When you’re talking about measuring or converting ounces, it’s important to specify liquid or dry ounces because they are measured differently. You’ll often see liquids specified in fluid ounces, or “fl oz,” when abbreviated in recipes. Other times, the ingredients just list, “1/2 cup milk” or “2 ounces cheddar cheese,” but you know milk is a liquid, or a fluid, while cheese is not. Be sure to use the measuring tools that are designed for fluid ounces when measuring liquids and the appropriate tools for dry measurements.
Using the Proper Measuring Tools
You may have noticed that measuring cups that nest inside each other are marked in cups ‒ usually 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup. For accurate measuring, you must fill them to the top. There’s no fill line below the top. These are for measuring dry ingredients like flour and sugar, which you fill to the top ‒ or even heap the ingredient above the top ‒ and then use something flat, like the flat side of a table knife, to level off the ingredient at top of the measuring cup.
If you use these measuring cups for liquids and fill them to the top, it’s almost impossible to transport the measuring cup to your bowl without spilling some liquid. Fluids are measured much more easily and accurately in taller measuring cups that typically hold 2‒4 cups and have a fill line below the top of the measurer. They are marked at 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, usually 2/3 cup or 3/4 cup, or both, and 1 cup, 2 cups, 3 cups and 4 cups. They’re also marked in ounces in case your recipe lists some amounts that way.
You can tell these are for measuring wet ingredients, because:
- They have a fill line below the top of the measurer so liquids won’t spill out.
- They also have ounce markings for liquids, which are sometimes given in ounces; whereas flour, sugar, baking powder and other dry ingredients are not usually measured in ounces.
- Many are made of glass, so you can get eye level with the designated fill line to see if the liquid is at, below or above the line. (Although you could put dry ingredients in them, getting eye level with a dry ingredient isn’t as accurate as filling it to the top of a dry measurer and leveling it off.)
Determining How Much Is an Ounce
Although you can measure ounces in some liquid measuring cups, you also may want to measure amounts that are too small for cup measuring tools. Measuring spoons work well for both liquid and dry ingredients. Spaghetti sauce might call for 1 teaspoon of a dried herb, while cookies would call for 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Both can be measured accurately with measuring spoons, although they can spill liquids easily, so be sure to measure liquids close to your mixing bowl.
Sometimes, though, recipes will give measurements in ounces, such as 1 ounce of vodka. In these cases, it’s helpful to know how to convert from one to the other, such as converting 1 ounce to a tbsp (an abbreviation for “tablespoon”). Or, for larger amounts, how many ounces in a quart? It’s handy to have a substitution table accessible for quickly converting from one measurement to another. For example:
- 1 oz = 2 tablespoons
- 8 fl oz = 1 cup
- 32 ounces = 1 quart
- 16 tablespoons = 1 cup
- 1 gram = .035 oz
- 100 grams = 3.5 oz
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.