How to Measure Flour

June 24, 2011

A&M love all things baked and buttery -- this we know. But, how can they bear to measure cup after cup of flour? And with such precision! In the video below, Merrill demonstrates both the dump-and-sweep method and the scoop-and-sweep method (yes, they're different). Watch and learn:

This week's videos were once again shot and edited our videographer Elena Parker (who now produces our bi-weekly Dinner & a Movie column as well!).

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willowlove May 6, 2012
Who's protesting? Every time I've seen a discussion on the topic, the majority votes for weighing (quite rightly;).
willowlove May 6, 2012
No wonder you get SO many double comments on this site - they move to the top instead of staying at the bottom where they belong! Just ever so slightly annoying.
Merrill S. May 6, 2012
We post our comments from most recent at the top to least recent at the bottom. Sorry you find it annoying -- we think it makes a lot of sense, and others have agreed.
willowlove May 6, 2012
Who's protesting? Every time I see a discussion on the topic, the majority votes for weighing.
zeusworker August 11, 2011
Forget the measuring cups. Get a good digital kitchen scale and weight dry ingredients. One cup of flour = 125 grams, 1 cup of sugar = 200 grams. It makes for faster prep time too.
Gastronomix July 12, 2011
Like Doughpuncher, I'm a professional baker. More people than ever own kitchen scales now, even (and especially) enthusiastic n00b bakers; I think it's about time we acknowledged this and at least offer people the choice and the chance to improve their skills and the end result. I recently tested a recipe for a food & lifestyle site and, as they insisted on publishing in cups, converted the ingredient quantities to weight; the difference in volume was dramatic and would have created a completely different finished product. Even if metric seems off-putting to some people, surely weight in oz. is manageable ? If you don't give people the opportunity to learn a better way, they never will.
cookease June 27, 2011
When the amount of flour REALLY makes a difference i.e. BAKING, I do as I learned from my mother...SIFT, then spoon into measuring cup, sweep off top with a straight edge.

That said, I much prefer using a scale...O SO MUCH EASIER and quicker....and recipes are always reproducible...
kellie@foodtoglow June 27, 2011
As an American who has lived in the UK for 23 years, I find weighing in grams to be precise and unambiguous. Converting recipes from American pounds/ounces to grams and vice versa shows just how ballpark the former are. Getting away from pounds/ounces/cups will open up a whole world of recipes from around the world where metric measures are the norm. I know Americans can't let go of pounds and ounces but scales can be purchased reasonably from Walmart that will offer both American and metric at the touch of a button. Don't even get me started on the weirdness of cups of broccoli...
chef_ub June 26, 2011
Learn how to Spoon and Sweep, then buy a gram scale and reproduce results. Convert every baking recipe to weight.
mdonovan33 June 26, 2011
Gourmet magazine did a video about this a few years back.
AntoniaJames June 25, 2011
Although I've been baking using ratios and not recipes more and more of late, I do keep a small chopstick (7" - the kind many Asian take out places give you) in each of my large flour canisters, to use for sweeping. It's very handy, as I don't need to take out a knife for that purpose. When measuring by volume and not weight, I prefer the dump and sweep method because (a) you can fill your canister all the way to the top, whereas with the scoop and sweep method, if you fill to the top, it's not possible to whisk; and (b) I invariably use smaller quantities of dry ingredients when baking, e.g., barley flour, wheat germ, potato flakes, oats, etc., and even when I'm working by ratio, I have smaller measuring cups out anyway. ;o)
marynn June 25, 2011
As with most things human, we become habituated to not necessarily the best ways of doing things. I'll bet you get a ton of noise regarding weight v. cup, but having switched to the scales, I have become a far more competent baker. I can replicate past success rather than hoping for luck.

Besides, it's one time that looking at the number on the scale is fun.
Doughpuncher June 24, 2011
I am a professional baker, which of course means that I weigh the flour for most of my baking, but when I am making a recipe at home that calls for cups of flour, I always use the dump and sweep method. My wife, who is a professional food and cookbook writer, uses the scoop and sweep method. Naturally, we disagree about who is measuring "correctly." I would be curious to try both methods side by side with say 10 cups of flour and weigh them both to see if they are comparable. Have you tried that?
Merrill S. June 24, 2011
No, but it sounds like a worthwhile endeavor! I'm a fan of the dump and sweep, like you, while Amanda prefers the whisk, scoop and sweep.
Pain444 June 25, 2011
I wonder how much humidity might affect weight measurements.
eatlovedrink June 25, 2011
I weighed a cup of flour using both techniques a little while back. I was so surprised -- there was 40% more flour is my cup using two different ways of weighing. Here's the weights I got (I didn't do 10 cups, though!):
phyllis June 24, 2011
I do it correctly but would rather weigh it!!!!
Merrill S. June 24, 2011
Yes, of course -- should have mentioned weighing it as the "real" way to do it. But have you noticed that whenever we call for dry ingredients by weight, people protest?
phyllis June 24, 2011
People do protest but in the long run I have so much more success with weighing than dumping and sweeping. Some recipe developers provide both weights and cups/tea/tablespoons. It's not difficult to do that and it satisfies most people!!
stinkycheese June 25, 2011
Me too! But I guess not everyone has a scale....
Merrill S. June 26, 2011
Exactly, stinkycheese! And many -- if not most -- recipes don't call for weight measurements of dry ingredients. We figured it would be helpful to demonstrate a couple good ways to measure accordingly. It's noble to strive for perfection, but not always practical!
phyllis June 27, 2011
I love that you demo'ed both ways of measuring flour.. It would be interesting to weigh each. I'll try that very soon and report back!