and so on. Here's a little tablespoon math to help:

  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons = ¼ cup
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = ⅓ cup
  • 8 tablespoons = ½ cup
  • 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = ⅔ cup
  • 12 tablespoons = ¾ cup
  • 16 tablespoons = 1 cup

To convert measurements from tablespoons and cups to pints, ounces, etc., here's a helpful guide:

  • 1 tablespoon = ½ fluid ounce
  • 1 cup = ½ pint = 8 fluid ounces
  • 2 cups = 1 pint = 16 fluid ounces
  • 2 pints (4 cups) = 1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
  • 4 quarts (16 cups) = 1 gallon = 128 fluid ounces
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