Cups, grams and glasses: why measurement matters in cooking, baking
If you’ve regularly read our recipes here at Daily Sabah, you’ll notice that I try to give measurements in grams and milliliters, while for smaller measurements I use tablespoons and teaspoons. While chatting with some of my colleagues, I discovered their concern with measuring flour and the other ingredients I had listed in the recipes. I don’t mind measuring stuff – maybe my German side shows – but many recipes in Turkey lack measuring at all.
I mean the best example would be “aldığı kadar un”, one of the many other weird expressions in Turkish cuisine, which means you have to add as much flour as the other ingredients can take to usually get a soft dough .
What I mean in this long primer is this: Measurements are important, and while I will always like the accuracy of the German method, we need to take a look at other ways of measuring.
Turkish water glass versus American cup
If you’re interested in cooking, you’ve probably come across Turkish “su bardağı”, sometimes abbreviated as “SB”, or the American cup. The beauty of these two is that they are the same.
What I mean is they have the same volume. A standard Turkish water glass, not the huge or decorative ones, but the ones you see in almost every home in the country, can hold 200 milliliters of water. The same goes for the United States Cup. This for one is super handy for knowing if you’re like me and don’t worry about washing your measuring tools in the middle of cooking, having glasses handy is a great option.
Another popular measuring device is the “cay bardağı”, the Turkish tulip-shaped tea glass. Standards can hold 100 milliliters of liquid and are used as commonly as water glasses. But with the popularity of ever larger tea glasses, you have to keep in mind that I mean the smaller ones. If you don’t have one, just use a glass of water but fill it halfway.
However, the problems start when you add items that can be packaged. If you’re lazy and don’t want to check the weight of an object, a quick Google search will reveal that a cup of flour can range from 80 grams to 125 grams.
Now you could say, “about 20 grams shouldn’t matter much” – and you would be right. The problems start when a recipe calls for 5 cups and those 20 grams add up to 100 grams above what is needed. I have ruined a lot of recipes for this reason.
But keep in mind: when flour is mentioned in a recipe, never press it. Leave it as soft as possible. Adding a little more flour afterwards is always easier to balance than extra liquids.
The agreement with spoons
Tablespoons all over the world are roughly the same size and are a great way to measure things. Yes, just like with the flour dilemma, you shouldn’t be pressing any ingredients here, but there’s not a lot of room to do it anyway. Instead, you have to be careful not to make a mound on the spoon. Other than that, tablespoons are great because they can usually hold around 10 milliliters and are a way to measure flour, sugar, and other ingredients with similar densities. And to be honest, who doesn’t have a tablespoon or two on hand at home?
The teaspoon is another story here. This spoon is called a dessert spoon (tatlı kaşığı) in Turkish and is usually half the amount of a tablespoon. Why are we using a different name? Because the Turkish teaspoon (çay kaşığı) is tiny, it contains half of a teaspoon. To clarify, here is a list to use as a reference:
1 tablespoon = 10 milliliters = 2 teaspoons / tatlı kaşığı = 4 çay kaşığı (Turkish teaspoon)
So whenever you see a recipe in Turkish, keep in mind that spices, in particular, are measured using çay kaşığı, so be careful not to spoil your hard work!
But as simple as it may sound, some pages on the Internet claim that one tablespoon is 15 milliliters, so other measures fly off as a result. My opinion will always be the same: weigh or measure your quantities with decent equipment.
While I always advocate measuring ingredients accurately in grams, I get lazy and sometimes use my glasses. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this helpful list of the most common metrics you’re likely to see. But keep in mind: these are averages!
Ideal for anything that is liquid. From water to milk, oils and so on.
1 US cup = 1 glass of Turkish water = 200 milliliters = 2 çay bardağı
Here we are talking about standard all purpose white flour. Depending on the type you are using, such as fine baking flour or thicker whole grains, these measurements will be different.
1 US cup / 1 glass of water = 110 grams (between 100-120 grams)
The standard packaging in many countries for baking powder and baking soda is 10 grams. But not all countries do, so we can easily say that:
1 flat tablespoon = 2 teaspoons = 10 grams of baking powder
For all other things: Please weigh!
The most frustrating thing I come across every day is when I look into American recipes: the most basic things, like tomatoes for a salad, are measured in cups. Why? Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, so I can easily put double that in a cup when I chop them up a bit. It’s not like rice or other ingredients that come in small pieces. I would even feel better if they wrote “a handful”. While I’m aware that hands all over the world come in different sizes, it still gives a better idea of how much you need.
Now that we understand the huge impact metrics can have on the end product, I’ll leave you with these farewell words: When in doubt, weigh it!