How To Measure Flour

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.

Commonly Used Weight Measurements

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.

99 Responses to “How To Measure Flour”

  1. Valerie — October 19, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Jamie, I love this article. I am in the process of writing a similar one for my site. I became aware of the importance of weighing baking ingredients about 10 years ago when I bought Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Cake Bible.

    Some of the young women at my church have asked me to teach them how to bake a cake and when I ask them what kind of cups do they use to measure flour, some of them respond with – “Are there different kinds of cups?” Some of your readers may think the information in this article is “common sense” but it’s not.

    Reply

  2. MickeyB — October 19, 2011 at 7:05 am

    What perfect timing! Yesterday I’d been searching your site for a post or FAQ on measuring flour and didn’t find one! Some recipe sources have different standards for what a cup of flour weighs, but I didn’t know what to do with your recipes since only cups were listed. Since I now know that you’re aligned with KAF, I’ll be able to convert your recipes! I’ve been weighing my baking ingredients for a few years now, and I’ll never go back to measuring cups. No guesswork!! Thank you! :D

    Reply

  3. Catharine — October 19, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Good article! One typo — one cup of butter weighs 8 ounces, not 4 ounces.

    Reply

    • Jamie — October 19, 2011 at 8:14 am

      Catharine-
      Just caught the error – thanks so much!
      -Jamie

  4. Anita Menon — October 19, 2011 at 7:41 am

    One of the most useful posts around. Thank you so much for sharing. Measuring the flour made a huge difference I suppose, when i tried baking your pumpkin bread.

    Reply

  5. Bernadette — October 19, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) is 8 ounces. One stick of butter is 1/2 cup, which is 4 ounces. Four standard sized sticks of butter is equal to one pound.

    Reply

    • Jamie — October 19, 2011 at 8:13 am

      Bernadette-
      Nope you are exactly right, I originally had 1 stick: equals 1/2 cup and weighs 4 ounces. Sorry about that – correction has been made. Thanks!
      -Jamie

  6. Casey — October 19, 2011 at 8:03 am

    This is a great post… thanks so much for the info! I’ve definitely been scooping flour with my measuring cup… I’ll be stopping that now :)

    Reply

  7. Frostine@ThatReallyFrostsMe.com — October 19, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I have a kitchen scale on my Christmas list. I find that the precision of your ingredients makes more difference when baking at sea level. When I lived up at 3,000 feet it was much more forgiving.

    Reply

  8. angela@spinachtiger — October 19, 2011 at 8:41 am

    As a self-taught baker, I adore this site and these simple basics. I’m pinning this one to always have it. Keep these good tips coming.

    Reply

  9. Sarah — October 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great article! I made peanut butter thumbprints yesterday, and while my husband loved them, I thought they were a little too dry. After reading this article, I realized I scooped the flour rather than spooning it.
    I’m a relatively new baker, so this site is great for someone like me! Recipes, basics, almost everything you need to get started! Now to get him to buy me a stand mixer…

    Reply

  10. Cassie @ Bake Your Day — October 19, 2011 at 9:48 am

    This is a very well written post, Jamie! I have recently learned the difference too and so a lot of measuring dry ingredients with a food scale. Great explanations!

    Reply

  11. The Sweet Cupcaker — October 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I had no idea that it could affect it that way! Great info for all of us trying to be as great as you!

    Reply

  12. loretta vandenberg — October 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Love this article. I am a pastry chef and used to using scales. Most cookbooks use cups and spoons for measuring so this chart will be very handy to convert to weight measurements. I’m taping my copy to the inside of my kitchen cabinets. Thanks, love your blog.

    Reply

  13. Julie — October 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for the great tip.

    When I took home economics in high school, our teacher taught us to measure flour correctly. One tip she taught us (that the video didn’t mention) was when leveling the flour at the end, use the back of a knife and divide the overflow in to thirds. We then pushed the excess off in three different directions. Pushing simply from right to left may add extra flour by pushing it back into the measuring cup.

    Reply

  14. Karen — October 19, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I love your back to basics article. How do you measure sifted flour? Do you measure the flour before it is sifted or after? Love, love, love your blog!

    Reply

  15. Virginia — October 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I made peanut butter cookies the other day. In my search for keeping my cookies soft, I read something about using a spoon instead of scooping with the cup..I did that and it made a HUGE difference! Thank you for this post :D I have a scale and think I may try baking a cake again, something I have not gotten right yet, but this time, weighing my dry ingredients :D

    Reply

  16. Gaby@GabHousewifeChronicles — October 19, 2011 at 11:50 am

    thanks for this article!!! it’s so useful! i love it and L-O-V-E the video… thanks so much!

    Reply

  17. Lauren — October 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I’m printing those weights out and taping them onto the inside of my cupboard!

    Reply

  18. Rosie — October 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    What a great resource! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  19. Ali — October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    To confuse matters more, humidity can alter the amount of flour needed for a recipe. I find that when I bake at my parents’ condo in FL, I need to add more flour to things like pizza dough and pretzels than I do when I’m at home in Toronto.

    Reply

  20. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen — October 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for this post. A lot of people measure flour incorrectly and it is a big baking pet peeve of mine! I have one of those big “simple human” containers that I store my flour in, and just keep a spoon for scooping and a knife for leveling in there all the time.

    Reply

  21. Jen of My Tiny Oven — October 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    WOW, what a great post! I had no idea the weight would vary that much! I guess I will be using my scale more often now!!
    Thanks so much!

    Reply

  22. New baker — October 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you for this! I am new to baking/cooking and when I first started, I didn’t know there was a difference between the dry measuring cups and liquid until my husband told me… oopsie..but you have to learn sometime….=)

    Reply

  23. nicole {sweet peony} — October 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    jamie- this is great! thanks so much for posting a helpful article like this! :)

    Reply

  24. Cupcake Activist — October 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Interesting! I just baked cookies the other day and was thinking about this exact thing. I’ll be more careful next time.

    Reply

  25. Pragati — October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    This is uselful and important article! Thanks

    Reply

  26. Amber — October 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the tips! Guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years… So this made me think, are you suppose to apply this same method when measuring powdered sugar?

    Reply

  27. Grace — October 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Wow I didn’t know this about measuring flour! Might need to go get myself one of them scales!

    Reply

  28. Stephanie — October 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    This is so helpful! Amazing to see the weight difference from scooping to spooning the flour. Thanks so much for posting!

    Reply

  29. I would never bake or cook without my scale. This “cup business” is just not for me.

    Reply

  30. Ann — October 20, 2011 at 12:08 am

    YAY! As it turns out – I’ve been measuring it right all these years!

    Reply

  31. Tracy — October 20, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Wow, I didn’t realize what a huge difference the way I measure flour makes! I will definitely be paying more attention to that in the future and using your tips!

    Reply

  32. Rachel — October 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Very useful article. I love to bake and have been doing it since I was little but I have ALWAYS dipped my measuring cup into the flour and leveled off with a knife. Now I know the proper way!!! THANKS!

    Reply

  33. Nicole — October 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Great post! I find myself converting recipes to weight more and more because it’s just so much easier to weight ingredients!

    Reply

  34. Juliet — October 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Great post! I’m still a little bit of a newbie in the baking category and I have come across a number of recipes that have different wording for flour – “1 1/3 C flour, sifted” and “1 1/3 C sifted flour”. Is there a difference of when you sift the flour or is this just two variations on the same thing?

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Yaritza — January 24, 2013 at 12:50 am

      I wanted to ask the same question to her. I learned at class that you should always sift the dry ingredients prior measuring them. But this can change the weight of the ingredient because you incorporate air in it by sifting it, so it gets lighter… I wonder what she would do.
      btw, 2 years later!

  35. Theresa — October 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    This is very interesting. It’s surprising how different scooping the flour is compared to digging your measuring cup through it. Great post.

    Reply

  36. Robin H — October 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve always kept my flour in a wide mouthed plastic container. It’s large enough to hold a full 5 pounds. When I need flour I use my whisk to stir it and then transfer it to the measuring cup. When you push the whisk down into the container and pull it up, a bunch of flour will come up with the whisk. I then “sprinkle” it into the cup and then level it off with a knife. I’ve been baking for a long time and this method has always worked well for me.

    Reply

  37. Kate @ Kate from Scratch — October 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Such a good tutorial…something I would never think to explain, but really should be explained more often, I suppose. I’m thinking also that this might be the deciding factor of buying that scale I’ve been mulling over forever. I can’t handle not knowing exact measurements.

    Reply

  38. Janelle King — October 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Great. Do you prefer King Arthur unbleached flour versus Gold Medal Unbleached Flour?

    Reply

  39. Urban Wife — October 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

    This was extremely helpful to me! Now I know why sometimes my baked goods come out “heavier” than other times. What a novice mistake on my part. ;)

    Reply

  40. sylvia — November 5, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    infinitely useful -thank you!

    Reply

  41. Casey — November 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve been middle of the road. I scoop with my measuring cup, but first I stick my whisk into the bag of flour to aerate it. Maybe I would come in at 4.75… :)

    Reply

  42. Cakes from My Kitchen — November 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Please continue to provide helpful tips like these. Can some one please answer the question that Juliet posted on Oct 24 Post #36 Re: flour – “1 1/3 C flour, sifted” and “1 1/3 C sifted flour”. Is there a difference of when you sift the flour or is this just two variations on the same thing? and the question that Karen posted Oct. 19th Post #16. Re: How do you measure sifted flour? Do you measure the flour before it is sifted or after?

    Reply

    • Jamie — November 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      Hi-
      To my knowledge – if a recipe calls for “2 cups sifted flour” (the word sifted coming before the word flour) you should sift the flour into a bowl and then measure it. If the recipe says “2 cups flour, sifted” (the word flour coming before the word sifted), you should measure the flour first, then sift it. I always measure the sifted flour in the same way I described in this post. Hopefully this helps! Thanks for stopping by.
      -Jamie

    • Cakes from My Kitchen — November 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      Thank You sooooooooo much!!!! this will definately help. I’m glad I stopped by. I’ll try not to wear out my welcome.

  43. Dawn — November 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    OMG! I LOVE this article what took me so long to find it. I’m obsessed.

    Reply

  44. Aggie — November 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Great post! I learned how to measure flour from that same video this time last year and it changed my baking life! If I baked more often I would probably end up with a scale. Thanks for all the great info.

    Reply

  45. Jordan — December 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Wish I had read this article before I made my cream cheese pound cake this afternoon. Might have had a better outcome. Thanks for this!

    Reply

  46. Jenny — January 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks so much for this – I have often wondered how best to measure out dry ingredients in my US recipe books as in the UK our recipes always use weights for flour and sugar etc. Using cups is certainly messier!

    Jen

    Reply

  47. Elajr — January 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I smiled when I saw this post. Because I have a scale but sometimes too lazy to use it. Now I can measure using your method w/o the scale. Thank you.

    Reply

  48. Anabel — February 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    WOW! I was doing this all wrong! I think now that I’m determined to become a “proffesional” baker (because my husband got me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer) I will by a digital scale.

    Reply

  49. Susan — February 22, 2012 at 10:41 am

    In the UK we don’t tend to have cups, I’ve been taught and taught myself to bake using weights. This makes using American recipes incredibly difficult, the best I can do is one of my American friends told me that a cup is equal to sixteen tablespoons which was so much faff that I haven’t tried it since. I don’t understand the different terms, either. Such as all purpose flour, cake flour, confectioner’s sugar etc- I have plain flour, self raising flour, granulated sugar (the kind you’d put on your cereal or in your coffee), caster sugar and icing sugar.
    I’m confused!! :(

    Reply

  50. Leslie — June 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I know I’m a little bit late, seeing as this post was written 10 months ago! :) But – I had a question regarding how to measure flour using a food scale. Will at typical digital scale work? And what would the best method be to measuring it out? Would you just measure it straight on the scale? or tare a cup or something before weighing it? I’m reading this article after months of frustrating baking, getting different results each time I bake, so I do appreciate the information!
    Thanks – L. Whitfield

    Reply

    • Jamie — June 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Leslie-
      I use a digital scale all the time and simply tare a bowl. Hope this helps!
      -Jamie

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