When you’re preparing dishes such as stews and casseroles, you’re allowed considerable leeway in your measurements. When baking, however, your measurements must be more precise. Baking is an exact science, and accuracy matters to achieve the chemical interactions necessary to produce the correct outcome, such as a cake that rises and puddings that set. You can use a dry measurement conversion chart, or simply learn some basic equations for translating grams to tablespoons to dry ounces. With any method, keep in mind that measurements by volume are inherently flawed, and using a kitchen scale enhances your odds for success if you truly like to bake.
Two dry tablespoons make up 1 dry ounce.
Dry vs. Wet Measurements
To measure larger amounts of ingredients, you probably want to invest in separate utensils for dry and wet. A 1-cup dry measurement has the volume of just 1 cup, so when measuring a dry ingredient such as flour, fill the measuring cup all the way to the top. A 1-cup wet measuring cup has more volume than a single cup, but it’s made of a clear material such as glass and has lines on the side for measuring just 1 cup. The extra space in the measuring cup is necessary; liquids slosh and can spill over the top of a vessel that’s exactly the size of the volume you’re measuring. Because dry ingredients such as sugar and flour stay put after you measure them, the extra space in a dry measuring cup is unnecessary.
You don’t need different measuring tools for dry and wet tablespoons, probably because the smallness of the unit of measurement would make it hard to see the right amount in a vessel that isn’t just the right size. You measure a tablespoon of flour with the same tablespoon that you use for a tablespoon of oil. However, you have to hold your hand steadier when you’re measuring the oil because it’s easy to lose some if your hand shakes or if you bump into the counter. A tablespoon of flour or sugar is more forgiving when you’re measuring them because these ingredients are likely to stay put until you take a more dramatic action such as emptying them into a mixing bowl.
Measuring by Weight vs. Measuring by Volume
Measuring by weight is considerably more accurate than measuring by volume if you have a decent digital scale. The smaller the unit of measurement on your scale, the more accurate your weights will be. It’s hard to see variations of a few grams when you’re using a scale that’s calibrated in quarter-pound units, but it’s easy to see these differences on a digital scale that displays every single ounce or gram.
In addition, different substances have different densities, and even the same substance can have a different density once it settles over time. You can see this phenomenon by putting a dry substance such as oats in a measurement cup and then tapping the bottom of the cup on a table or counter a few times. The oats will settle a bit, and the volume will read less after settling than before. If you weighed the oats, you’d get the same measurement amount both before and after the settling.
Dry Measurement Chart
1 ounce = 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup = 2 ounces = 4 tablespoons
1/2 cup = 4 ounces = 8 tablespoons
1 cup = 8 ounces = 16 tablespoons
Using Tablespoons for Dry Measurement
It makes sense to use tablespoons for dry measurements if you’re working with smaller quantities. It’s cumbersome and time-consuming to measure 16 individual tablespoons when you really just need a cup of flour. Plus, there’s no good reason to do so unless you don’t have an actual cup measure.
Converting grams to tablespoons for dry measurements will depend on the substance you’re measuring. Grams are a measurement of weight, and peanut butter, for example, which is dense, has a different density from flour, which is fluffy. When converting grams to tablespoons for dry ingredients, it’s best to consult a grams-to-tablespoons dry measurement chart, which takes these variations into account.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.