Teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, ounces, milliliters – the different ways recipes give measurements can be baffling. Even experienced cooks and bakers sometimes forget an equivalent, and when measurements are in an unfamiliar system – like the metric system for Americans – all but professionals pull out their substitution charts.
Don't panic if you can't locate your 1/4 cup measure. There are several ways to measure using other tools. Just be sure you're converting identical forms of an ingredient.
Measuring Without the 1/4 Cup
When a recipe calls for 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup or 1 cup of water or another ingredient, you simply pull out your measuring cups, right? But wait – the 1/8 cup is nesting inside the 1/3 cup! Where did the 1/4 cup go? You check the dishwasher, a few other drawers and the kids' play kitchen, but it has disappeared.
That's OK. You can measure 1/4 cup several other ways:
- Two 1/8 cups = 1/4 cup
- Half of 1/2 cup = 1/4 cup. Although you'll be eyeballing what is half of the 1/2 cup, being exact isn't as critical with water as long as you're close.
- 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
- 12 teaspoons = 1/4 cup (3 teaspoons per tablespoon times 4 tablespoons = 12 teaspoons)
Converting Ounces to Milliliters and More
Often, a recipe you want to try uses metric measurements instead of the standard U.S. system. It helps to keep a conversion table nearby so you can easily refer to it. In recipes, you will most often need conversions of weights and liquids, such as:
- oz to ml: 1 fluid ounce (fl oz) = 29.57353 milliliters (ml)
- 1 gallon = 3.7854 liters (l)
- 1 liter = 33.81 fl oz
- 1 oz = 28.35 grams (g)
Converting Same Ingredients
It's important to make sure you're converting ingredients that are identical or of the same form for the conversion to work successfully. When finding another way to measure water, you're still measuring the same ingredients.
Substitute broth or hot sauce: If you decided that instead of water, you'd like to add broth, that should be fine because broth is mild but flavorful and acts the same as water in a recipe. You can cook in broth and use it in sauces and gravies and more. While it may add flavor, 1/4 cup of broth won't change the recipe much. However, if you decide to use hot sauce instead of water, adding 1/4 cup of hot sauce might make your dish too spicy.
Dried spices for fresh: Let's say your recipe called for 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, but you don't have it on hand, so you opt for dried rosemary instead. Dried spices are about three times more potent than fresh, so in general, it takes three times as much chopped, fresh spice than the same spice dried. So, 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary – a pungent spice – might overpower your dish. The conversion for spices is: 1 tablespoon fresh spice = 1 teaspoon dried spice.
Wondering About Troy Ounces?
You may have heard of troy ounces and wondered, "What's the difference between an ounce and a troy ounce?" Troy ounces are used internationally to measure precious metals like gold and silver. So, unless you're cashing in investments while your dinner simmers, you can concentrate only on converting standard ounces and forget about troy.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area and writes about food for eHow.com and leaf.tv. She started baking on her own at age nine, creating appetizers at 10, and making family meals by 14. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh, where she often cooked elaborate meals and desserts for friends.