10 Common Cooking Conversions for Everyday Cooking

July 10, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Put away your measuring spoons! We're sharing our top cooking guesstimations, from minced garlic to lemon juice.

Salt Cooking Conversions

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Exactitude in the kitchen can be very satisfying, like filling in perfectly dark bubbles on a standardized test -- it indulges the Type A rule follower in all of us. However, for the times when you a) don't want to get your teaspoon dirty yet again, b) are throwing exactitude to the wind, or c) just don't feel like measuring, you can often estimate instead.

Cooking with estimated measurements can be freeing and just a little dangerous -- you are, after all, taking a risk in the kitchen. But they will help you in a pinch, and turn you into a more confident cook in the process. Be especially careful when using these estimations in baking, though -- those recipes entail more exact science than their savory counterparts.

Here are our 10 go-to kitchen conversions:

Garlic Cooking Conversions

Garlic: Garlic cloves can vary significantly in size -- you may have shrimpy cloves, or ones that look like they've been fed a serious diet of gonadotropin. But in general, a medium-sized clove of garlic equates to about a half teaspoon once minced.

Oil Cooking Conversions

Oil: A steady pour of oil once around a large pan translates to about a tablespoon, which is just enough to get you started on tomato sauce or weeknight burgers.

Lemon juice Cooking Conversions

Lemon Juice: On average, one lemon will yield about three tablespoons of juice, depending on its size. Don't forget to follow these tips to get the most juice out of your citrus.

Salt Cooking Conversions

Salt: A small palmful of salt (like the one pictured here) is about a teaspoon. If you're making a savory dish, this measuring technique will come in handy -- just be sure not to get too liberal with the palmfuls, and always taste your dish before serving to adjust the seasonings.

More: Were you a little heavy-handed with the salt? Here's how to fix your dish. 

Breadcrumbs Cooking Conversions

Breadcrumbs: To make 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, you'll need a medium-slized slice of bread -- about 1/2-inch thick from a medium-sized loaf. Make sure it's stale, or you could risk soggy breadcrumbs.

More: Go ahead and make a whole batch of breadcrumbs -- then turn it into 5 dinners

Rosemary Cooking Conversions

Rosemary: Once chopped, one medium-sized sprig of rosemary equates to about a teaspoon. Start chopping, and you'll be well on your way to this savory granola

Mustard Cooking Conversions

Mustard: For mustard and other everyday pantry items like honey or mayonnaise, a regular spoonful is about equivalent to a teaspoon. This rule of thumb is especially helpful when you're making less-strict recipes, such as vinaigrettes or other sauces.

Bananas Cooking Conversion

Bananas: If you're planning on making banana bread (and really, you should be), take note: 3 medium-sized ripe bananas equate to about one cup once mashed. 

Green Onions Cooking Conversion

Green Onions: One small bunch of green onions (about 4 to 5 stalks) equals about 3/4 cup once diced. We like to put ours in potato salads and spicy noodles.

Tomato Cooking Conversions

Tomatoes: They come in all shapes and sizes, but one medium-sized beefsteak tomato (the kind you think of when you think "tomato") equals about a cup chopped. 

Now that you're comfortable cooking without measuring spoons, you're ready to go forth and whip up a slew of not recipes

Did we miss your favorite cooking conversion? Share your best guesstimations in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • David Loong
    David Loong
  • AntoniaJames
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • Haley Sonneland
    Haley Sonneland
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


David L. August 21, 2015
I think you mean growth hormone (HGH), not gonadotrophin (HCG).
AntoniaJames July 13, 2014
The tea cup with my everyday china is exactly 1 cup; it has perfectly straight sides so it's easy to eyeball 1/2 cup. Our everyday porcelain coffee mugs and blue rimmed highball glasses from Mexico are each exactly a cup and a half. ;o)
Sarah J. July 10, 2014
I can't believe that all of that salt is just one teeny, tiny little teaspoon! I must be a chronic under-salter.
Haley S. July 10, 2014
So helpful. The mashed bananas and garlic are always tricky!