Do-It-Yourself Conversions

Have you noticed that most of my recipes list ingredients in grams? I often receive email from people asking if I would convert the grams into ounces, or into volume measurements. I’m sorry I cannot do this on request, but here are some tips that may help you, if you want to do the converting yourself.

I strongly recommend weighing ingredients, especially flour. The reasons for this are explained in my post about scales and weighing. Many scales can switch between avoirdupois (ounces/pounds; the US system) and metric (grams/kilograms; the sane system) units.

If you do not have a scale, or your scale does not have metric units, you will have to do some math. (Remember when you rolled your eyes in 5th-grade math class and complained that you couldn’t imagine when you would ever need this stuff in real life? Now would be a good time.)

If you have a scale, but it does not have metric units:

One ounce is approximately 28.4 grams. So to convert grams to ounces, divide by 28.4. For example:

57 grams = 2 ounces (closely enough)

Or you can use an online grams-to-ounces calculator such as this one at metric-conversions.org.

If you do not have a scale:

The USDA Nutrient Database is a very nice resource for determining weight-volume equivalents for most things.

However, the Nutrient Database will not tell you the weight of a cup of flour. This is because flour measures differently depending on your measuring technique. I have seen a cup of flour weigh anywhere from 127 to 148 grams.

A good place to start might be to use the conversion factor of 130 grams per cup of flour. So to convert grams to cups of flour, divide by 130. If you are consistently unhappy with your baking results, you may need to adjust this number.

Another ingredient the Nutrient Database will not help you with is sourdough starter. The weight of a cup of starter varies with how much the starter is stirred down before it is measured. I measure my mature 100%-hydration starter, after being well-stirred, at about 250 grams per cup of starter. Again, your mileage may vary.

Small ingredients

For small ingredients such as salt and yeast, unless you have a scale that can measure to the tenth of a gram, you’ll measure more accurately with volume. For most of my recipes I give both gram and volume measurements for these things, but in case I forgot a few:

For table salt, one teaspoon is 6 grams. (For Kosher salt, a teaspoon weighs less than this.)

For instant yeast, one teaspoon is 3.1 grams.

Post a comment » 21 Comments

  1. Great info! Thanks!

  2. Alternatively, you can invoke the power of Google. Type in something like “600mL to cups” at the main page and it’ll spit out the conversion for you. This works for volume, weight, temperature, distance, you name it.

  3. This is so much fun…. I can’t do math (at least that is what I tell everyone) but I can do grams to ounces and back in an instant as well as Celcius to Fahrenheit.

    It’s all about interests I suppose… my mind needs triggers maybe?

  4. I think I’m just about chained/married to my scale. No way am I into that math stuff.

  5. I bought the King Arthur flour cookbook a few years ago, and immediately converted to weight measure for most of my cooking — I still just toss in some of this and some of that for many recipes ;)

    Most of my cook books now have weights scrawled in the margins of recipes I’ve used more than once.

    I find myself searching out the eurpoean editions of cookbooks I want to buy now — hoping to be save the conversion work.

    Of course, now I’m the adult forcing my 5th grade daughter to learn the conversions.

  6. Thank goodness, I have one!
    Cheers,
    elra

  7. hmmmph! You know where I stand on this. ; )

  8. I just encountered this issue today because I much prefer weighing everything and my cookie dough did not feel right, so I added more, conscientiously weighing it for my blog readers… and then realized I had no idea what volume of flour I had thrown in to my dough. Maybe I should send them over here for guidance!

  9. Just what I need!

  10. I actually went out and bought a scale. Then realized it needed a special type of battery after I brought it home. Now I can’t find the battery anywhere, and am back to using cups and teaspoons! :) I hope at some point I will be able to weight out ingredients!!

  11. Although I’ve not gone over to metric emotionally, when I moved over here to England from the States, I had a lot of trouble converting recipes. For instance, butter isn’t sold in sticks. A pint is 20 ounces, not 16 (I’m going to have sharp words with my high school science teacher, who taught us that, “a pint’s a pound the world around.” No, it isn’t; just in the USA. I had to buy a set of measuring spoons and cups in US sizes. I’m afraid that grams and millilitres make more sense when you’re cooking, and a good scale is essential.

  12. Great post Susan :)

    I’ve got a conversions page on my blog so people can refer back to it but I still get emails from folks who want me to convert the recipe for them :(

  13. Hi Susan.

    I introduced all of my students at Culinard to the metric system by using only grams in my formulas. While I guess a few of them had some misgivings about that initially, the fact that I was teaching them “baker’s math” simultaneously probably made the advantages of metric more apparent. Baker’s math (as you know) really just involves simple addition, multiplication and division — it’s not advanced math — but you have a much harder time doing math with a pounds-and-ounces system based on units of 16 than you do with a system based on units of 10. After just a couple of days of working with grams, not one student ever came to me with problems using them as a unit of measure. Metric measurements are unfamiliar to most Americans, but when they actually use them exclusively for a couple of days, they usually realize that they’re simpler.

    Also, the urgency of using a scale instead of cups and spoons became more obvious when making larger batches of dough than people might make at home. Making dozens of loaves and getting them through proofing and baking cycles simultaneously can be a little like herding cats if you don’t have precise control of the process. Using weight instead of volume measurements in dough, and using smaller, base-10 units like grams made the dough more obedient.

    That shouldn’t suggest to anyone that bread can’t be made successfully when using volume measurements, or that the metric system will turn a home baker into a pro. Also, the urgency of getting precise control over your dough is a bit less when there’s one or two loaves instead of 3 or 4 dozen.

    I’ve thought sometimes (and maybe I just think too much) that making bread dough is a sort of like gambling. I think most people who go to Vegas are recreational gamblers who just enjoy the gaming and are willing to put some limited amount of money on the line for the sake of that enjoyment. If they play long enough, they’ll win some, lose some, and that’s all just fine. They had a great time, and that was the point of going there.

    Professional gamblers also win some and lose some, but they do so in a much more calculated way, so that they end up on the winning side much more often than a casual gambler. They can only remain pro gamblers because they end up in the money often enough to counter the effect of any losses. And, they end up in the money more often because they leave less to chance. They are expert at calculating odds of a winning bet, and they take notice of every little thing that goes on at a gaming table and how that affects their odds — because they MUST.

    So a lot of whether you do or don’t adopt precise measurements is determined, I think, by how much you need to get complete, precise control of your dough’s behavior. Some baker’s don’t mind sharing the driving with Lady Luck, while others might want to leave less to chance. I don’t think that home bakers using volume measurements are wrong to do so if they are happy with the process and happy with their results. If they feel dumbfounded, though, about why a dough doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, then they inevitably should look at more precise ways of controlling the process.

  14. I sincerely hope everyone uses metric for baking. It’s so much easier and there is no error. When converting grams to ounces it can be anywhere from 28.4 to 30 grams per ounce. That can be quite a huge difference. Plus, having to convert pints, quarts, cups, etc. is just the most backwards way to do things when you can do everything by powers of 10.

  15. Salt is a tricky ingredient – it comes in a wide range of densities, and that makes for difficult measurement by volume. Weighing solves any problems.

    It’s amazing how much confusion/ignorance there is out there on this fact – I recently attended a local hospital sponsored Cardio-Rehab training where one session on correcting diet issues was led by the hospital dietitian – during her discussion on reducing salt in our diet, I mentioned the density issue, and used kosher vs table salt as an example. The dietitian’s response was to look quizzically at me, and say that I needed to check my facts.

    When I later sent her the proof she had suggested I obtain, I never heard back from her. Proves education and station are not guarantees of knowledge. Also proves why we should weigh our ingredients.

  16. I am terrible at math and was dismayed when I got into baking to find that I’d have to do conversions and percentages. I have the mathematical equivalent of dyslexia and it is a burden when I bake.

    I’m in the process of creating a notebook where yeast conversions are printed out for easy reference. I use a scale rather than than trying to deal with volume, and my handy calculator has made it easy to convert recipes into percentages, which – for me- makes recipes simpler to understand. Everyone has their own unique skills and preferences and I’m happy to be discovering tricks that work for me. Thanks for a great article!

  17. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/cvcookix.html
    Sane or not I did not grow up using Metric, there are plenty of websites with conversion table for recipes that need converted either way. My mom taught me how to use feel for bread doughs, never fail to produce a hearty bread. Got to love those older cooks who recipes handed down were a pinch of that a smidge of that, a little of this. No written words, all by feel. no systems involved in that. ;)

  18. Tom Cruise have dyslexia and yet he is still a very successful actor..’-

  19. dyslexia can affect anyone of use but this disease is not very debilitating anyway’`.

  20. there are many famous persons with dyslexia and it is not a debilitating disease. Tom Cruise is known to be dyslexic ,’.

  21. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for natural pearls

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