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How To Measure Flour

by Jamie on October 19, 2011

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As a food blogger, I try to provide my readers with great recipes that have been tested thoroughly in my kitchen. However, sometimes a recipe that worked well for me turns out a little less than perfect for a reader.

I am always willing to help my readers figure out what may have caused a variance in the texture, flavor, yield, color, etc. because as a baker, I learn from your experiences as well as my own. Typically the first question I ask is, “How did you measure the flour?”

I always thought dipping the measuring cup directly into the flour sack was an accurate means of measurement. However, when I started to teach myself how to bake – I realized this method can be pretty inaccurate.

Flour measurements can be one of the biggest variables when it comes to the finished product. Weighing ingredients is by far the most accurate, but not a common practice here in the U.S. If you’re an Alton Brown fan – like I am – you know from Good Eats, that this is pretty much the only way he measures dry ingredients.

A digital scale can come in pretty handy and is useful for more than just measuring your sugar and flour – I use mine a lot to weigh small packages for click and ship labels via USPS, they are also great for figuring out correct portions of meat and other items if you happen to watching your waistline.


If you don’t own a scale, when it comes to dry ingredients, you’re more than likely using a measuring cup. Many people use them with perfect results. But be aware that they can be incredibly inaccurate depending upon the method of adding the ingredient to the cup that you use.

Although I grew up using both liquid and dry measuring cups, I’ve come to realize through blogging that a lot of people don’t own both types of cups and some don’t know that two types of measuring cups exist. So, let’s start with the basics – if you’re going to bake, I strongly recommend picking up a set of dry measuring measuring cups as well as at least one liquid measuring cup. Both can be found in pretty much any store including places like Target, Amazon, the grocery store and even the dollar store.

I decided to conduct a little kitchen experiment and measure a cup of all-purpose flour two ways.

Here were the results:

1. Scooping a measuring cup into the flour and leveling: 6 oz in weight
2. Spooning the flour into a measuring cup and leveling: 4.25 oz in weight

Pretty big difference, right? Especially when it comes to baking. Because just a couple extra ounces of flour can really change the texture of a baked good.

The important thing to remember is that, much like brown sugar, flour packs. Scooping the ingredient with your measuring instrument will cause packing. Packing flour can add up quickly.

If you have a recipe with 3 cups of flour, and you scoop using your measuring up, you’d end up with 18 oz of flour, when in reality you should have 12.75 oz of flour. That’s nearly an extra 3/4 cup of flour in your recipe! That can dramatically change the results you get from a finished baked good.

Now, I know that not everyone has a scale – that’s okay because I am going to explain how to get a pretty accurate measurement without the use of a scale.

How To Measure Flour

1. Use a spoon to fluff up the flour within the container.
2. Use a spoon to scoop the flour into the measuring cup.
3. Use a knife or other straight edged utensil to level the flour across the measuring cup. King Arthur Flour has a plastic straight edge that I keep in my flour bin at all times for just this purpose.

Here is a handy list of some of the commonly used weight measurements in my kitchen. All measurements are in weight ounces, not fluid ounces.

Flours

all-purpose flour 1 cup weighs 4.25 ounces
cake flour 1 cup weighs 4 ounces
bread flour 1 cup weighs 4.25 ounces

Sugars

granulated white sugar 1 cup weighs 7 ounces
confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar); unsifted 1 cup weighs 4 ounces
light or dark brown sugar; packed 1 cup weighs 7.5 ounces

Butter

butter 1 cup weighs 8 ounces

I also definitely recommend printing out a copy of this Master Weight Chart from King Arthur Flour. I laminated mine because I am kind of a messy baker. The list hangs from the side of my fridge, and I can honestly say it is one of my most used kitchen resources. And if you’re a visual person – like me, take a few seconds to watch this video from King Arthur Flour.


{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

jmposti4 June 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

Very helpful!! Thanks

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Leah July 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thank you so much for this resource! This is exactly what budding bakers like myself need! I am planning on buying a digital scale.

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Jamie July 1, 2012 at 11:04 am

Leah-
Thanks for stopping by – you definitely will not regret the purchase of a digital scale. Have a great day.
-Jamie

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Ashley July 10, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I have a question about the writer of the recipe.. Do we assume they scooped the flour in the way described here? Thanks for this post!!

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Jamie July 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Ashley-
I always spoon the flour into the cups and then sweep off the excess. Hope this helps.
-Jamie

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Kellee July 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I already adore your website and this just totally made my day! I bake all the time and I never knew about spooning v. scooping.
<3

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Renea August 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm

You say 1 cup of AP flour weighs 4.25oz. Is that including the weight of the cup?

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Rosa January 8, 2014 at 3:04 am

No, it doesn’t include the weight of the cup. First place the cup on the scale, second zero the scale out, and third then weigh the flour. :-)

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Lynne November 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I think you may have singlehandedly saved my Thanksgiving. This is super helpful — thanks SO MUCH!!

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Lacy Jo January 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Thanks so much girl! I am the pastry chef at a restaurant in LA and sometimes doing the work to figure out conversions is just not a quick enough option. Your chart saved me some time! Helpful stuff! Thanks!

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Deb Whitman May 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Seriously helpful article!! Thanks so much. Guess I need to buy a scale but in the meantime, your article and the link to King Arthur’s Flour’s chart saved my butt for a recipe I needed to make today! Thank you!

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Hannah October 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

How embarrassing, I had no idea about all this! My baked goods always turn out pretty well, but this has the potential to really improve them. I’m always careful to not intentionally pack the flour when I’m scooping it out (with the cup, oops) and I even whisk it beforehand sometimes, but I definitely haven’t used the non-digital baking scale sitting in my cupboard. Learning something new every day! Can’t wait to try out the pumpkin bread recipe with my new skills :D

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Jamie October 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Hannah-
Oh, I am so happy to hear you learned a little something from this post! You’ll love the pumpkin bread – I promise. Happy baking and thanks so much for stopping by!
-Jamie

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Jackline October 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Thank you so much. for the info on measuring cups.

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Candice November 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

This conversion information was really helpful for a recipe I’m making that had granulated sugar measured out in ounces. Thanks so much!!

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Usha January 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Do I sift the flour first and then measure or measure and then sift? Some recipes mention the amount and flour required and then sift. I just came across a pastry recipe that suggests sifting the flour and then measuring the required amount.
I am confused. Please help.

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Jamie January 10, 2014 at 11:20 am

Usha, I think most people measure then sift. I would do that unless the recipe specifies otherwise.
- Jamie

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Michele May 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm

If a recipe calls for sifted flour, do you sift before or after measuring the flour? Thanks so much.

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Jamie June 19, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Michelle, you sift it after you measure it.
- Jamie

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Callie August 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm

So I just ran across this recipe (found here: http://feelingfoodish.com/white-velvet-butter-cupcakes-with-vanilla-buttercream-frosting/ ), and it shows the measurements in cups and in ounces… I bring this up because I feel like the flour measurement is wrong, and I would like your opinion on the matter… It says 3 cups sifted cake flour or 10.5 ounces… Is it less because it’s sifted first? (I’m under the assumption that it should equal out to 12 ounces since one cup of cake flour is four ounces…). I’m making 120 of these cupcakes (plus a two tier cake – different recipe) for my brother-in-law’s wedding this weekend, and I am making a list of the amount of ingredients I need because the bride is insisting on at least paying for the ingredients (bless her heart), and I don’t want to accidentally buy too much and overcharge her… Thoughts? Advise? Thank you in advance! :-) … I should also mention that I have made these dozens of times using regular dry measuring cups, sifting the flour first, and then scooping the flour into the measuring cup and leveling it off… They always come out beautifully (FANTASTIC bakery-style texture), but I figure adding up the ingredients in ounces will help me get a better idea of the amount of ingredients to buy. Thanks, and sorry for the rambling!

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Jamie August 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

You might contact the site with the recipe and check with them. It’s hard for me to say without having made the recipe.

-Jamie

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