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What are the US cooking measurement conversions?

When it comes to cooking and baking, accurate measurement of ingredients is extremely important for success. Many recipes, especially American recipes, use volume measurements like cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. However, weight measurements like grams and ounces are more precise. Understanding how to convert between US customary volume measurements and weight measurements is an essential skill for cooks and bakers.

Why are weight measurements more accurate than volume?

Volume measurements like cups and spoons are not as reliable as weight measurements. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The density of ingredients varies – One cup of flour is not the same weight as one cup of sugar due to differences in density.
  • How ingredients are measured affects packing – Lightly spooning flour into a cup will yield a different amount than tightly packing it in.
  • Differences in equipment – Your 1-cup measure may not perfectly match someone else’s 1-cup measure.

With weight measurements, you eliminate these inconsistencies. Grams and ounces provide precise, standardized units of measurement for ingredients.

Common US volume measurements

Here are some of the most common volume measurements used in American recipes:

  • Cup – This is a standard US cup measuring 8 fluid ounces or 16 tablespoons. Cup measures are usually round or oval shaped with handles.
  • Tablespoon (tbsp) – A tbsp equals 3 teaspoons or 1/16 cup. Most measuring spoon sets include tablespoons.
  • Teaspoon (tsp) – A tsp equals 1/3 tablespoon. Measuring spoons always come with teaspoons.
  • Fluid ounce (fl oz) – A fluid ounce is 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons.
  • Pint (pt) – A US pint equals 2 cups.
  • Quart (qt) – A US quart is equal to 2 pints or 4 cups.
  • Gallon (gal) – A US gallon equals 4 quarts or 16 cups.

Common US weight measurements

Here are some key weight measurements used in recipes and cooking:

  • Ounce (oz) – This is a unit of weight equal to 28 grams.
  • Pound (lb) – A pound is 16 ounces or about 454 grams.
  • Gram (g) – The gram is the basic SI unit of weight. There are about 28 grams in an ounce.
  • Kilogram (kg) – A kilogram equals 1000 grams, or about 2.2 pounds.

Converting between volume and weight

Since volume measurements are less precise, most serious baking recipes will provide ingredients by weight. However, many cooking recipes still rely on volume units. When substituting weight for volume, you need to know the approximate densities of common cooking ingredients:

Ingredient Volume to Weight Conversion
Flour 1 cup = 120 grams
Granulated sugar 1 cup = 200 grams
Brown sugar 1 cup (packed) = 220 grams
Butter 1 cup = 240 grams
Honey 1 cup = 340 grams

As you can see, the weight of a cup varies significantly for different ingredients due to differences in density. 1 cup of flour weighs much less than 1 cup of honey. So you can’t reliably substitute weight for volume using a single conversion factor.

Tips for converting volume to weight

  • Use a kitchen scale weighed in grams to measure out ingredients instead of cups.
  • Find the ingredient’s density conversion and use that to calculate weight from volume.
  • For greater accuracy, look up the specific density of the exact ingredient you are using (different brands may vary).
  • When in doubt, round up slightly on the weight to avoid potentially ruining a recipe by using too little of an ingredient.

Converting weight to volume

You may also need to go the opposite direction – converting the weight called for in a recipe to a volume measurement. This involves the reverse process of dividing the weight by the density. However, you’ll need to do a bit of rounding to get to exact volume units like cups and tablespoons. Here are some examples:

  • 140g flour / 120g per cup = 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 115g brown sugar / 220g per cup = approx. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 28g butter / 240g per cup = 2 tbsp butter

Again, it’s ideal to actually measure ingredients by weight using a kitchen scale. But this gives you a way to approximate volumes when you only have weight info.

Tips for converting weight to volume

  • Look up the density of the specific ingredient you are working with by weight per cup or grams per tablespoon.
  • Divide the weight by the density factor and round to the nearest tablespoon or fraction of a cup.
  • For small quantities under 1 tbsp, it may be easier to literally measure out the weight on a spoon than to calculate.
  • When rounding volume, err on the side of too much rather than too little to avoid ruining recipes.

Handy chart of volume to weight conversions

For quick reference, here is a chart with approximate densities and conversions for common cooking ingredients:

Ingredient Density (Weight per Cup) 1 Cup Equals 1 tbsp Equals
Flour (all-purpose) 120g 4.2 oz 8g
Granulated sugar 200g 7 oz 12g
Brown sugar, packed 220g 7.7 oz 14g
Butter 240g 8.5 oz 15g
Honey 340g 12 oz 21g
Olive oil 210g 7.4 oz 13g
Milk 244g 8.6 oz 15g
Heavy cream 240g 8.5 oz 15g

Handy weight conversion amounts

It’s also helpful to know some common weight conversions to quickly translate between units in recipes:

  • 1 ounce = 28 grams
  • 1 pound = 16 ounces = 454 grams
  • 1 kilogram = 1000 grams = 2.2 pounds
  • 1 gram = 1000 milligrams
  • 1 fluid ounce water = 30 grams / 1 fl oz milk = 33 grams

Putting it all together

Converting between volume and weight measurements is a useful skill for any home cook. Here are some final tips for making the most accurate conversions:

  • Use a reliable kitchen scale for the most precision – don’t substitute volumes for weights.
  • Find density info for your specific ingredient and brand when possible.
  • Round up slightly on weights to volumes to avoid potentially ruining your recipe.
  • Use the handy charts and info in this article as a reference.
  • Practice with various ingredients to get a feel for real-life measurements.

With some diligence and practice, you’ll quickly become proficient at translating between volume and weight measurements. You’ll end up with better, more consistent results in all your cooking and baking recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some tips for measuring dry ingredients?

For dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and spices:

  • Use weight instead of volume for more accuracy.
  • If using cups, spoon ingredient into cups and level off the top.
  • Never pack or tap cups when measuring dry goods.
  • Use the “dip and sweep” method with a knife to fill cups.

What are some tips for measuring liquid ingredients?

For liquids like milk, oil, and honey:

  • Use a clear liquid measuring cup with volume markings.
  • View at eye level on a flat surface to check accuracy.
  • For sticky liquids, spray cup with nonstick spray first.
  • Weigh liquids for more precision when baking.

What are some substitutions for common volume measurements?

  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
  • 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
  • 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 3/4 cup

Should I use metal or plastic measuring cups and spoons?

Metal measuring cups and spoons are better than plastic for these reasons:

  • More durable – won’t warp, crack or bend
  • Heat resistant up to high baking temps
  • More consistent sizing between sets
  • Easier to level ingredients evenly

What are some key tips for metric unit conversions?

  • Know that 1 liter = 1000 ml of liquid
  • Remember 1000 grams = 1 kilogram
  • Use a kitchen scale for weights instead of volumes
  • Round to whole numbers – e.g. convert 240g to 0.24kg


Converting between volume and weight units is an essential skill for accurate and consistent cooking and baking. Focus on using precise weight measurements as much as possible, and have conversion ratios for common ingredients handy. With practice, you’ll gain intuition for translating between cups, ounces, grams, and milliliters. Mastering measurement conversions gives you confidence in any recipe.